Monthly Archives: June 2011

new Words

On Coal fired Cuttlefish -1200 yesterday, and 600 today. This is strictly speaking editing the second draft. I will admit parts of the first are a little sketchy ;-). There’s one scene entirely missing -maybe 3K but the rest is there.

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A short, short History of the Alternate Time-line for Cuttlefish

A Short-Short history of the Alternate time line for ‘Cuttlefish’.

Cuttlefish history branches not with a General changing his mind or being killed, or a battle going differently, but with a simple pre-marital argument in 1898.

Dr Clara Immerwahr (a brilliant chemist) has an argument about the purpose of science with her intended, Dr Fritz Haber (something that would happen in the marriage and result in her untimely death in our timeline). She broke off the engagement. Her family, one of the leading Jewish families in Breslau, felt this a disgrace and sent her off to visit relations in England. She never returned, married happily there, had a daughter in 1907, and took a different direction within chemistry working on fabric dyes.

Fritz Haber never recovered from this blow. He began drinking too much, and changed his direction from working on the synthesis of ammonia to the extraction of gold from sea-water (a direction he took anyway, after the apparent suicide… well, death of Clara). While other continental scientists were working on ammonia synthesis they were somewhat behind Haber, and whereas the Haber-Bosch process was up and running by 1911, and able to supply the German war machine with feedstock for the manufacture of nitrates, this was not true in this time line. The British Empire controlled access to the main natural supply of nitrates in the World (the Chilean caliche deposits), and World War One was a very short damp squib (as it would have been without artificial ammonia synthesis) as despite their use the Birkeland-Eyde process (a way of making artificial nitrates), the Central Powers having badly hurt Russia, began to run out of munitions after four months — at which point it became a race between the Austria-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and Germans to see who could reach a peace treaty first, knowing that would be to their advantage.

Austria-Hungary won that and suffered a minor break-up of their territory. The Turks found the cave-in fraught with uprisings and lost much of their Empire to the French and English, or independence.

Germany… the British Empire was determined to see it did not threaten them again. This meant breaking it up into states, and getting rid of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The ‘agreement’ was to allow him to have had a mental breakdown, which would allow him ‘retire’ gracefully. However, his abdication would have made his sons rulers and the British Empire was having no more of that. So the remaining German states were placed under the Regency of Adolf Schaumburg-Lippe. This minor German Prince, with his vivacious very pro-British wife Viktoria (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria) were so adroit at reconciliation and in dealing with the German High Command that a Royalist uprising by Wilhelm II’s sons was successfully put down. France however seized the moment to invade a small German principality.

Thanks to Prince Adolf – and especially to his wife the British Empire intervened on the side of their historic ally, Germany, in the process mending many fences. The result of this was an arranged marriage between Edward VIII of the United Kingdom (who in our time line married Wallis Simpson in 1937, and had to abdicate to do so) and the daughter of Prince Adolf and Princess Viktoria (in our timeline their only child was stillborn) Princess Alexandria in 1916. And thus a new Imperial line was founded, in which the German Empire and British Empire largely became one. Russia still had something of a revolution – but the Mensheviks won. France, having alienated Britain, found itself mired in colonial wars.

And the world had no synthetic Ammonia, and the British Empire, dominant in coal, saw to it that coal, not these new-fangled oil-derived fuels stayed dominant. The Windsor-Schaumburg-Lippe family controlled vast coalfields… and had the means to slap punitive taxes on oil and control and tax the shipping of it.

Coal ran the Empire.

But coal is a very dirty burning fuel, and as Europe had neither WW1 nor the Spanish ‘flu, it had many people and much use. Emigration particularly to Africa and Australia went ‘full steam ahead’. Colonialism and racism flourished. So did the massive infrastructure of a steam-driven world.

By 1935 environmentally things began to go wrong, just as the British Empire began cracking under the strain of too many people and too little food, as Synthetic Ammonia has been the basis of much of the fertilizer used in our timeline. The coal-based society was pouring out massive amounts of soot (particulate carbon) caused substantial ice melting in the Arctic, particularly in Russia.

And that led to a methane burst (where methane locked in by ice or pressure reaches a point where a lot of it is released) in the tundra.

Methane is a short lived (breaking down in the atmosphere) but very effective (around 72 times as effective as CO2) greenhouse gas.

This caused real environmental catastrophe Massive melting of ice, more outgassing methane… a warmer world. Over seven years average temperatures rose 7 degrees.

It proved a disaster for the earth, but the saving of the Empire. Governments failed to cope as heatwaves ruined agriculture and their coastal cities and plains were flooded. World weather conditions were very erratic, causing the collapse of already overstretched agriculture, widespread starvation, wars, mass-migration.

Elected governments in many countries failed. Government was suspended, martial law imposed, in the British Empire with authority returning to the Royal Family. Military intervention was largely brutal and self-serving… except that the British Empire, with more military might and infrastructure than any rival, did a generally better job of restoring order and seeing people at least got some help. More if youe were white and British of course. In India the suffering was terrible. But Commonwealth countries who tried to go it alone – Australia, Canada, South Africa — rapidly became chaotic, soon begging the Crown to intervene, and restore direct rule. Which it did, and managed to stabilize things over the next few years (as the weather was re-settling, at hotter levels.) The Empire had its finest hour — along with some colossal failures, but these were lesser than the disaster’s impact elsewhere.

Slowly (by about 1942) things began to return to a new form of normal. A normal where London is largely flooded, but not abandoned. Like Venice, Her streets have become canals.

The British Imperial House was not ready to hand back the power it had been given or taken. The Canadian Dominions, with vast new arable lands and new settlements in Newfoundland and Greenland was a major engine for Empire. The restive factories of India provided goods for the Empire. In Australia — the Western settlements had suffered withering drought and had been abandoned by the Empire, with forced resettlement to the East coast and Tasmania.

At home Ireland seethed. And coal, the driver of the Empire, began becoming more difficult to source and more expensive. In the tunnels and tubes under the drowned city, anti-imperialist republicans and Irish rebels, part of the Liberty – the people who would see a return to older values and free elections eke out a strange existence. They are served by a fleet of Stirling engined submarines. After the 1914-15 War, submarines were outlawed by the treaty of Lausanne, as the Kaiserliche Marine submarines had inflicted considerable damage on the Royal Navy, and were thus hated. But the revolutionaries, the underpeople, operate a small clandestine fleet smuggling illegal goods — chocolate, teak, quinine.

The year is 1953. This is when ‘Cuttlefish’ is set.


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The arrogance and the ignorance

Yeah well. Not my fave cover, although to be fair I was asked for a description of the Aliens and their space suits by the artist (it’s supposed to be a hi-viz suit for a species that is red-green colourblind).  It’s not quite what I envisaged which was purple and dayglo lime greeny yellow/ 🙂 It’s a fair comment, and goes with the turf, and the luck of the draw.

Rant alert: It was however the guy who decided to have go at it because it was a Baen book who really got up my nose and itched. He/she plainly has no idea what the book is about, or who the authors are. However: We must be some kind of far right nutters to be abused.  This is on a charming par with deciding someone’s skin colour means they’re stupid or dishonest. Baen, to their credit, are possibly the ONLY major house who can fairly be said have a tolerant open policy to who and what they publish. Yes, they’ve published the far right… and the far left. Find another major sf/fantasy publisher who can honestly say that. So: for the only publisher doing the right and honorable thing… the arrogant and ignorant get a free pass to have a go at the authors and their books. Heck, it’s easy enough to shred my work, and that is fair enough.  But have the grace not come come up with the equivalent of ‘all blacks are stupid’ when you do it. At least read some of it. This on the other hand was a fine parallel to the guys who had never read Harry Potter but tried to get it banned because they’d heard it was Satanist.

Baen’s attitude is something anyone who believes in free speech should praise and respect them for -regardless of which party they support.  But to the type who feel that free speech and tolerance are only important when it applies to them (and you get them on the left and right – on the left they produce Pol Pot and the right Adolf Hitler) they’re bad because they didn’t take the ‘right’ side and discriminate against.   That’s neither liberal, tolerant, nor a belief in free speech.  Tolerance is and always will be: when it something you do not approve of, and is not said by someone you like or approve of, and you still support their right to say it.   ‘I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’  This, and not blinkered narrow bigotry (no matter if that bigotry is in favor of NeoNazis or Gay Liberation) is intrinsic to Western Liberal Philosophy. Without we’re just a shade of totalitarian intolerance. And it doesn’t matter who you are being intolerant of.

rant endeth

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Back to the grindstone

Well, the catch up is sort of done. Tomorrow will be a normal working day, with just the MGC blog to add to the day (well, besides the Flinders Family Freer one) and a serious attempt to move the first draft of Cuttlefish more toward what Pyr want.  I’ve updated the Changeling’s Island proposal and sent it back to O’Mike. So… about a week until that’s sold, two weeks before the pantechnicons full of vast checks start rolling up to the door, and three before the movie comes out… Yeah, well, in some other universe… Seriously, it’s a GREAT story. I want to write it so badly it hurts, but the contracted work needs to come first. And inevitably selling it will take years if at all.  I don’t think I have become a weaker writer, but the environment out there for selling books or selling into has got a great deal worse.

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Continuum 7 done

Well, my stint in author-purgatory is done again for the next… probably year. I’m not good at this. It was — despite a few little hitches before we started and the plague-panel and the extra last minute one–a pretty good little con. It was fun to meet a few other authors and despite being bundled with one of the the lite-ratty as a co-GoH (i’m ha!;-) the local GoH ) had some good panels. Even some good book ideas. Anyway, tomorrow we shop a little and then go back to Flinders and routine.

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Well, the proposal and sample chapters have gone off — now we don’t hold our breath. It’s a very good book IMO. I’d love to write it right now.

I’m off to Continuum 7 in the morning so I’ll probably not post again for a week or so. In which time nothing much will have happened unless I get the usual hurry up and do XYZ.  Have I told you how like being in the army writing is?  You wait. And then rush, because having had a manuscript for 12 months the publisher now suddenly discovers they have six weeks before publishing date.  So you work frantically.  And then wait. Especially for answers in that infinitely elastic 6 week they have to tell you if they like the latest proposal… Or if it is money you’re waiting for… wait longer 😉

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Mission creep

Well, I am now trying to edit my sample chapters for CHANGELING’S ISLAND,  which has grown to a shade over 8000 words. (yes, I have added another 2K or so).  Plus another 7000 in the proposal/outline that’s 15K that I’ve already invested in this,  for a book in the 70-90K range.

To put this in pure business terms, that’s a lot of bread to cast on the water. The problem is, having got this far into the book (and the first chapters are by far the hardest) I’m really tempted to just keep going. But I have to do some work on the con stuff and of course on CUTTLEFISH, which needs quite a bit more flesh on the bones I have. The sample chapter/ proposal route does offer authors some security, but it sucks as you invest so much creativity and effort into that first part that it’s really hard to put it aside. Anyway, that’s the way it is for now, but I am looking to change that aspect of the way I do business too.

(wry smile) To twist things around in my usual way: I think by now ( and a good few hundred thousand sales)I’ve proved that I write books which some readers would like. What the proposal is really doing is asking if publishers have adequate marketing outreach to get the books to those readers.  Or whether they’d like to try…

And mostly the answer seems ‘no’.

If I view this as a reflection of their inadequacy rather than mine, I might feel better, even if just as poor 😉

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Dragons ring copies

A box of books arrived here – finally my copies of Dragon’s Ring and for some reason more copies of  Much Fall of Blood. So I have con-copies.

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words and the inner editor.

well another 1100 done. But the inner editor is squalling at me that the tension is not quite right. I have been thinking and noodling over it, and I think it’s fixable with another Point of view. I might need to add the heroine’s POV again too.

It’s an interesting book this, as it has to work at three levels. Now I am quite used to and fond of multi-level books, but these three levels actually have to be obvious enough to most readers. There is the ‘mundane’story of a city kid in trouble, being sent off to theback of beyond and having to cope with life in farming/ diving/fishing country in a remote community, and coming to terms with his own ancestry and deal with prejudice. Then there is the Aos si side – the kid has a lesser spirit of air and darkness as, if you like, a bond-servant, as a side effect of his own Faerie-changeling ancestry. The  creature is sensitive to his master’s emotions and other less material things which leave their mark on places.  He’s a POV character enabling us to see into this too.  Then there is the real historical tier: the islands were populated originally by sealers, who kidnapped ‘wives’ from the aboriginal community.  The island too was a temporary home ‘refuge’ for the Tasmanaina Aboriginal survivors. They did not thrive here. Much sadness and patches of nasty history happened here, as well as the place being a real refuge, and place to escape to. I am going to feed some of this background in as well, partly through the kid’s grandmother and partly just in passing and partly from Aed- the lesser spirit

Balancing act.

The inner editor says: a hard one.

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