jemck: rune logo from The Thief's Gamble (Default)
[personal profile] jemck


As someone who’s been reading SF for over forty years now, I’m fascinated by the different ways life on Mars has been portrayed over the decades. My earliest encounters were through books like Robert Heinlein’s Red Planet, H.G Wells’s The War of the Worlds, and in my early teens, C.S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet. Alongside such fiction, I remember reading about Mariner 4 in my grandfather’s National Geographic magazines. So I already knew that real scientific discoveries meant these enthralling stories were impossible. That didn’t matter. Mars fascinated me.

That’s still true today, as books on my shelves by Alastair Reynolds, Andy Weir and James Corey attest. The film of The Martian and the TV adaptation of The Expanse series are merely the latest depictions of Mars that I’ve enjoyed on screen, from Flash Gordon through Doctor Who to Babylon 5. I’m still reading National Geographic, and any articles I see elsewhere discussing the real practicalities of sustaining human life on our near neighbour. Then there’s the ongoing exploration of Mars by the Opportunity rover. Go robots!

So now I want to write my own story set on Mars. It’s the ideal setting for me to explore a notion that’s been coming together in my imagination thanks to several recent popular-science articles that I’ve read. The last piece I needed was the invitation to write a new story featuring the Ur Bar, the eternal, time-travelling tavern from the ZNB anthology ‘After Hours’.

So now all I need is this year’s ZNB anthologies Kickstarter to fund. At the time of writing, we’ve got a week to go, and we’re just over two-thirds funded, so there’s $6333 still needed. Do take a look, if you haven’t done so already, and flag the project up to friends who might be interested. There are three anthologies to choose from, and to consider submitting something to, if you’re a writer yourself. You can get involved for as little as $7.

If you’re really keen, there’s a tuckerisation up for grabs. Do you fancy giving your own, or someone else’s, name to my story’s protagonist?

"The Game (of Thrones) Is Afoot!"

Sep. 19th, 2017 09:28 am
michaelchance: (Default)
[personal profile] michaelchance posting in [community profile] sherlockbbc
"The Game (of Thrones) Is Afoot!" by Jessie Blackwood
PAIRING: Mycroft/Lestrade
FANDOM: Sherlock
RATING: PG-13
WARNING: WiP
SUMMARY: Gregory Lestrade is a secret cosplayer and Mycroft is intrigued.

Has just been added to Sherlock Holmes Slash and is listed on the new stories page and the other pairings page.

Crossposted to Chance's Archive, Chance's Archive on Tumblr and Chance's Archive blog.

A bit of kitten.

Sep. 15th, 2017 06:35 pm
merikuru: (Tee hee)
[personal profile] merikuru posting in [community profile] caturday


Altair enjoys blankets.

"Winter's Tale"

Sep. 16th, 2017 08:41 am
michaelchance: (Default)
[personal profile] michaelchance posting in [community profile] sherlockbbc
"Winter's Tale" by Jessie Blackwood
PAIRING: Mycroft/Lestrade
FANDOM: Sherlock
RATING: AO
SUMMARY: Nearly Christmas, and Greg is not feeling well and also finding it difficult to get home, although he isn't looking forward to his first Christmas alone after the divorce.

Has just been added to Sherlock Holmes Slash and is listed on the new stories page and the other pairings page.

Crossposted to Chance's Archive, Chance's Archive on Tumblr and Chance's Archive blog.
jemck: rune logo from The Thief's Gamble (Default)
[personal profile] jemck
I’ve just included a bit of equipment which I saw in a museum in Malta, into the River Kingdom novel that I’m currently writing. It’s a library lamp from the 17/18th century. As you can see, it has four wicks to maximise the available light plus an adjustable reflector for positioning to direct as much light as possible into the page. Those chains attach a snuffer plus a pair of tweezers and a pair of scissors for trimming the wicks. This particular example could do with a bit of a polish, we saw others in museums where photography wasn’t allowed in highly polished silver and brass which would have reflected even more light. So no, there was no need to be squinting over a book by the light of a single candle, not for the wealthy and educated at least.





We need to remember this, when we’re creating non-industrial worlds. It’s all too easy to get suckered into a positively Victorian mindset that sees the modern age as the pinnacle of human achievement, in some pseudo-evolutionary fashion, which therefore demands that anything that came before us is by definition inferior. No, pre-modern and pre-industrial solutions to the same problems that we face may well be different but that doesn’t mean lesser.

Human ingenuity has been around for untold millennia and it’s worth doing the research to find examples of solutions to problems, because the history that ‘everyone knows’ is frequently at best only half the story, and at worst it’s downright misleading. ‘Everyone knows’ that Henry Ford invented the production line, right? Actually, he invented a particular mechanised version of an approach to manufacturing that’s been around since the Bronze Age. There’s an archaeological site in (if I recall correctly) Turkey that I read about some while ago, flourishing in the 8/9th century BCE where carved hollows and troughs in the rock have recently been rescued from that all-purpose archaeologist’s explanation of ‘ritual purposes’. Someone realised that these shapes looked familiar and went away to check. Yes, these troughs and hollows are the outlines of the component parts of a chariot; specifically those long pieces of wood and elements of wheels that experimental archaeologists have established could only have been shaped by steaming the wood, somehow clamping it and allowing the wood to cool into a new form. These chariot builders weren’t using clamps but the rock itself to make the components that were then assembled by specialists in mass-production.

I have a particular advantage here in that I’m married to a mechanical engineer. He spends his working life designing car assembly lines with dozens of robots now doing the work done by hundreds of men when he first started his apprenticeship, forty-plus years ago. So he’s very good at working out how things work, and at identifying how approaches to the same problem change over the years and centuries. He also has a solid appreciation of the issues around for instance, moving massive slabs of stone to build monuments from Stonehenge, to the pyramids, to the temples of Hagar Qim on Malta, dating back to 3600-3200 BCE. This would be an engineering challenge today. For people using stone rollers, wooden levers and some sort of rope? No one who could manage that deserves to be called primitive, as far as he’s concerned.

So from the small scale items for day to day use, to major building projects in our imagined worlds, we need to remember that non-industrial societies could get along perfectly well without all our modern conveniences. And we don’t only find such things in museums and archaeological sites. Fantasy world builders should take a look at the ingenuity and practical skills of our fellow humans currently living in what can all too often be patronisingly called ‘developing’ countries across Asia, Africa and the Americas.

I remember seeing a TV programme where a group of Andean women build a suspension bridge to cross a river gorge, only using grass and their bare hands. Yes, really. First they made string by twisting the long strands together, then they combined those strings into cords and then made those cords into ropes, and the ropes into cables, all twisted and counter-twisted at every stage to create strength through tension. The village women on the far side of the gorge were doing the same. When they had enough cables ready, someone fired an arrow to carry a string across the gorge. That string was tied to a cord which pulled a rope which pulled a cable to be secured across the gorge. Three cables gave them one to walk on and two hand rails on either side which were joined together with more grass-rope struts which formed a framework for weaving solid sides. By the end of the day, they had a new bridge.

So please don’t make the mistake of thinking that life in your pre-industrial fantasy land has to be nasty, brutish or short. Anymore than you underestimate people who don’t happen to be white and westernised in our own world today.

"I Don't Do What You Tell Me"

Sep. 12th, 2017 09:05 am
michaelchance: (Default)
[personal profile] michaelchance posting in [community profile] sherlockbbc
"I Don't Do What You Tell Me" by Jessie Blackwood
PAIRING: Mycroft/Lestrade
FANDOM: Sherlock
RATING: AO
SUMMARY: Greg doesn't do what Mycroft tells him any more. He is his own man, with his own mind, he's never been anyone's yes-man and he isn't about to start now. Mycroft better just get used to it.

Has just been added to Sherlock Holmes Slash and is listed on the new stories page and the other pairings page.

Crossposted to Chance's Archive, Chance's Archive on Tumblr and Chance's Archive blog.
Page generated Sep. 22nd, 2017 10:34 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios