Lack of Boobs saves the world.

Ok, so we have all used a calculator to enter “8008” and show it to our friends upside-down. It’s like the first thing you do when you learn how to use a calculator.

Once you get a bit more advanced, you start typing out words like “55378008,” or “Boobless”.

Don’t lie, you have done this. Either that or you’ve never owned a calculator, in which case, just what the hell are you doing with your life?

 

Anyway, I wrote a few days ago about my undying interest in nuclear war. For those that don’t share my passion, in 1983 we almost blew up the world. The quick version of events (spoilers: it didn’t end in nuclear war) is as follows.

Regan was president and a bunch of old Russians were in charge over there. Regan had announced the SDI (“Star Wars”) and this spooked the Russians, mainly because if the US could shoot down their missiles, then there was no reason for them not to attack first.

In September 1983 Korean Airlines 007 was shot down by the USSR, which pissed off the world.

It was also sometime during 1983 that Petrov, the man who saved the world, ignored an early warning system that showed that the US had launched 5 missiles at the USSR.

In November, there was an exercise run by NATO, which was to simulate a nuclear first strike on Russia. It was only really the communications part of the “war,” but, since at that time the most reliable  intelligence came from snooping on communications, it looked very real to the Russians. Some things are only now coming to light, but they had deployed over 300 nuclear missiles during the 1-week exercise and had their ICBM teams at the ready. Three separate men sat with their fingers on the button.

One of the main reasons that everyone was able to keep their cool was due to the human spies on both sides. These guys tried to calm down the people who could have blown us all away. One of the spies sent an encoded message to the KGB using a calculator, into which he entered a code, which was then encoded into machine language which he could play down a phone line.

It’s really scary stuff, and for that reason it makes for a great TV show. The full documentary, if you’re interested, is on YouTube.

So, what has this got to do with calculators?

Well, pretty much, this:

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So, I know that putting Easter Eggs into stories is fun. You can read about the things I dropped into Katawa Shoujo here. I’m also going to work up a similar, but much more detailed, guide for Arctic Gale after the digital release.

 

But really, in a documentary about the possible end of the world, sneaking in the “Boobless” joke is, well…

Pretty damned cool. I commend the props guy who had the balls to put this up on screen and the camera guy who went along with it.

1st of June, 1594

1594.

That’s how many changes there are between the version I marked as “final” and the current version of the script for Arctic Gale (it has a new name as well). There is a good 5% additional material, and that doesn’t include at least one sequence that was deleted.

I really feel excited about the story now. The editor wasn’t cheap, but they really helped me pull focus in on a few points. I’m hoping that this will make it even more enjoyable for you.

 

Also, finally, the artist has started working on the cover. I’ve seen some rough sketches, and I can’t tell you how embarrassing it is to see your own name emblazoned on the cover of a book.

 

I’m really pumped up right now!

 

So, if all the stars align I should be on track for a 1st of June release (this year, not 1594). The only thing that might take some time is getting an ISBN number, but I’ll apply for that tomorrow. Once that is confirmed I’ll start to hit the marketing button and post like a madman on every pace that I’ve had at least some kind of following in the past 5 years.

I know that there aren’t many people actively following the blog, but for those of you that have stuck with me through this process I’d like to thank you. It’s always a bit disappointing seeing the visitor statistics fade after someone else reposts A Runners Afternoon, but it’s still infinitely better than working in a complete vacuum!

Atomic Musings

Ok, yes, I should be editing.

No, wait, I shouldn’t be. It’s midnight, my eyes hurt, and I can’t think straight anymore.

There have been some tectonic shifts in Arctic Gale in the last 7 days. They are massive (to me) but the signs are subtle. I need to be on my a-game in order to make sure that nothing slips into the fault line and goes all 3.11 on me.

 

So, instead of fucking up chapter 14, I’m going to be happy that I’m not halfway through that process. I’m still on track to finish this week. Hooray.

 

I think I’ve mentioned before that I imagine a lot of the scenes that I write as a scene from a movie, then I write the parts that seem important to me. I guess that is why I suck at character development… On the upside, I spend a lot of time thinking about the sounds and sights that I’d like to see in a movie(/TV/Anime/whatever) adaption of whatever I’m writing.

In the last couple of days, there’s something that I’ve wanted to use the following sound in a story, somehow:

 

Nuclear war has always fascinated me. I grew up at the tail end of the Cold War, so there was still a bit of paranoia around, but by the time I graduated high school the Berlin Wall was a tourist attraction and the USSR was something that hippies wore on their berets.

I’ve read a heck of a lot of stuff on nuclear weapons, and I even took a special credit course, “Special Topics in Military Physics” in University because it was one of the main reasons that I got into physics in the first place. And yes, we had to calculate yields of nuclear weapons for the final exam.

 

Let me make something clear though, I’m not a gung-ho, glass-the-fuckers nuclear weapons fan. They scare the shit out of me, but at the same time I am utterly fascinated by them, as a scientist and as a human. I’ve been to Hiroshima and Nagasaki a number of times, and yet when I see the museums and monuments there I still feel the echo of pain of the people that were forever changed in an instant.

 

I am fascinated by every aspect of nuclear war. I think one of the first things that triggered it was “War Games,” an 80’s movie where a kid accidentally tricks America’s war computer into thinking that there is a nuclear war with Russia, so it almost fires the US arsenal automatically. And, whilst that was just a movie, we’ve been pretty close to that for similarly stupid reasons before.

There are a few “iconic” sights and sounds of the atomic age. One is the “Sailor’s Hat” test where huge naval fleets were nuked to see what would happen. There’s the Ivy Mike test; the first thermonuclear weapon.

 

And yes, the tenuous link to Arctic Gale, the 10km-wide fireball of the Tsar Bomba exploded over Novaris Zemlya.

 

But the data-burst at the beginning of the Emergency Broadcast System has got to be one of those icons, at least from the audio side of things. Forget air-raid sirens, the trumpets of the apocalypse sound like a triplet of data bursts followed by an alert tone.

 

I was thinking recently how we are still really on a hair trigger with nuclear weapons. I think that the new, reduced levels of weapons and the general level of common sense means that chemical and biological weapons are scarier in terms of actual threat level, but part of nuclear doctrine is to make sure that your enemy knows that you are willing to strike without question if threatened.

 

So I kind of want to write something like that. Like Clear and Present Danger but when something actually happens in the end.

But for now, bed. Only 3 more days of Golden Week before heading back into reality…

Letters from the Editor…

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So, a few days ago my (professional) editor got back to me.

I sat on the email for about an hour before I had the courage to even open it up. You know that feeling when you get a reply from someone you have a crush on? When your insides are flipping over because you don’t know if they are going to agree with everything that you wrote, or if they’re going to laugh at you? Or, worse, go full bad-ending-Hanako on you?

Yeah, that’s the feel when you get the response back from an editor, only there is an even lower chance of getting laid.

 

I’ve been piecemeal-reading the notes over the past week, all 14 pages in all, and overall the response wasn’t too bad.

First thing that struck me was that they thought that it was a good story. That was a relief. Straight after that, I realised that many of the points that came up from many of the other proof readers, like character and world-building (which I thought I had addressed before sending the copy to the editor) came back up. So I guess my first point is to listen to the people that you trust. I know that some of the readers prefer not to be mentioned, but on the top level the feedback from the editor was the same as the feedback from Aura.

However, the great part about an editor is that they then say “…here are some ways to fix it…”

Which is what I was missing. Instead of saying “this is missing” or “put this bit in,”  most of the feedback I received was in the form of questions.

“What are the motivations here?”

“Why did she react like this?”

“Do you really need to do that?”

…and a number of other such examples. I won’t go into details but I certainly have to say that the process has helped. In previous editing sessions at 4LS and also in the last 6 months, I’ve always felt like I’ve gone as far as I care to go. I can also admit that I feared getting the response back from the editor, as it would mean that I would need to spend more time on the script. But, now that I have the feedback, I am already charged with ideas that I will start putting into the story.

Hopefully by the end of May I’ll have done all of those changes, and my errant artist will have completed the cover.

 

I’d like to send out a “thank you” to the team at For Pity Sake publishing for their services. I won’t say that it was cheap, but getting the overview edit service was worth it, and I hope that you guys all think so when you read the final result.

 

I’m going to set a “script completion” date of the 1st of June. This will be tough as May is a really busy month for me, but if I do this it will twist me into action. After that, it will be a matter of formatting for Amazon, waiting for the cover, and then finally hitting the “go” button after about 9 months of saying “it’s finished!”

Vegas!

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Ok, so once a year I have to head out to Vegas for a conference and exhibition. This time, my parents in law agreed to look after our kids, so my wife was able to join. So, we went all in.

I’ve been here about 5 times already and I’ve usually just had a few drinks on the strip, seen a show and then gone home as fast as I could. But this time we’ve seen “Le Reve” and “O” (both are fantastic and you should check them out). We also took a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. Instead of sweating on a bus for multiple hours, it’s a quick hop into the canyon, a quick snack and glass of champagne, and then back home in time for dinner and some shopping.

 

Anyway, enough with the prattling, on with the photos… I’l also write a new piece after dinner which should publish in a few days.

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Arctic Gale – Soundtrack edition

So, I’m writing this on a cold spring night in 2016. The kids are asleep and the wife is out with friends, so for the first time in a few weeks I’ve managed to don the Grados and rock out a little bit.

I’ve always had BGM in my life. From the early days of my parent’s shitty Hi-Fi system and dusty vinyl collection to my 1-bit DSD headphone amp there’s always some kind of noise going on. I’m also a bit conservative in collecting music. I still buy CDs or SACDs and rip them to FLAC, so I’m probably not even at the 10,000 track level yet.

Anyway, I digress.

I wrote a post some time ago talking about my man-crush on Porter Robinson, but in the last few weeks as I read and re-read Arctic Gale, I’ve started thinking of certain tracks to link up with the various chapters/scenes in the story. Yes, I know I should actually be spending that time actually working on the script, but, hey, what can you do. When I write I usually have the “movie” version of the story running in my head. I scrub it back and forth to capture the details that I want, but there is almost always a visual. So adding a soundtrack seems like a totally natural thing to do as part of that process. This post, then, is basically the soundtrack that I have playing in my head when I was doing my last read-through.

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You can see by my various versions that there is something going on, but I’m not sure what. I blame OneDrive not syncing properly when you are offline.

I’m not sure if I’ll post this straight away, or if I’ll hold onto it for a bit, but in either case I’ll warn that there are spoilers ahead. If you don’t want to read them, then I guess you’ll have to wait until you’re already spoiled or something. There should be a “Click here” link or something below. If you want to see the tracklist but don’t want the spoilers, then please check out the Youtube Playlist. Again; sorry if you get Geo-blocked.

One thing I know for sure is that this post will take forever to write – every time I think of a new song I have to find that track and listen to it…

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Off to see the wizard…

So, stuck in the Tokyo licence office for 6 hours (no joke) I managed to finish another read-through of Arctic Gale.

There was a post a couple of days ago where I Shared a YouTube playlist which has the songs that I have linked to some scenes. I haven’t finished the list, but I have a post ready for when I do. It’s full of spoilers so I’m saving it until after the release. The problem is that most of the music gets me excited, and last night I nearly sent the book to the e-book stores as-is…

But I’ve resisted the urges for two reasons. One is the art, and the other editing. Sending the script to a professional editor feels kind of like putting a love letter in someone’s locker. It’s very emotionally charged, and as soon as you’ve posted it you kind of want to take it back out of embarrassment. What if they don’t like it? Or, worse, what if they do like it?
I’ll admit it’s a little terrifying; especially when I think that I am effectively spending my bonus on a total wild shot…

Anyway, what’s done is done, and in three weeks I’ll have professional comments on my work. Until then, no more fiddling!