Archive for May, 2011

Capsule Tech: PaperPhone and Snaplet

Though the novel itself has been somewhat placed on the back burner, I still look for an enjoy those little bits of real-world technology that bring things just that one step closer to the 2070s I’m building for Capsule.  Today, it’s the PaperPhone, as profiled on Engadget.  It uses a new technology called ductile e-ink to provide a display that can be curved, rolled, and even worn on the wrist.  Now, as e-ink it’s got a display much like the Kindle, which means gray-scale, but also with a load time between screens and no ability for animation.  Looks like it’s also awkward for receiving calls.  But this isn’t intended to be consumer grade, yet.  It’s a proof of concept, and the concept is pretty damn cool.

Part of the goal is to see just how people would interact with such a device, what gestures feel natural, something to keep in mind whenever developing technology either in real life or in literature. People want technology to be comfortable to use, and they want gestures that make sense while not being overly complicated. Sure, pretending to crumple something up and toss it over your shoulder might seem a logical gesture for throwing something away, but it’s too complicated. But simpler gestures like page turning, and sliding are more logical and easier to perform. Just look at any of the videos of people, whether very young or old, using the iPad for the first time and requiring no explanation of the gestures involved. And on the other end…well, there’s GMail’s April Fools video:

Overwrought gestures in real life would result in lack of adoption and frustrated users. In literature or on screen, they’re just silly. Which is fine if that’s what you’re going for, but otherwise keep the gestures simple and intuitive.

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Brief moment of self congratulations

Yesterday my blog had its best viewership since the relaunch.  Now I’m not going to say how low of a bar that was to clear, exactly, but to anyone new poking around I’d like to give a hearty welcome.  There’ll be new Fortnightcaps up every other Tuesday and between then my musings about writing, beer making, gardening, and whatever else crosses my mind.

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Fortnightcap: An Announcement

An Announcement

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

Scientists Announce Final Invention

At a press conference this afternoon, a team of scientists, engineers, and inventors announced they had invented the last item that will ever be invented.  For centuries thought an impossibility, the moment has been anticipated by philosophologists for the past decade as it became very clear that there are only so many possibilities that can exist within the human imagination.  The invention in question is a new musical instrument that converts thoughts into musical notes.  There followed a brief demonstration by the inventor, Mary Forth, who chose to play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto Number 3.

The announcement set off immediate reactions from people worldwide.  When approached for this article, Harold Maude, a holovision technician from Hoboken, said, “Come on, there has to be something someone hasn’t invented.  Like, I don’t know, some kind of combination hat rack and computer server.”  Computer and sartorial engineer Lucas Freemont, when approached, responded that such a device had in fact been invented in 2117, but proved to be a financial failure.

“Anyway,” he continued, “we aren’t looking at notions of ‘what if we combined this and that’ but at the creation of new and completely novel devices.  There will always be some room for improvement of existing products.  There just won’t be anything completely new ever again.  Which is something we’re all going to have to deal with.”  Mr. Freemont was unable to comment further as he was finalizing his application for a job grilling soy patties at McDonalds.

There are still some holdouts within the scientific community who believe that there can’t possibly ever be an end of invention.  However, this final invention has been foreseen for several years during a period of complete inventive sterility from the scientific and engineering communities.  It was merely a matter of which enterprising person finally realized the concept and could reap the rewards.   Mrs. Forth will receive a prize of $5,000,000 from the federal government, which can now get out of the business of rewarding inventors and get back to the serious work of declaring national weeks of recognition.

And what of all the inventors?  All the hard working men and women who toil and sweat in the hopes of creating something new?  Many are continuing on, unaffected by the news.  Whether this proves to be a futile use of time and resources, or whether they may still prove the establishment wrong is yet to be seen.  Jordan Lauerbeck, for one, is undeterred.  “I was so close to finishing my own thought horn, and I really hope that I can use some of those concepts to, perhaps, create a new form of dentifrice.”

To Mr. Lauerbeck and the other plucky inventors still struggling on, all we can say is good luck.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better. Picture of Kepler’s Supernova courtesy of NASA, released to public domain.

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State of the Author: May addendum

Posted yesterday on the Hydra Publications blog:

Steam Works will also be out in early July. We are going over edits for it right now but we have decided that all of the pieces are in good shape we are just going over them with a fine eye to see if there are any typos.

We have some cover samples coming in for Steam Works but we still haven’t found the right look as of yet.

Always nice to get the occasional update that it’s still in progress.  Can’t wait to see the cover, I’ll post when I see it.  Fortnightcap coming at you in another 1-3 hours.

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State of the Writer: May 2011

Hey, look at that.  It’s a new month, so it’s another chance for me to unbutton a shirt button to allow for optimal naval gazing.  April was an oddly productive month for me, which is largely to say that I was productive in odd directions.  The primary project of the month has been working on updates for my Lucha Libre story, something that’s turned into a pure joy to write and work on in a way few other stories have.  Almost a shame it’s so short, but there’s really nothing else I can do with it.  Going into May, that story is still going to get much of my focus because even though it’s not due until July 1, I’ve got a personal deadline of May 12 set.

In other projects, Future Lovecraft has just opened up, and yes, that’s the story I was talking about in my previous post.  I have a concept that I like, I just can’t quite crack the blank page to really get a start that I like.  Perhaps because I’ve got a few other stories running around my brain that are insisting on being told one-by-one.  These are the Steam Worlds.  These are the stories that came from my curiosity with the way that the Victorians imagined the earth and the cosmos working.  One already existed, then four more titles came about in the course of about an hour.  By the end, these stories will head to Mars, Venus, Phaeton, the Moon, and even inner Earth.  Right now they exist in the following formats:

  • Mars: Submitted to an anthology, still waiting to hear back (anxious, anxious)
  • Venus: Plot noodled.  I’m loving the plot I’m coming up with, which will include elements of Chernobyl, UrbEx, and 1940s air pollution disasters.  And robots.
  • Phaeton: Title with a vague X meets Y notion.  Least developed of the five.
  • The Moon: Change of title, change of focus, and suddenly there’s a story to be told here.
  • Inner Earth: This one depresses me a little.  Possibly the most ambitious theme and concept of the set.

I don’t know what will ultimately end up happening to them.  Mars, being in current circulation, could really help the others get told and sold.  Perhaps one day when several are sold and some rights revert they might merge together and be my first short story collection.  For now, I’ll search for homes where I can find them without worrying about continuity between them.  They don’t share characters, and don’t really share a timeline, they just exist in similar worlds.

Been reading too much Save the Cat.  Has me wanting to write another screenplay.  A proper one.  Maybe one that I could put up on Amazon Studio.  More on that if it actually starts happening.  Also been thinking about a certain xenophobe and his Serbian mentor.

State of the writer’s beer: Mustache Cat fermentation has slowed.  Bottling could happen this weekend, is more likely to happen next weekend.  Might be able to crack a bottle in time for June.  Looking at my options for batch two, considering a Ginger/Lemon/Honey Ale offered by Austin Homebrew.

It’s going to be a three Fortnightcap month.  First one will be up tomorrow, probably in the form of a new article.

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Lovecraft Landmine: First Person

I did it again this weekend.  I opened up a blank Word document, got to work on a fresh Lovecraftian piece, and started the same way I always start.  By writing the word “I”.

Look, there are plenty of great things about first person, and I’ve written some stories I absolutely love in first person.  There’s some great Lovecraftian fiction written from first person out there.  But there’s something about when I start a story that way that causes it to fall apart.  My problem?  It’s so much the style of the original stories that I start wandering down the path of bad habits and bad prose, forgetting that it was the ideas of Lovecraft that have kept him relevant for so long, not the actual style.

I start in with the first person, and after that flows the bizarre adjectives, the purple prose, the over wrought text, that urging temptation to end the story as some sort of final written confessional from a man about to succumb to his own madness.  Which means along the way I lose my voice, I lose the character’s voice, and I end up trapped in a world of bad writing.

This is my own personal demon, and I’m aware of that.  This post is about me airing the demon out, making myself as aware of it as I can, so that maybe next time I’ll remember before I’ve written a few hundred words that I now hate and will delete to restart in third person when I get home.

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