Longrass V (from the cutting room floor)

Day 32. 80 pages, 35,797 words.

The traveller did not panic. It knew, perhaps instinctively, perhaps from the long years it had spent in the realm of the long grasses, that the worm would not venture from its own specific depth – not up the invisible slopes, at least. But this particular worm was jumping, up from its own depth, to break the surface. For some reason.

While the glowing newcomer watched, the shadow-worm arced into the air. A great long greenish shadow, it curled around itself and dived neatly back into the grass. Several seconds later, it leaped again, this time higher. The light caught it, pierced the layers of shadow surrounding it, and reflected off the true body of the creature. The traveller was relieved to see it bore no resemblance to the sludge-worms it had been eating for the past years – in fact, it was like nothing it had ever seen. It was beautiful. Faceted and intricate and extraordinary, like those deep-sea creatures that have so many colours but never come up to the light. The shadow-worm flashed brightly, then descended from its leap. The suns no longer caught it, the deep green shadow once again enfolded it, and it slid beneath the grass, never to emerge.

The traveller stood for a long time, trying to make sense of what it had seen and experienced. The worm had seemed to be calling it back, inviting it back down into the darkness, but the traveller knew it had to keep on the way it had come. It eventually decided that the shadow-worm had been thanking it for its sensitivity towards the long grasses, and bidding it a safe voyage to come. And perhaps this wasn’t far from the truth.

However, it was not to be.

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The Tramp: A First Look

Day 31. 78 pages, 34,917 words.

I wasted a bit of time and effort a few days back, making a series of maps. They’re mostly still blank and they’re done scrappily in MS Paint rather than a nice vector graphics tool like I’d prefer, and there’s no real design or architectural planning going into them… but I couldn’t really bring myself to use my work resources to draw these, and dang if those vector tools aren’t expensive.

So, crummy hand-drawn maps it is.

What is it? Well, say hello to Astro Tramp 400. To celebrate getting one month into the writing process, at a staggering 78 pages and 34,917 words (and going strong), here’s a sneak peek.

Deck maps of Astro Tramp 400.

Work in progress.

Yes, Astro Tramp 400 the starship, slowly taking shape as the book I’m assembling around her gradually grows. The story itself has changed a bit from my original joke – it’s no longer a Galaxy Quest-esque story about people from here-and-now being placed in a sci-fi setting. It’s more of a straight-up sci-fi story.

The characters may still resemble their inspirations, however.

Here’s a couple of notes about the ship.

The look: As you can see from the cross-section, the Tramp is your basic flying saucer. She’s got fourteen decks and two domes. A decent size, but in the lower range of the fleet’s engineering capabilities.

The size: I’m not sure yet what the actual area is, here. The levels could be any height at all, really, and the floor thicknesses … none of it is to scale. Let’s say this: the USS Enterprise was about 700 metres long, and the Tramp is quite a bit smaller than that. Probably only 300 or 400 metres. Don’t know yet.

Torus 1, 2: Pair of big rings all the way around the ‘tropics’ of the saucer, housing the, let’s call it hyperdrive for now. The relative field is what enables the jump to LUDICROUS SPEED.

‘Ponics: I guess this is hydroponic or something similar to the airponics referenced in Star Trek, basically a series of greenhouses for food and maybe even filtration. The plants would be high-efficiency and probably genetically modified for their purposes.

Printers: I’m aiming at something in the ballpark of 3D printing from raw materials or on a molecular level, but it’s a slightly different science (more advanced, obviously, and with a range of applications that are nevertheless limited so you can’t just ‘print’ whatever you need), just a similar premise. I’m going with ‘printer’ rather than Star Trek’s ‘replicator’, but the concept should be fairly familiar. It’s actually bizarrely exciting that this is a whole new technological Thing that didn’t even really exist the last time I wrote pure sci-fi. We’re one step closer, people.

The exchange: This is a special twist I just came up with the other morning. Basically it means that the ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ hemispheres of the Tramp are pretty much arbitrary (well, it’s space), because the artificial gravity pulls towards this plane. The exchange is therefore a transition level with variable or zero gravity, depending on the machinery that is generating the pull. Essentially you descend from the one dome until you reach the exchange and then you ascend into the other dome. This is not so much a plot point at the moment, just a detail. It also means the ship can flip over and basically fly at any angle, which – well, it’s space.

To be continued.

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Probing into Social Media

So I’m not entirely convinced Vine is for me, although it is certainly funny and a source of some highly imaginative stuff. It’s amazing the levels of complexity you can get into a few short seconds of video.

Not my video. My video is a war crime.

I mean like this one.

Anyway, I joined up just to see if there was some potential in it, but it certainly doesn’t look like there are that many grey-hairs in there and I’m not kidding myself that I’m anywhere near cool or young or theatrical enough to pull off the whole Vine act. I mean, is it a noun or a verb now, anyway? I don’t have what it takes. What seems funny in my head doesn’t survive the transition.

What I can do, though, is kill it in text.

Wil Wheaton asked to be shopped.

Also, I’m no slouch when it comes to photoshop, as you can see from this recent tweet where I schooled the shit out of Wil Wheaton. OH YEAH I SAID IT.

This may be a slightly drunk blogpost. I’ll see if I post it in the morning or just brush it under the rug and carry on with whatever I had been planning to post. [Follow-up: Nah, looks good.]

The Internet. Every day, something new and amazing. And the sooner we let the Tweeters and the Viners take over the world, the sooner we can all stop killing each other.

Seriously, Russia and Israel, I’m looking at you. More Vines please.

Definitely old.
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Longrass IV (from the cutting room floor)

Day 29. 67 pages, 30,709 words.

It seemed like nothing so much as a patch of pure darkness, darker even than the shadows beneath the long grass. It was tinted dark greenish, like the shadows themselves, but a somehow different green. It moved like a giant worm through the blades, twittering angrily – and it stank. The glowing stranger gagged and tumbled back against the thick growth all around it, and the darkness descended. The stranger passed out, to wake up minutes or hours later, more or less unharmed. Its bag and the contents had been attacked, in some way – a multitude of tiny bite-marks covered the tough material of the stomach-sack, and the flat bread within. But apart from being drenched in a stink that almost made it want to die, the glowing stranger was unharmed. It shuddered to think what might have happened if it had succeeded in tearing some strands of the grass – for there was no doubt in the stranger’s mind that the shade-worms were somehow linked to the grass. As it happened, it was correct about that – the deeper the grass, the larger the shadow-worms. The deeper the grass, the stronger the connection between worm and grass, and the more dangerous the worm. The traveller was just fortunate it hadn’t been wandering through the deepest reaches of the plain.

The time passed, years and years. The sun-stars in the sky didn’t so much as flicker. Until, years later by our reckoning, the traveller’s path led it deep into the grass, deeper than ever before, for longer than ever before. Not knowing where it was headed in relation to the celestial bodies it had followed for so long, the traveller crossed its fingers and headed onwards. It walked on until its food supply began to run out, and then it stopped at one of the waist-deep pools of collected water. Rummaging at the bottom of the pool for a few minutes yielded a double-handful of grey-green sludge, three thumb-sized, many-legged crawling bugs with bright green armoured shells, and a thick pink grub about the length of the traveller’s hand that had a distressingly human face. The bugs had the consistency and nutritional value of glass, but another hour of sifting the bottom of the pool produced two more worms, one twice the length of the others. These the traveller wrung out and placed in his backpack and continued on his way. Several hours later, it stopped to rest, and chewed half-heartedly on one of the smaller worms. The less said about the taste the better, but it went down and didn’t come back up, and after sleeping for six or seven hours the traveller got up and continued on its way without feeling any hunger pangs or any ill-effects. It stopped whenever it found a large enough pool of condensation, and fished for more of the worms, and thus not only preserved its dwindling supply of long-lasting flat bread, but began to fill up its sack once more, with the dried, pressed flesh of the strange creatures.

After a great deal of time, the traveller emerged to find the atmosphere was warmer than before. The little sun towards which it had been walking for almost as long as it could remember was now far higher above the horizon – almost directly overhead, in fact. Looking back from its vantage-point in the now-chest-deep grass, the traveller saw that the other tiny sun was in much the same place it had always been. The suns had not moved – it was the stranger’s perspective that had changed.

Looking as carefully as it could, the traveller saw a dark line ahead, across the horizon, stretching as far as the eye could see. It was the only detail on the flat green plain, all the more out-of-place for the countless miles of grass leading up to it. The glowing stranger set off towards the dark line, wading through the softly waving grass that grew gradually shorter and shorter, until the traveller was once again striding across ordinary, springy lawn. It grew warmer, and not gradually. By the time the traveller reached the dark line, the little sun was directly overhead, it was quite stiflingly hot, and the soft grass on the plain had taken on a distinctly yellowish, crackly appearance.

The line across the horizon turned out to be a set of terraces, or perhaps gigantic steps. They were each between four and five feet tall, and of the same depth, and stretched in a perfectly straight line in both directions, the top and bottom of the terraces coming together in the hazy distance, where violet sky met green grass as if the terrace had never been there. The traveller thought, if it squinted down the length of the mysterious barrier, that there was a slight curve to the terrace, out around the plain … but it could have been an illusion of perspective. There were six steps to the terrace. The traveller began to climb them.

There was a chittering from behind it, from across the plain. The glowing stranger stopped on the second step and looked back at the waving grass. Out away from the terraces, perhaps a mile or more – it was hard to tell in the clear air and the perfectly flat landscape – the grass was rippling wildly. Then it parted. Up from the deep, a shadow-worm emerged.

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I can remain silent no longer

Day 28. 61 pages, 28,320 words.

Let me ask you this.

How did we, as Australians, manage to do such a great job with the whole platypus hoax that the entire world believes it, but nobody believes us when we talk about actual animals that live in Australia?

Oh yes, I’m sure everyone knows all about the snakes and spiders and jellyfish and sharks, and the scorpions and octopuses and cone fish and stingrays, the crocodiles and the poisonous plants and toads, and even the herbivores and birds that will totally disembowel you. It’s all a big joke, ha ha, oh Australia, you so deadly. But one throw-away taxidermist’s prank – that is over a hundred years old – completely blinds people to the real dangers.

Seriously! Think about it logically for just a second. Look at all the horrible creatures that live in the bush and water sources of Australia. And now look at all the natural prey. Okay, there’s the koala, that’s pretty cute … until you realise that it has the claws of a velociraptor and the mind of something that’s been a passenger on board the Event Horizon and it still won’t ever come down out of that tree because it’s not safe.

Nope, not coming down. Not today.

Don’t be fooled by their resemblance to Ewoks.

Then there’s the kangaroo, that basically spends as much time in the air as a 90kg marsupial possibly can. You land, you die. There’s the emu, a murderous dino-bird made of steel wire and dried leather, that is born on stilts so it never has to come within four feet of the ground. Even its eggs are super-thick so it can lay them without letting its butt descend into stinging-range. There’s the wombat, a semi-mobile cubic metre of steak so dense it can take a head-on collision with a small automobile and just walk it off.

There are plagues of introduced animals, like cats and foxes and rabbits, but they – like the white man – largely survive by eradicating every native life-form they can find and then just breeding frantically before the nightmarish creatures can regroup.

I'll just leave this here.

Please don’t misunderstand. Australian Aboriginals are not nightmarish creatures. But we did sort of try to eradicate them when we arrived, because they were in Australia and they were moving. I don’t know.

And there’s the platypus.

The platypus. A fun-loving and adorable little Pokémon that likes to splash around in rivers and rootle for nummy worms in the silt of the riverbed. Really? Are you shitting me?

And you still believe it?

Why? Because of a few animatronic toys we’ve put in a couple of zoos, and a bunch of cheap puppet videos like this one?

Seriously, that thing is just one of those ferret-playing-with-a-ball toys you can win at a funpark for knocking over a single plastic bottle. It has an old sneaker sole stapled to the front. That’s all.

Everyone believes these damn things are real. A toothless pygmy otter with a duck’s bill, that lays eggs and has poison leg spurs.

They believe this shit. But tell people about drop bears, and they’re all “ho ho ho, yes yes, we know about drop bears, wink wink.”

I know I am burning a lot of my nationalistic bridges behind me by publicly saying this, but I can’t help but feel that it is irresponsible to allow the platypus hoax to endure any further. We even have it on our money, for Christ’s sake.

It’s going to sting for a moment when we admit to the world that we’ve been having a laugh at them all these years. But we will be forgiven.

Especially when we replace the platypus exhibits across the globe with bunyips and gumnut babies.

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Machinery running smoothly

Day 27. 57 pages, 26,137 words.

Mrs. Hatboy thoughtfully took Wump and Toop and headed off to the summer cottage this weekend, to check out the Big Wheels thing in Pieksämäki and basically take it easy. This leaves me home alone, my only real limitations being that I have no car (about which I really don’t give a shit) and I can’t have a shower before bed at four in the morning (our house shares a water pump with the neighbours, and when we have showers the noise of the pump can wake them up).

I’ll do my very best to not completely lose my shit and live on noodles and potato wedges and hot wings – it’s amazing how badly I can degenerate in just a few days of bachelorism.

I miss my girls a lot, but God damn have I ever gotten a lot of shit written. I mean, the count at the top of the page here is a pretty good indication of that, and this is really only a small part of it. I take my phone with me on my two big walks of the day, and usually throw a couple of pages of text onto the Office program while I stroll, then e-mail it to myself and paste it in when I get back to the rig. This covers not just the story I’m currently sprint-writing, but also additional stuff to go into the larger story-arc and subsequent books (that aren’t represented in this count); snippets and sections of a whole mess of other stories; and of course the occasional random blog post.

And that’s not even counting the huge amount of slacking off I’m doing!

While we’re on the subject, why did nobody ever tell me about this “Vine” thing? It’s the most hilarious shit I’ve seen in years. Rock on, humanity. Rock the fuck on.

Anyway, can’t stop here. Toodles!

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Foretellings

Day 26. 52 pages, 24,048 words.

I recently wandered back onto Usenet through Google Groups, before the whole thing gets dropped off the Internet altogether. They’ve been saying this is going to happen for a long time and it doesn’t seem to have happened yet.

Anyway, it’s pretty quiet but I did notice that there had been a recent post to this thread in our ancient nemesis-newsgroup, rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan. The thread had ended up on Reddit and one of the denizens of rec.arts had thrown it back onto the newsgroup out of that special brand of bloody-minded compulsiveness that made me love them.

The original thread was from early 1998. George RR Martin’s A Clash of Kings came out in late 1998. It contains theories of how the A Song of Ice and Fire series was going to go, and it’s pretty interesting. Here is the Reddit summary, with my comments.

Spoilers, obviously, for those predictions that turned out to be right. And no, I am not covering the spoilers up.

R+L=J

Yes, everyone saw Jon being Rhaegar and Lyanna’s secret (and probably-consensual-sex-borne) lovechild coming. It hasn’t happened yet, though, so I’m holding out hopes that it won’t because I seem to be one of the only people who find the plot point boring and stupid.

SanSan

Sansa Stark and Sandor Clegane looked like being a thing for a while, then it wasn’t. I guess there’s still hope for them in some sense, given that I doubt the Hound is dead yet.

Jeyne Poole will become a hooker

This doesn’t seem to have happened, unless you count “being told to pretend to be Arya Stark and get married off to the Mountain” as “becoming a hooker”. Or am I completely mixing her storyline up with someone else?

It was a Westerling, wasn’t it, who married Robb Stark in the books? Jeyne Westerling? The implication was that she was the granddaughter of Maeggie the Frog? Something like that? And Jeyne Poole was being passed off as Arya?

Dany will start her conquest at the Eyrie

Hasn’t happened yet, but would make sense and be very cool. It would also allow us to see Sweetrobin getting incinerated.

Sansa will get killed while in captivity, like Lyanna (Lady’s death being foreshadowing)

Again, hasn’t happened yet and her improvement in the last book might make this less likely. Certainly less positive.

Jon will have children, possibly with Dany

Oh, they loved Jon + Daenerys so much in the Nineties. So very, very much. So very, very not caring that Daenerys is Jon’s aunt if the R+L=J plot is for real.

Ser Barristan knows of R+L=J so he will go help Jon

Well, he most certainly did this, after being fired by Cersei and Joffrey. There’s no sign of him knowing about Jon Snow, although he would have known “the real Rhaegar” and he did go to Daenerys.

Rhaegar did not rape Lyanna, it was a consensual relationship

See “R+L=J”.

Howland Reed will come into play later because he knows who Jon’s real parents are

We were waiting for this to happen ever since Jojen and Meera turned up, but it didn’t. Maybe Bran will now find out the truth, and tell Jon somehow. Although his communication is limited, maybe from warg to warg it will work.

Bran will learn magic

Yep. Well … sort of.

Bran will learn magic and will cure Dany of her fertility problems

Hasn’t happened yet and it looks doubtful.

The Night’s Watch will get wiped out (in ACOK), allowing for Jon to have kids

Sort-of-kind-of in the process of happening, but certainly didn’t happen in A Clash of Kings.

The Night’s Watch will ally themselves with Mance Rayder to fight the Others

This happened. Sort of.

Targs are immune to fire

Daenerys turned out to be immune, one time. Not sure if she is all the time. Actually I’m pretty sure she’s not.

Varys will attempt to put a Targ on the throne again

This certainly seems to be the case. Varys has turned out to have a large collection of Targaryen understudies to pick from.

Jon will get abandoned north of the Wall and will join Mance

This happened. Although “abandoned”, not so much.

The Night’s Watch and The Wildlings will be turned into Others that will invade the south

This would be awesome, but hasn’t happened. Maybe now Jon is “dead”, or at least recovering from terrible wounds or warged out in some way, they can do this with everyone else at the Wall. Or Jon can go Coldhands and lead the way.

Lyanna was raped by Rhaegar

Slight variation on “R+L=J”, we still don’t really know.

Joffrey, Sansa, and Cat will die in ACOK

Two out of three, albeit not in A Clash of Kings.

Jon will need to ask Robb for help against the Others. So, Robb will either sign a peace treaty, or will win the War of Five Kings extremely quickly

Well this didn’t even remotely happen.

Robb will make peace with Tywin by exchanging hostages. Robb will then fight the Others while Tywin fights the Baratheon brothers

nope nope nope

Robb will die before the Others attack

Done and done.

Tywin will defeat Stannis and Renly and will force all POWs to join the Night’s Watch to help against the Others

That would be cool, if Tywin gave two short sharp shits about the Others and the Night’s Watch. Instead, he gave them a few prisoners from the black cells, Stannis defeated Renly and went to fight the Others and burn new and interesting people.

Tyrion will overthrow Tywin

LOL.

By book 3 Dany will be in Westeros

LOL.

Dany will align herself with House Martel after she lands

Could happen, they seem to hate Lannisters at least as much as she does. And with later books and the introduction of Doran Martell and Oberyn’s Sand Snakes, this is a very interesting mix. And they’re south / fire / reptiles, so that works.

Joffrey will die in book 3 after Tywin trades Joffrey for Jaime. If not Joffrey will get killed by the Lannisters regardless

No trade, and not by Lannister hands, but Joffrey did die. I call this a pretty easy one, though.

Roose Bolton will end up being a problem for the Lannisters

Not so much. Although having him as an ally – indeed, having him as anything but a corpse – might still classify as him “being a problem”.

Robb will get sellswords to sack Casterly Rock

Didn’t happen. How was Robb going to afford sellswords anyway? It would be too much a copy of Daenerys’s storyline (not that auguries of 1998 knew this).

Yoren will return Arya to Robb

Oh, bless him. He tried.

Tyrion will kill Tommen, Joffrey, and Tywin

One out of three. Although he has been blamed for pretty much everything that happened to all three of them.

Robb will sack Casterly Rock, drawing Tywin out. Tywin will leave King’s Landing unguarded, allowing Renly or Stannis to swoop in

Afraid not.

As a side note, look at how many of these predictions are about Robb Stark doing things. This was what happened around A Clash of Kings, when Ned was dead and people still didn’t realise Martin was going to kill everyone. “Oh, he wasn’t the hero, it must be the son.”

Tyrion will get framed for either the death of Joffrey or Tommen

Done.

Tyrion will get rid of Janos Slynt

Done. And it was glorious.

Jon isn’t a bastard and Lyanna married Rhaegar

See “R+L=J”.

Jon will fuck Cat and have a child with her

Oh dear God.

Although technically, in the books this could still happen.

Ser Hugh poisoned Jon Arryn under Cersei’s orders. Lysa knew about it but did nothing to stop it

Hmm, no. No, not really.

The legitimate child of a bastard gets the non-bastard parent’s last name

So if Jon Snow marries Auntie Daenerys, the kid would be Eddard (or possibly Rhaegar) Targaryen? Makes sense, because otherwise (unless bastards never married) there would be a whole lot of people called “Snow” or “Waters” who everyone would assume are bastards but are in fact legitimate.

In fact, how does that work? I assume bastards marry non-bastards at some point. Or maybe they marry bastards from other areas. Who keeps their name when a Stone and a Sand get married?

And is this whole weird system just for nobles anyway? Or do commoners have this legitimacy system as well? I think they do, but I’m not sure.

Varys killed Jon Arryn

Nope, Littlefinger and Lysa. Let’s not rule out the possibility that Varys masterminded it, though. Or that Lysa is actually Varys in disguise.

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