Monday, 31 January 2011


Today I started researching my novel. I probably ought to have done this before I started writing (the novel is currently 'finished').

As part of my research, I read some articles written by Nick Bostrom. In case you're not familiar with Nick, he lectures at the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford and writes articles with titles like:
How Unlikely is a Doomsday Catastrophe?
Existential Risks: Analysing Human Extinction Scenarios.

I felt like I learned a lot today, all of it upsetting. As Nick points out: 'there is no trial and error opportunity to learn from these risks' (i.e. we all go extinct).

I also learned people have an, 'aversion to thinking seriously about a depressing topic'.

And yet, none of my researches into the possible (probable) end of human civilization was quite as depressing as this:

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Saturday, 29 January 2011


Sometimes this is harder than writing. I get itchy fingers at the weekends. Characters mumble at the back of my mind. I get brilliant ideas and when I write them down, realise they make no sense at all.

I'm writing now, of course. I tell myself this doesn't count. Except I just looked up and saw my kids have build a fort three metres cubed using every piece of soft and hard furnishing in the house, one of my sons is inside a 'robot' made of chairs and the other is trying to decapitate him.

Wait a moment. That gives me an idea...

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Friday, 28 January 2011


I didn't always research my novels. In one of them, I decided Antwerp was in Holland and made one of my main characters Dutch. (It's in Belgium). Now I'm writing science fiction, I often think I ought to pay some attention to science.

I started out by reading the first paragraph - or possibly sentence - of a Wikipedia article on quantum physics. Then I read a really excellent book on the history of science, and forgot most of it instantly.

I made the mistake of mentioning my in-depth scientific researches to my husband. He pulled himself up straighter, looked me in the eye and said, so what is a quantum then? The pause went on too long, as I held his eye ('gaze' not eyeball). And then it came to me. 'Quanta are bits. Of stuff,' I added triumphantly. He gave me one of his dark, withering looks. 'Yes,' he said. 'Yes, I suppose so.'

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I like to make 'notes to self' when ideas come to me. I have to do it there and then or I forget.

This one came to me in a fit after midnight:

Imagine different temporal locations as 'islands' one travels to in a boat. But travelling there changes that island and the location of the one you just came from.

Which all sounds kind of profound. If only I knew what it means.

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Woke up feeling dazed, not knowing what timeline or part of reality I was in. I knew I shouldn't start trying to work out the temporal mechanics of my plot late at night. Actually it wasn't the timeline that was causing me the problems. That was the bit where I had to explain why the mad professor wanted to destroy the civilization. Apparently 'because he just does' isn't a good enough reason. (Well, tell that to the Professor, I thought and then maybe we could avert the collapse of civilization).

My husband likes to get involved in this process. He tends to notice when I'm looking pretty traumatized. So I sit there, getting more traumatized as he tells me things like 'you're making this up as you go along, aren't you?' He gets a particularly grim look of satisfaction on his face, you see.

So I say, 'of course I'm bloody well making it up'. I'm writing a novel aren't I?

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