Like most people, I have a mortal terror of public speaking. Yet right this minute I’m preparing to do just that. Actually it’s two talks kind of telescoped together, if anyone will pardon the pun.
The first talk is ten or fifteen minutes on “The big ‘What if’?” which is about how science can trump science fiction. How what was true yesterday could be overturned by observations made at CERN, or by some bright Israeli who finally was awarded a Nobel Prize for Chemistry after thirty years.
Another state of matter? Quasicrystals? Who would have thought? There’s also the advances in planetary observations constantly being posted on the Web. Quite a headache if your brand new trilogy is a narrative about extrasolar exploration and colonisation. What was ‘true’ yesterday might not be accurate and true today, thus consigning two years long grind at the keyboard to the literary pulp pile before it even hits the shelves.
The second talk is about the Trilogy itself. The characters, their adventures, and the (supposed) planets and challenges. Nanaimo District Museum, 100 Museum Way, Nanaimo. 2pm PST 22nd October 2011. Scary.
Many years ago I had an English Teacher, a very good English Teacher. One who drove into us the basics of grammar, syntax and dictionary definitions. When she was done (Thank you Mrs Foster) even the dimmest mind in our class grasped the basics. Nowadays, in these days when everyone has an email account the wanton display of outright ignorance astounds me.
Regrettably our means of written and verbal communication is being debased by letting the lowest common denominator do what giving money to people who couldn’t pay it back has done to the Western currencies. Heavy sigh. Even in mainstream news articles where people are paid to have a better than average grasp of English these mistakes / misprisions are legion. Perhaps sub literate has become the new standard for sub editors.
I don’t want to come across as some sort of pedant or ‘grammar nazi’ but really, what is so hard about getting the words right? Stuff I was taught about in primary school at the age of ten; simple differences between ‘there’ (location), ‘their’ (possession) or they’re (Contraction for ‘they are’) are the most commonly displayed. ‘Pour’ (to decant) and ‘pore’ (to scrutinise). It’s astonishing. How can people make such basic mistakes? Why do they not hide their faces in shame at their lack of care? Don’t even get me started about ‘lose’ (mislay) and ‘loose’ (let go). No wonder Lynne Truss had such success with Eats Shoots and Leaves.
An appeal to people’s better nature might be in order here. Words are innocent things, poor abused collations of letters and syllables. My plea is this; if you don’t know what it means, please pick up a dictionary and check. If you require, take the time to learn to read and write. Nothing major, just the basics. You’ll be a better person for the effort.
The English language has taken so long to reach this point. As a flexible tool for conveying complex ideas it has no real peer. English has a cultural heritage so rich you could base a currency upon it. Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Orwell laid new foundations and enriched what they began with. Why can we not aspire to follow their example? What is this cultural love affair with a slope headed sub-Neanderthal world view that prizes novelty and ignorance above knowledge? To use a simile, taking that approach is like trying to run a marathon carrying a fifty pound backpack. It handicaps, not helps. Not learning simple rules reduces communication to mumbled grunting and a daily re run of the bone smashing scene from 2001. Aren’t we a bit more evolved nowadays?
Language is like any tool, a little care will reap benefits beyond measure. Failure to handle correctly may cause injury, and abuse simply blunt the cutting edge. /rantmode
Going fishing now.
Been writing on and off since I was fifteen. During the intervening years I’ve collected enough rejection slips to wallpaper a considerable sized house.
Notwithstanding, I’ve sold stories, and had enough work published in various mainstream and trade publications to justify the soubriquet ‘Writer’ but like so many others not enough to make a reasonable living.
The publishing industry is so closed down at present that it doesn’t seem worth submitting anything to the mainstream. Everyone is looking for the ‘next Harry Potter’, yet considering there were nineteen publishers who turned down J K Rowlings work before she found one willing to take a risk with an unknown, I don’t think they’ll have much success. Especially when writers play tricks like submit the first three chapters of a literary classic under another title, and most publishers they submit to fail to recognise the ‘great’ prose in question. So I’m branching out on my own. Down the slippery slope of self publishing. Whoring myself out as best I can and hoping there are enough people out there who like my work to make it worthwhile.
The upside is two new 150,000 word volumes out of a trilogy, artwork as above, and I’ve gotten a solid invite to do a talk on ‘The Big What If’ and a five minute reading at Nanaimo District Museum 22nd October 2011 at 2pm. I’m way too late to put my name down for any of the big Sci-fi conventions this year, but will get my name out on the forums and see what happens. Trudge round book stores on the Island and sell my metaphorical soul. Walk and talk. At least I’m good at that. Although I am rather pleased with the cover art.
In some ways it feels terrifying to put the end result of five years work out in the public domain for just anyone to look over and sneer. In others, the same fear forces you to revise, revise, revise until you are either so tired of the project you really don’t care what anyone thinks any more, or the story you’re telling is really as good as you think it is. So far, my test readers only real criticism of the first volume has been “When’s the next one?”
The Sky Full of Stars, and Falling Through the Stars may not be Heinlein, Niven or Asimov, but I’m hoping they’ll find a readership. There’s a hardcover edition of each, but I think the only copies of those that will sell will be the proof editions for my personal book shelf.