davidgillon: Text: You can take a heroic last stand against the forces of darkness. Or you can not die. It's entirely up to you" (Heroic Last Stand)
Today's word is 'refoulement'. From this Guardian article on the release of Hakeem al-Araibi.

It's rare enough that I come across a word I don't know the meaning of, so I looked it up:

noun Law
The forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution.

I really hate that that is something we need to have a word for.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

I took in a parcel for Les next door on Friday, and when he picked it up he mentioned that he'd had to hop over the fence on Thursday to save Arthur (other side next door)'s fence, which was in the process of blowing down and destroying itself (it was a wee bit windy). I had actually looked out onto the garden that morning, but this time I went and put my glasses on before doing it. Welp, three panels gone out of  10 or 11, and by 'gone' I mean 3x3" fence poles snapped off, not just panels popped. Hey, new open plan garden! (Fortunately for my wallet Arthur's fence, mine is the one on Les's side).


Helping, sort of... )


Lunch in Town

So, as I said, I went into town to have lunch, for only the second time this year, I think - this blasted cold has been really limiting. So I had a nice plate of fish and chips in my usual place, and when I'd finished, went to get my wallet out of my bag to pay for my meal.

Look into bag, notice there's no sign of my house keys.
Check pockets, not there.
Empty bag onto table, not there.
Check pockets again, still not there.
Check bag again, still not there.
Crap, they're probably either still in the front door, or dropped onto the ground beside the car when I got the chair out.
So I hurry back to the car, open my bag to get the car keys out, first thing I see is the house keys.
I emptied the blasted bag onto the table, how could I miss them!

Currently Reading

Planetside, Michael Mammay

Like me, Mike's one of the Pitchwars 2015 alumni, though unlike me his novel got picked up and has been out for a few months (IIRC Locus said it was the best selling SF paperback of the month back in September). I've been meaning to read it for ages, but never got around to it until he mentioned the sequel in the PW2015 group the other day. I was wanting something new to read, so I popped over to Amazon to order it, and it's really good.

Carl Butler is a colonel in SpaceCommand (and self-professed asshole), and on the edge of retirement, so close that he's been attached to Student Command because by the time he's been shipped in cryo to any operational deployment he'd have passed retirement age.  But then he gets a call from General Serata, second in command of SpaceCom and a long time friend. A politician's son and SpaceCom Lieutenant has gone MIA out on a planet Carl has history with, and it's not a straightforward MIA - he was put on a medevac flight up to the orbiting base after a firefight, but wasn't on it when it arrived. In return for a few favours (relocating Carl's family home to his wife's home planet) he wants Carl to head out and investigate.

So a rather grumpily put-upon Carl (like he says, he's an asshole), picks up an aide (Serata's, who needs some front-line time), and a personal protection officer, and heads off (stuffed in cryo) to Cappa. Problems start even before they arrive, because they drop into the system four days out, not the normal two, almost like someone wanted extra time to be ready for them. Arriving on the orbiting base, Carl finds a less than friendly welcome. Colonel Stirling, the SpaceCom commander, sees him as a rival/in a position to damage his career, Colonel Elliot, the MedCom commander, won't even let him into the hospital wing, and Colonel Karikov, the Special Forces commander (who missing politician's son had been seconded to), is down on the planet and hasn't been up to the station in institutional memory. Things deteriorate from there.

The deeper Carl digs, the more disturbing things become, because there's something more than just a missing Lt going on, and it's clear Serata's sent Carl to fix it, whatever it may be, and whatever it may take. Worse, Carl doesn't know who to trust, including the usefully competent major who may be reporting to Stirling,and the journalist who clearly knows something's amiss. Things soon escalate, witnesses disappear, Carl's attacked (which at least gets him into the hospital), and a trip down to try and see the SF commander turns into a Cappan ambush which leaves his aide hospitalised (which again is a useful way into the hospital). Ultimately Carl digs deep enough to realised just what an utter disaster is unfolding, and then he's faced with the question of how far he's prepared to go to fix it.

It's not a book that takes a deep look at the opposition, the Cappans are very much hostile ciphers, nor is it really conventional SF milfic, because there's actually very little combat, one short sequence, and then a somewhat larger one that acts as an Oh Shit! ex machina. Thematically it has much more in common with thrillers set against a military background, such as The General's Daughter, or even A Few Good Men, and with works about being in the military, such as Heartbreak Ridge. If there's a more combat-oriented story that does get a nod, then it's Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness. But it is a story that clearly resonates with Iraq and Afghanistan, and it's a book that absolutely nails the life in the military side, which perhaps has something to do with with Mike Mammay being ex-Colonel Mammay, US Army, with a resume going all the way back to Somalia and Desert Storm.

Up next: Knife Children, Lois McMaster Bujold - a stand-alone novella in the Sharing Knife world.

Currently Playing

I'm not saying Wednesday's Ark session was an utter disaster, or even the same utter disaster repeated three times, but there's a reason I rolled back to Tuesday's back-up.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

Details here.

I think I'll probably submit the first chapter of Graveyard Shift, which was always intended to work as a standalone short story, but rewritten to be from Laura, my wheelchair using forensic sorceress's perspective, rather than that of Aleks, my neurodivergent werewolf cop. Aleks would be technically legit, but it's really not obvious in the first chapter that she's disabled. Submissions are up to 6000 words, chapter one is currently 6800 words, switching to Laura's perspective may well get me down to an acceptable word count on its own, and I definitely think it's doable.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

I haven't written every day over the last week, there've been a couple of days when I was too tired to really think straight, but even those had notes or the odd sentence scribbled down. The Disruptive Technologies manuscript now sits at 16,000 words, up 5000 words from six days ago. I'm having to do a lot of thinking about locations and background and general plot stuff, because that's something that I really need to get right now, otherwise it'll mean a lot of rework later. I'm slightly concerned that the last two chapters have come in at about 1200 words each,  that's definitely on the low side for a 100k target with around a 20 chapter target - realistically the chapter target is likely to vary a little, there's an amorphous lump of investigation in the middle that I'll need to resolve as I get closer to it, but not so much as to drop the words per chapter target down to under 2k.

A couple of things that have taken ridiculous amounts of time to research: working out which agency leads anti-terrorism investigations in the US (answer FBI, despite DHS, and a whole bunch of other agencies, having anti-terrorism responsibilities), and where Seattle PD's Criminal Investigation Bureau works out of (still not answered that one, may have to read a Seattle cop's memoirs to work it out - SPD, your website is worse than it was three years ago!).

Other things googled: Whatcom county's SWAT team, Sedro-Woolley's police station. Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Suburban. Almost every precinct house in Seattle. Houseboat prices in Seattle (my protagonist has to live somewhere), Cantonese restaurants in Seattle, courses at the Army War College, and I still have to do the vast majority of the research on drones I need, and I'll need that soon.  Some stuff I'm getting by on because I already know the details - for instance a (brief!) discussion on riskflotte strategy and how it relates to asymmetric warfare that I wrote earlier - but writing in the real world setting, at least as I'm doing it, seems to have a significantly increased research load.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
I've come to the conclusion I don't so much have a cold as a boomerang.
It's gone!
Back again...
It's gone!
Back again...
Repeat until bored now
davidgillon: Icon of Hanna Barbera's Muttley sniggering (Muttley Snigger)
Playing Ark Wednesday night, on the new Extinction map for the first time since before Christmas, and I've still got the Christmas event with Raptor Claus enabled.

Raptor Claus, from Ark, Survival Evolved

So every in-game 12PM Raptor Claus flies over the map dropping presents, and I hop on Pterry, my trusty, but rather weight-limited pteranadon to try and get to one before it despawns. First time, out in the hideously dangerous Wastelands, I succeed, second time, in the theoretically far safer city ... does not go well.

I did actually find the present, but it was stuck on a ledge of a building, with no room for me to hop off to to pick it up. So I landed nearby to consider what to do, and hopped off the pteranodon. And off the edge of the roadway I'd landed on - I looked, there was room! So now I'm plummeting several hundred feet to my death. At the last minute I realise I'm wearing a parachute and use it. But now I'm stuck in the canyon, which splits the city, and which only has a couple of ways out. I set off towards the one that comes out near my base, and I somehow miss it, or turn the wrong direction. What I do find is a pack of raptors, which kill me - "Clever Girl!" So I'm now lying dead in the canyon, with all my gear. and I haven't had time to accumulate a lot of gear on that map.

So I respawn back at base, grab the minimal amount of gear available, and my trusty iguanadon steed Igzelda ,and hurry over to where I can see my death marker from the edge of the canyon. I freeze Igzelda in a cryopod so I can carry her, and I'm about to leap off the edge of the canyon when I realise I don't actually have a parachute on me. That's down there on my body. So short delay while I gather the resources for a parachute. I parachute into the canyon, grab my gear, and unfreeze Igzelda. Yay, triumph!

Unfortunately, I decide that the shortest way out of the canyon will be to carry on to its end. This takes me into the wastelands, where I loop around to find the next way into the city. 20 metres in I realise that's teeming with raptors and pull a u-turn, unfortunately something spots me, and it's an Alpha Raptor, for those times when a plain "Clever Girl" isn't enough. So new death marker.

At this point, I give up. I respawn and go into cheat mode. This is a pain as you're basically stuck at walking pace, but you can walk in the air, so nothing can get you. I finally get to my death marker to find the Alpha Raptor is still trying to kill Igzelda* As I'm getting closer she breaks free and makes a run for it. Yay! She runs straight into a pair of brontosauri, which object to the rude interruption, one of them tail-swats her, and she dies. Bugger. But at least it's sufficient distraction for me to grab my gear, again.

Finally I make it back to base, to find all of my tame creatures are outside, rather than inside, and a titanoboa is killing them. I rush in to kill the titanoboa, still in cheat mode, and somehow get swatted through the map. I die. My gear is unretrievable.

At this point I really do give up, and start spawning in replacement gear and creatures.
I guess I must have been on Santa's naughty list.

* Different map sections only process when you're actually in them.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

1500 words on Sunday that turned out to be deep character background/potential YA* rather than actually the book I'm supposed to be writing. About 1500 words yesterday, actually in the Disruptive Technology narrative - expanding the opening scenes in which my innocent protagonist gets pulled into a Homeland Security investigation because of her specialist knowledge - which with today's couple of hundred takes us up to 11,000 words. But today seems to be mostly turning into a research day. 

Googled so far:

King County Sheriff's Office Air Support Unit, and then an image search for cabin pictures of Guardian 2, the actual helicopter they're in. I didn't really get a lot of success with that last, but it's a Huey, and seating plans are easily googleable.

King County Child Protective Services - character background. Need to go back to that as I didn't get what I wanted.

Cis-platin related Ototoxicity - character background again.

Airfields in Seattle - I know the big ones, via work initially, but I'll need a private field at a couple of points.

And then I had to dig into Google Earth and look for a road suitable for the ambush site they're flying out to examine. Which turned out to be a real pain. I need several things out of the site - somewhere the ambush will work, which requires an open area, and who knew Washington state was so full of trees, somewhere the ambushees can evade the ambush, and all of it on terrain my protagonist will find difficult (because that lets me get a bunch of yes, I'm an amputee, get over it exposition in the first chapter). I found three places along US-12 east of Mount Rainier that would almost work, and for each of them I had to go down into Streetview to look at actual images of the terrain (amongst other things, you need Streetview to tell if the road is totally walled in with guardrails, which nixes going cross-country to escape). I did find one place they could probably evade across a weir, but getting my protagonist across that when she turns up to look around would be a pain in the ass. Then I went literally around the corner from that one, and realised that while my first draft has the access problem being the slope going downhill, the slope going uphill is just as much an issue, and if the road is sticking to the valley bottom, I really should look at that. And not only is there a handy-dandy ridge for the ambushed folks to get out of sight behind, and far enough from the road for my purposes, but there's a bluff overlooking everything that is a perfect spot to launch the ambush from. Mission accomplished, rewrite tomorrow.

* It's an idea I had at Christmas, but which didn't get written down, as opposed to the ones that did and spawned this whole project.
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I seem to have finally, after 12 days, kicked the cold I've been labouring under*. I don't have a lot of energy as yet, but I did at least manage to avert cabin fever and get out of the house on Saturday, for longer than just taking something to the bin. That was just a trip to Asda, but considering I haven't shopped since about the 10th of December (admittedly I was away for four weeks of that) it was desperately needed. Deciding just to go to Asda, rather than doing it after my normal Saturday lunch in town was very well judged. By the time I pulled the car back onto the drive I was a bear of such little brain I couldn't actually figure out how to unload it until I made myself stop and do it one bag at a time.

But it's nice to have a choice of food in the house again! Though I really need to make another trip to cover the things I forgot, catastrophically that includes the tonic water! I'm down to my last 1l bottle.

Unfortunately I' ve done this just in time for Tuesday's forecast of snow across the country....

* Or maybe not, just had a sneezing fit.
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New novel project officially started, by which I mean I took the short story I wrote over the holidays and shoved a chapter break in at all the scene breaks, plus added about a half dozen additional chapter titles that are clearly needed in order to make the story play out over a longer period.

It is the barest bones of a novel, but it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Now I just need to string those bones with the sinews of story.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Definition of a First World problem:
Me: I'd like a mocha, please.
Barista: I'm sorry, we're out of chocolate syrup


Worst time to discover you have a cold and get out of breath if you try to do anything faster than a slow waddle:- half a mile from the car, at the bottom of a hill, it's cold and drizzling miserably, and you suspect you may have left the car's lights on.

I don't have the strength to wheel more than half way up the hill at the best of times, and not having done any significant wheeling in a month I wasn't even going to try pushing up, so I got behind the chair and waddled, slowly. Fortunately the lights were off.

I genuinely didn't realise I had a cold until that point. I'd gone into town to post a parcel (my sister's Christmas present to her husband, which I'd ordered for her from Amazon as I have Prime and she'd left it until the last minute - the 23rd, but which I'd managed to get sent to Kent instead of Durham. I wasn't popular) and stopped off to have lunch. 10 minutes after putting in my order, I noticed a car pull up outside and turn its lights off, at which point my brain started panicking as to whether mine were still on. It wasn't the most restful meal I've ever had, though the fish and chips were tasty.

And the worst time for the blocked breathing to turn into sneezing was in the car, half way around a busy corner. I sneezed so hard I almost had my head between my knees and the only thing I could do was brake and hope I could keep it under control when I sneezed again. Fortunately I was one corner from home, but anywhere else I'd have had to pull over. I sneezed so hard turning into my road I swear I got an echo from the other end, and I then had a string of about 20 sneezes that were so hard I couldn't actually get out of the car. I could feel everything between nostrils and eardrums complaining for hours!

So today I'm living on Lemsip Max. If I can work up the energy I may make myself a hot toddy, and there's chicken soup in the fridge. (ETA hot toddy and soup successfully achieved).

Recent Reading:

First Flight,
Chris Claremont

Re-read of Claremont's late-80s hard SF novel. 2nd Lt Nichole Shea is taking the final test before officially qualifying as an astronaut, having already qualified as an Air Force test pilot (her rank's a bit junior for her actual experience), when everything goes wrong and she and her co-pilot end up ramming their shuttle into the space station they were supposed to dock with. Fortunately it's a simulation. The deputy head of the astronaut programme wants to kick her out of the programme, but is overruled by NASA's head of manned spaceflight, General Judith Canfield, and throughout the book there are veiled references to Canfield's relationship to Nichole, which no one will ever explain to her.

Now qualified, Nichole, her co-pilot Paulo and newbie mission specialist Hanako 'Hana' Murai are paired with Cat Garcia, an experienced Mission Commander, the deadly US Marshal Ben Ciari, and a couple of experienced engineer/scientists, one Russian, one Israeli, for a year long mission out to Pluto. Mankind has stardrive, and extra-solar colonies, but starships are huge, expensive, and rare, so most spaceflight is pootling about the system on reaction drives.

Things settle into a pattern, with Hana pairing up with Paulo, and Nichole with Ciari, much to the annoyance of Cat Garcia, who perceives it as more favouritism, especially when Ciari starts training Nichole in martial arts, with the explicitly avowed intent of turning her into a killer, because, he says, she has the aptitude for it, and may need it. And then, passing through the Belt, they happen on a wrecked miner ship, with a dead belter aboard, a friend of Cat's. Things don't add up, so they head for his home rock, and walk into an ambush. Half the crew die, and the survivors are left with a wrecked ship, AUs from home, and where a mayday may bring the pirates back down on them. Then Hana spots the alien ship....

It's not perfect, it could do with being about 50 pages longer for a start, but I like it a lot, and it has an extraordinary cover, which I think was probably painted over an actual picture of someone in pilot's gear, the three-dimensionality of the equipment is striking, Nichole's face and limbs are okay, but not quite as good (and for someone whose nickname is Red, her hair is awfully black).

Spanish Mission,
K B Spangler

The second Hope Blackwell novel. Hope's friend Mary 'Mare' Murphy is having a bit of a crisis, because the ghost of Tom Paine just manifested in her kitchen to check in on his great to the Nth niece, and if you're an organisational genius, and one of OACET's cyborg agents, then the sudden dissonance in your worldview caused by talking ghosts can be jarring. And it doesn't help that Mare has a fairly major anxiety disorder. Hope is mostly pissed because she sat the ghosts of the founding fathers down and got them to swear blind, over good whiskey, that they wouldn't manifest around the OACET agents who don't know about them. But done is done and Hope decides the only thing to do is to pack herself, Mare and Speedy the super-intelligent talking koala off to Las Vegas for a girls' (and koala's) week of fun.
But we start in media res with Hope being chased across the desert by chupacabras. Monsters don't exist, but ghosts can manifest in any form they like, and the undead cryptid brigade, Sonoran Desert division, like chupacabras. Las Vegas didn't last long, Mare and Speedy creamed the tables, then they ran into the crew of a low-rent ghost hunting TV show, whose front man happens to be son of the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and therefore in a position to put an unfortunate crimp in OACET's funding. The ghost hunters are off to the desert to host Spanish treasure galleons and ghostly pirates (which isn't quite as bizarre as it sounds, think Salton Sea, plus once in a century storms).

As an aside, I really liked it that Hope, as a newly qualified doctor, immediately reacts to the description of Hawley, the pirate captain, as tall, elongated, with clawed fingers and toes by saying "Marfan's Syndrome", on the negative side, disabled villain again.

So Mare decides they're going to have to go with the ghost hunters and keep them alive. They're helped in this by front-man's mother having placed a pair of competent bodyguards (female twins) in the crew without his knowledge (and somewhat hindered by a complete dick of a cameraman), and by Mare arranging the loan of a bunch of military off-road vehicles, a pair of drones, and their operator. Unfortunately their operator, 'Fish' Fleishman, immediately pings Hope's radar as another psychic. And then they get into the desert, and meet Maria de Borromeo, who wears Keds and likes watching daytime TV on her cellphone, which wouldn't be remarkable but for being the four centuries dead ghost of a Spanish Jesuit nun, killed binding Hawley's ghost the last time he got loose. And the big problem is ghosts are powered by reputation/attention, and a team of ghost hunters are live-streaming the hunt for Hawley's ghost, with international media magnets Hope and Speedy along for the ride.

Things get complicated.

On the surface it sounds pulpish, but Spangler really knows how to use her characters, she's been writing Hope and Speedy in A Girl and Her Fed for over a decade, and while the Hope novels are written much more for laughs than her Rachel Peng technothrillers, she still has a habit of throwing in lines that stop you dead with how insightful they are. And on top of everything, it's one of the cleverest Coyote tales I've ever read.

The cover is by Ursula Vernon/T. Kingfisher, and features Hope, Mare and Speedy, threatened by Hawley and his crew in a style that seems inspired by AGAHF.

The Mortal Word (Invisible Library Book 5), Genevieve Cogman

Irene Winters, agent of the Invisible Library, is just back from acquiring a book from the library of a witch-hunting German Graf on a world stuck in the 16th Century, and hoping for a quiet evening bonking the brains out of now ex-apprentice Kai, when she receives an urgent summons from the Library. There is a secret peace conference between the forces of the Dragons and the Fae (aka Order and Chaos), being brokered by the Library as the only neutral force that understands how the universe actually works, and someone just killed one of the dragons. The Library needs Irene and her friend Vale, the great investigator of his steampunk world's London, to hurry to the alternate world where the conference is taking place, investigate the crime and bring a suitable suspect to justice (them being the actual perpetrator would be a bonus, but isn't actually required).

So Irene, Vale, and Kai (arriving by total coincidence) find themselves in a 19th Century Paris, locked in the grip of a sudden cold snap - Kai's uncle Ao Ji, King of the Western Ocean, has an affinity with ice, has just lost his trusted spy-master, and is having a temper tantrum. Things rapidly get complicated. Not only is the Library blaming the crime on anarchists to keep the French police out of their hair, but there are actual anarchists at work, and more suspects than you can shake a stick at, including Irene's operational superior, who wants to turn the Library into an organisation that holds power by playing the Dragons and Fae off against each other.

The Fae Powers at the conference are the Cardinal and the Princess (think Richelieu and Snow White), archetypes so powerful that they bend everyone they interact with into their expected roles, while Ao Ji may be dedicated to human welfare in a way the Fae are not, but also in such a way that demonstrates why absolute order is as dangerous as absolute chaos.

Irene's position as the Library's member of the investigatory team is matched by Dragon and Fae representatives, the dragon is Mu Dan, a competent judge-magistrate, but the Fae is Lord Silver, Vale and Irene's regular semi-antagonist, who is slightly perplexed by his new role, though the perfect man for investigating the seamier underside of Parisian Nightlife.

Things escalate when an even scarier Fae archetype, Countess Elizabeth Bathory, appears, but is the legendary Blood Countess the perpetrator, or a convenient scapegoat, pre-empted in her attempt to stop the conference by someone much closer to home?

Recent Gaming:

I was mostly playing XCOM2 over Christmas as I was offline, but I've been playing Ark again since I've been back. I missed their Christmas 'Winter Wonderland' event, where Raptor Claus flies over the map in his sleigh delivering presents, but as I play solo rather than on one of their servers I've simply added it to my start up, Christmas will continue until I'm sick of presents ;) They also have Gacha Claus who'll exchange the mistletoe and coal Raptor Claus delivers for more presents. The mistletoe isn't too bad, but the coal weighs a ton, so it was very convenient that Gacha Claus spawned just outside my base on the Scorched Earth desert map.

One of Raptor Claus's presents was a 500% damage crossbow, which has made taming things with tranq arrows much simpler, except when it does so much damage it kills them outright with a single shot. I managed to tame my first Rex with it, using only three tranqs, though admittedly she was a very low level Rex. Unfortunately I'm not at a high enough level on that map to actually build a saddle for her yet, but Regina is handling internal security for me at my base until that happens.

I took my small raptor pack out for a training run with the new crossbow and came back with not just the pack, but three direwolves, a pair of sabretooths, an australovenator (big raptor type from a mod), an extra raptor, and a terror bird (bad tempered carnivorous ostrich). Unfortunately I promptly lost the sabres and the new raptor when I took the newbies out for a run and ran into a tougher pack. And I finally have a flying mount on that map, which means my rate of exploration has just shot up, and generally makes things far simpler.

The makers of Ark have just launched Atlas, which takes a next generation version of the Ark engine and turns it into a MMO pirate game, with an absolutely ridiculous playing area hundreds of times that of Ark. It's in pre-release, but already looking very accomplished. I'm tempted, but I've got a lot of playing on Ark yet to do.

I'm experimenting with Dreamwidth's image hosting, not sure I quite understand incorporating images into posts yet (this may get edited a few times to try and work it out).

Bringing Regina Home
My Ark character, her raptor pack, and my new T-Rex

Gacha Claus Visits
Gacha Claus visits my base on the Ark Scorched Earth Map
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

How Cartographers for the U.S. Military Inadvertently Created a House of Horrors in South Africa

TLDR:  the US National Geospatial Information Agency mapped Pretoria to someone's backyard, companies that run databases that geolocate IP addresses (which turns out to be a startlingly amateur process) then mapped every Pretoria IP address (over a million) to that backyard. Any time a crime or online dispute got linked to a Pretoria IP address, the database threw out that backyard, but didn't mention the small print.. Harrassment happened, including having the house stormed by SWAT.

davidgillon: Text: I really don't think you should put your hand inside the manticore, you don't know where it's been. (Don't put your hand inside the manticore)

Trouble free journey home.

Today I will mostly be sleeping....


Jan. 7th, 2019 03:22 pm
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

The weather seems to be turning a little wilder, if still on the mild side for the time of year, I may have timed my return South just right. It's extremely unusual to spend Christmas up here without snow on the ground at any point (I suppose we did have the icefall from Storm Deidre, but that came and went in just a few hours).

I've finished the first draft of Disruptive Technologies, which ultimately came in at about 9200 words. With A Leg to Stand On at 3500, that means I've written the better part of 13,000 words over the holidays (and heavily edited another 6000 more) and takes the number of short stories completed in the last 12 months up to 3, with another significantly reworked. I've never been a prolific short fiction writer, so that may well be my highest annual total. And it may not be finished yet. I'm still not sure how serious I'm going to  be about completing Phantom Leg, but it crept up to 450 words last night, I have a plan for it, it's interesting to write out of my comfort zone (it's technically YA) and it all works as character background whether finished or not. First priority back home is going to be some research to back up the drone stuff in Disruptive Technologies. I have the background to bullshit convincingly, but I should check my facts. And then I need to sit down and seriously consider whether it will work even better at novel length.

Recent Reading:

The Furthest Station, Ben Aaronovitch. A spate of people being harassed by ghosts on the Metropolitan Line takes PC Peter Grant, his oppo Sergeant Jaget Kumar of the British Transport Police, and Peter's teenage cousin Abigail, the Folly's one girl youth auxiliary, out to the wilds of suburbia, where there are junior genius loci to be encountered, and kidnap victims to be rescued. Not bad, but I felt overpriced at £4.99 for an ebook novella, when there plenty of full novels going for the same price point, And I'm not paying £8.99 for the other series novella nor £9.99 for the latest novel. I'll wait until the ebooks drop to a more reasonable price. Though I may pick up the graphic novels now the comics have been compiled into single volumes.

A comment I forgot to make when reviewing the rest of the series, Aaronovitch is meticulous in explicitly labeling white characters as white,not leaving us to assume that's the default, and everyone gets the same level of facial description, whatever their ethnicity.. I'm slightly less impressed by his insistence on Peter using the 'Me and' construction, which even if Peter grew up using I don't think he'd be universal about after six years with the Met. A mix of "Me and X", and "X and I", would seem more convincing to me (and less irritating), A possibly irritating development in the novella are footnotes marked "Note for Reynolds" explaining various British-isms - possibly the American readership has been struggling.

 *Reynolds is the Dana Sculley lookalike FBI agent Peter's encountered in a couple of the books.

It was interesting to watch the first episode of Manhunt last night (a new crime drama recreating a prominent London murder case), and realise what a good job Aaronovitch has done within the series of showing how a  murder enquiry starts up and works.

Next up, The Mortal Word, Genevieve Cogman, the next in the Invisible Library series, though I'd better find something else as well, or I'll run out of things to read on the train..


davidgillon: Text: I really don't think you should put your hand inside the manticore, you don't know where it's been. (Don't put your hand inside the manticore)

... on account of I was feeling ever so slightly delicate on New Years Day ;)

(I didn't drink that much, I actually think it was mostly down to Tuesday also being change-my-butrans-patch-day, which has been messing with my stomach for a while now, but there was that headache that kicked in about 10AM, which I can't really blame on patches).

I spent a pleasant New Years Eve in the pub with my sister and her husband, Amusingly, the pub had decided to run Spectre, the New Year's Eve big TV movie (and the latest James Bond), on their over the bar screen, but with the sound off, which meant you had a good two thirds of the guys in the pub trying to follow Bond's progress on screen, while simultaneously trying to convince wives and partners that 'of course I'm paying attention to you, love - did you say something?'. We stumbled home just after Midnight, with the weather continuing startlingly mild.

I temporarily stalled on writing progress on Saturday, courtesy of Windows convincing me that it had lost the rewrite of my short-story 'Wheeler', which I did while I was offline before Christmas. It was in a Onedrive (ie Cloud) enabled directory, so I knew Windows would want to update the online copy when I got back online. What I wasn't expecting was to come back to it later and find no sign of the update whatsoever. I finally worked out, half by chance, that it showed up when I was online and not doing writing, but not when I was offline on account of writing. This was annoying, and if it's working as designed, someone's an idiot.

Another point to avoid, having two or more short stories in one directory, so that when you try to save as Story B after recovering from a crash, you accidentally double click on Story A, make it the filename you want to save as, and almost overwrite your only copy. Soooo close....

So Saturday writing time got swallowed up for re-organising directories and making certain I have actual non-cloud backups of everything I've been working on over the holidays.

I had Monday and Tuesday largely off writing given New Years and family, but short story 3, now titled 'Disruptive Technologies,' now stands at  7200 words, and given that includes the first half and the climax, with only part of the middle missing, I'm confident of finishing it off at about 8500 words. On the other hand I'm also now convinced it's a potential novel concept, which means I now have two viable technothriller ideas competing for my attention. Plotting for short story idea 2, 'Phantom Leg', is also progressing nicely, though whether I get to it before I head home is uncertain. I've belatedly realised I'm reworking the abandoned novel plot from several years back, for a much younger version of the protagonist. Even if I don't get around to writing it, it's still generating some deeply useful character background for the common protagonist of all three new shorts I've worked on over the holidays and has contributed its title, 'A Leg to Stand On', for the first of them.

Recent reading: Having followed up Rivers of London, with Moon over Soho, Whispers Underground and Broken Homes, I'm now working on Foxglove Summer. The re-read makes me simultaneously more and more impressed with Aaronovitch's plotting and detail, and more and more annoyed with Lesley's storyline. Next up,The Furthest Station, the series novella I haven't yet read. One surprising point is how little onscreen time some of the major characters get. I could have sworn Beverly had a major part in every book, but she's largely absent in books 2 to 4, and there's also significanty less of the Faceless Man than I remembered (though given his mysterious villain role that isn't necessarily a weak point).


Dec. 29th, 2018 02:26 pm
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

Via [personal profile] legionseagle and 100 SFF Books You Should Consider Reading in the New Year


Italics = read it. Underline= not it, but another by the same author. Strikethrough = did not finish.


Read more... )


Probably two thirds of these the names are familiar enough I'm questioning whether I've read something of theirs, or I'm just reacting to the name alone, and I can't go to my bookshelves to check as I'm 300 miles away from them.

Most surprised by the absence of: Elizabeth Bear
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
I've definitely worked out where short story two wants to go, but short story three took off last night, with 2300 words written between 11 and 2AM. It's now the strongest concept of the three, as well as more comfortably fitting the detective story mould than story one, which was more of a 'why are these things happening to me?' than a whodunnit. I also managed to scare myself, it's far too easy to think of ways of weaponising consumer drones, and much more difficult to think of ways of cost effectively stopping them. It definitely plugs very well into my existing character concept, and creates a strong initial driver for her career trajectory (much stronger than 'she did work experience and we liked her enough to keep her')..

I think the story is likely to run around 6000 words, assuming I resist the inevitable temptation to turn it into a novel.I'd expect to get the first draft completed while I'm up here, but it's likely to need some significant research to beef it up once I'm home.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

First short story is now at 100%. In fact today's progress is -200 words as I'm in the editing phase. I've got it down to 3680 words, with my target at 3500. I'd really like to get it down to 3000, but there's no obvious place I can cut 500 words, and cutting that much with sentence rewrites is possibly optimistic.

Second short story now has a file and a title, if not much more. As does third short story, which hit me last night.

All three of these involve the air crash investigator character I've been noodling in the back of my mind for probably the last twenty years, maybe even more. I think first short story is actually the first piece about her I've actually completed, though there is half a novel from 2014-ish that went badly off the rails.

Third short story is most likely to be written next, as it's shaping up as a new way to introduce her. That pre-Christmas drone chaos at Gatwick gave me a new angle on her character that's useful for story creation. I actually already had drones in her background, I just hadn't thought about their intersection with her day job.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

It's been surprisingly mild up here in the North East, in fact I've traded back down from the duffel coat I've been wearing to the much lighter jacket I travelled up in as the temperatures have peeked/peaked up into double figures. While it's been intermittently damp and drizzly, the only really bad day we've had was when Storm Deidre blew through weekend before last, which had the interesting phenomenon of rain freezing into pebble-like lumps as it hit the ground. Crunch. Fortunately that quickly progressed from ice to snow to rain and was gone by morning.

Not being able to get online after Amazon stuffed up my data SIM order combined unfortunately with Office deciding to throw a wobbly over whether I had a license or not, which meant I couldn't work on any of the projects I might have put time into instead, I thought maybe I'd messed up the license renewal (i.e. forgotten it), but getting online at my sister's confirmed it's on auto-renew. I'd just given up on an hour of trying to sort it out when it decided to spontaneously resolve itself. Grrrr.

Since having got Word back I've reworked one short story, written about 80% of another, which has been a first couple of lines hovering about in the back of my head for months, and an idea for a third has popped up - though that one may come under character background rather than being a viable story idea, we'll see. Plus I've done some work on a hobby Excel project I largely save for when I'm up here.

My sister and I did the local pub quiz on Sunday. We didn't win, but we did respectably. Andrea took great pleasure in pointing out we'd have been much closer to winning but for going with my (wrong) choices rather than hers on four questions. Of course we would have been rather less close if we hadn't gone with my choice on others - one or two of which were surprisingly hard for what's billed as a fun quiz- "Who preceded Geoffrey Howe as Chancellor?" Seriously? That's pre-Thatcher - {smug}and it was Denis Healey {/smug}.

I was back in the pub for a quiet drink on Christmas Eve with Andrea and her husband (after Not-Midnight Mass), which was a pleasant evening, though I was quite surprised to see the extended family (three,maybe even four generations) at the next table over whip out a pack of "Cards Against Humanity" and start having great fun, it was noticeable it was the c70-ish grandparents/pub regulars cackling loudest at the lewdest cards/plays.

Christmas Day was pleasantly quiet,with the added advantage of no one in the family being ill on the day for about the first time in three years. We kept to our now tradition of having Christmas dinner at Dad's care home,which was perfectly presentable - prawn cocktail or tomato soup followed by turkey, pigs in blankets, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, baby carrots and brussels - they had slightly drowned mine in gravy, but it was good gravy, and either Christmas pud or Black Forest gateau (yum) to finish. The glass of white wine they served first was a bit ordinary, but the bottle of rose they brought around to follow was incredibly smooth and decidedly drinkable. Our server, Victoria, one of Dad's regular carers, was dressed head to foot as one of Santa's elves - hat with pointy ears, green tunic, multi-coloured tights, and it was just as well she had the pointy shoes with the bell on the end as it meant I missed her toes when I accidentally trod on her foot at the end of the meal! The only downside was Dad was having one of his 'today I shall mostly be sleeping' days, but he surfaced enough to smile at everyone every now and then and he's been sharper on other days.

Amazon have now compounded the SIM package without the SIM by delivering my sister's Christmas present to her husband, which I'd ordered for her as I have Prime, to my house in Kent, rather than to my mother's house here. I rang my sister twice to confirm whether to get it sent to her house or Mam's, chances of me not remembering to set the delivery address after that seem remote. The order states 'Handed to resident', which seems rather dubious given I'm three hundred miles away, so I'm just hoping it's with one of the neighbours. Not impressed (and my sister is even less impressed).

Recent reading: Ben Aaronovitch's The Hanging Tree (Rivers of London/PC Peter Grant book 6), good, and some major series arc developments, though I still hate what he's done with Lesley May's character arc, which compounds 'being facially disfigured turns you evil', with 'disabled people will betray everything they stand for for the chance of a cure'. I'm probably going to reread the entire series, and have already re-read Rivers of London, but I've run into the Kindle DRM bug with the later books and will have to delete and re-download them. In the meantime I've been reading From Russia With Claws, by "Molly Harper writing as Jacey Conrad and  Gia Corona" (seriously, and is that one author or two?) which has been sitting unread on my Kindle for several years - Russian mafiya werewolves in Seattle, it's practically required research given the overlap with my Graveyard Shift. It's surprisingly good, though the heroine bonking the Rom werewolf alpha at every opportunity doesn't really do anything for me (not that there's anything actually wrong with the writing of the sex scenes, they're just not my thing). Worth a look if you like Supernatural Romance. And I bought myself a couple of Norman Friedman magnum opuses (opi? opii?) to sustain my naval history habit over the holidays. The one I bought on the Kindle (Naval Weapons of WWI) shows signs of being OCRd - badly - from a printout, which given the first edition, from the same publisher, is only seven years old is pretty unforgivable. The one I bought in hardcopy is one of his early works (US Battleships, 1985) and shows he was actually once capable of writing a book without it being a third footnotes. I'm more and more confirmed in my opinion his research is immaculate, but that he desperately needs a better editor, because his sentence-level micro-writing is sloppy as hell.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
So I made it up to Durham okay, though it's just as well I decided to catch an earlier train - LNER's planning gave me 26 minutes to change from St Pancras to King's Cross, with the best will in the world you probably need at least 15 minutes just to get to the KX passenger assistance desk, and you're supposed to be there 20 minutes before your train.  So I gave myself an extra half hour, and got to the station to find everything running  quarter of an hour late, which would have missed my KX connection if I'd followed their schedule.

I'd ordered a data sim so I could get on line once here, but given a couple of days to recover from travelling and then a dose of cold I didn't look at it until today. Amazon envelope intact , sim packaging intact, sim neatly snipped out of mounting card through the handy window in the back of the packaging. So I'm borrowing my sister's Internet to give Amazon a bollocking and order a replacement. When I'll be online?!?
davidgillon: A pair of legs (mine) sitting in a wheelchair (GPV)

'Tis the season....

I was hanging on to post this together with my review of Cherryh's Fortress in the Eye of Time, but that took longer to finish than I'd expected, and I ended up posting it separately, so this is about a week later than intended.

I went into London a week gone Friday, for my annual get-together with university friends. The trip into London was trouble free, but when I went to switch to the Thameslink line at St Pancras, there was a huge crowd in front of the barriers, with someone addressing them with an inaudible loudspeaker. 

I eventually managed to wriggle my way through the crowd to get close enough to hear him, and what he was saying was "We're only allowing people through who are going southbound." Fortunately that was me, so I pushed forward towards the barriers, with a liberal use of "Excuse me!", which people were mostly good about getting out of the way of, though one oblivious guy came very close to getting rammed in both ankles. It was only someone reaching out and shaking his shoulder to get his attention that saved him.

Then I got to the barriers: 

"Where are you going?" says the guy at the wheelchair gate.

"City Thameslink"

"Where are you going?" 

"City Thameslink"

"Where are you going?"

"He's going to City, let him through" says his colleague behind him. I guess having the name of the station include the name of the track invites confusion.

So I got to the platform, not knowing whether I had passenger assistance coming or not, but there was a train due, so I just popped out of the chair, bumped it on and then sat the two stops to City where I repeated the process.

I got to Ye Olde Cock (around since the 1600s, though it has moved site) just before six, and it was heaving - not unexpected for Fleet Street on a Friday night before Christmas. Not so bad I couldn't make my way down the length of the bar, but close to it. Chances of finding a table free: bugger all. So I got myself a pint of a rather nice pale ale and headed back to the entrance to wait for friends. As I got there, Ian and Mandy walked in. We talk to each other on Facebook pretty much daily, but this is the first time they've come to the Christmas do and we're fairly confident we haven't see each other in 28 years*, at which point I still had hair, and Ian wasn't grey, but recognition was instant (Mandy, OTOH, clearly has a picture in the attic). They were quickly followed by Bill, then Andy and Linda, with only Jez making us wait - bloody journos. I wanted to stay with the pale ale, but when the next round came back Andy had been told it was off (it wasn't, as later rounds proved), and had fetched pints of a Christmas Ale instead:- Rudolf, which was very pleasant and tasted of toffee. "By the way, it's 6.5%" Andy mentioned a bit later. Well, I suppose it is Christmas.

* The irony is I've been going to cons, and they ran the Discworld cons for several years, and our paths never crossed.

We managed to colonise the corner of a table, enough to get us somewhere to rest our beers and Mandy and Linda seats - I pointed out the advantages of bringing your own - but there was no way we were getting enough space for the seven of us to eat, so we put plan B into effect. Linda had organised which pub, and made sure it was one I could get into, but Andy had booked an Indian restaurant five minutes away for 8:30. So we headed there, and burst into laughter at the entrance, because there was just a doorway and a staircase descending into the bowels of the earth. So I had to hop out of the staircase and wobble down the stairs while the others carried the chair down for me, amidst much mocking of Andy's inability to organise an accessible venue. We were then faced by a look of horror on the face of the staff when they saw me. Clearly they're used to bowels of the earth meaning they don't get many wheelchair-using customers.

The food was good, but slow of coming and I had to rather bolt it and run, because the last train from City to St Pancras is the unusually early 10:40, and given the earlier problems I wanted to be in plenty of time. Fortunately there were no issues, first train was two minutes after I arrived and they had even managed to raise the platform since I was there last, which meant I could roll straight aboard. A five minute wait at St Pancras, with the ramp already in place for me to board courtesy of another wheelie, and I was home before midnight.

Really good to see everyone, especially Ian and Mandy, who I may get to see for rather longer next year if I get myself organised enough for the Dublin Worldcon.

So, after several pale ales, a pint of Rudolf, and a pint of Cobra, I woke up feeling somewhat delicate the next morning, which wasn't ideal considering I had promised to be out by 11:30 to see a friend singing in a soul choir at Rochester's Dickensian Christmas (which I normally avoid like the plague). So after some quick arithmetic to confirm I was legal to drive I headed out into the drizzle. I had allowed for difficulty in finding a parking space (I was lucky), I hadn't allowed for the traffic being jammed up because of the festival, so I missed a good half of the performance. but did get there in time for the last one and a half songs - and even managed to catch the odd glimpse of Angela at the back of the choir. As the crowds cleared at the end of the performance I realised I was sitting only ten feet away from her husband and daughters, so we all got together to decide what to do next, which given the state of the crowds we decided was "let's get out of here". I'd hoped we could grab a coffee, but that was out of the question, so we postponed that until last Tuesday instead and spent half an hour fighting through the crowds to get me back to my car.

And of course the new wheelchair gloves I'd hoped would turn up before Friday, to save me pushing with soaking wet, freezing fingers, turned up on Monday *headdesk*!

I'm off to my folks in Durham on Wednesday, I should have mifi there, but on the off-chance of something going wrong, Season's Greetings to everyone, and see you in the New Year!


davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
David Gillon

February 2019

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