Bone #writephoto

Bone

skull

 

This can’t be real… No, of course not, this is a game… That object there, yes, that skull, they think, it may be a gate, you know, some kind of key, to get somewhere else? This is a  game, of course. But it may also be a trap, something really nasty, that blows up in your face, you know…

I observe the fools from my observatory on the low hill, the sniper rifle comfortably cradled against my shoulder. I see all three of them, hideous trolls. I know what they are saying, in their vernacular. “This must be a game…” Idiots.

The first one, one disgusting character, approaches the skull. The bullet takes him right in the eye as he’s about to touch the bone. One down.

The other two look around, there is no escape, nowhere to hide, they don’t even run. I take my time. No unnecessary cruelty. A quick and neat death. Job done.

And it’s not even a real bone!

T-Rain, and a girl named Zula: a reading of Neal Stephenson’s Reamde #amreading

Neil Stephenson 77f9262fbf.jpg

Every other thing that he had done for the company – networking with money launderers, stringing Ethernet cable, recruiting fantasy authors, managing Pluto – could be done better and more cheaply by someone who could be recruited by a state-of-the-art head-hunting firm. His role, in the end, had been reduced to this one thing: sitting in the corner of meeting rooms or lurking on corporate email lists, seeming not to pay attention, growing ever more restless and surly until he blurted something out that offended a lot of people and caused the company to change course. Only later did they see the shoals on which they would have run aground if not for Richard’s startling and grumpy intervention.”

Reamde is a tough, long, and interesting novel. I had to interrupt my reading several times during this year, and this made following the plot as hazardous as the story itself. I acquired Reamde initially as an e-book. The version I had was poorly edited, and after some four hundred pages I could no longer find my way through the various geographies and characters. Finally I purchased the paperback (in the Atlantic Books edition available in the UK.) This helped me to come back on tracks, as the good ones were getting deeper into serious trouble, and the bad ones were… getting more horrible than ever.
Richard Forthrast is a wealthy entrepreneur, and the soul at the core of T-Rain, a world-class multiplayer (MMORPG) game and metaverse, that transcends all predecessors. Richard is the head of the Forthrast clan, an expanded family of gun-totting characters who include his adopted niece, the beautiful Zula, a refugee from Erithrea. The world of T-Rain is, one day, disrupted by the double event of an internal war – the Wor – and the advent of what turns out to be a deadly virus, Reamde. The plot then develops into two parallel, but eventually convergent, lines: what happens in T-Rain, and what happens in “reality”: much of the book’s interest arises, in this reader’s view, from this double narrative, the journey in T-Rain, and the journey in this world, from Idaho to the Philippines, via China and various airfields and oil tankers, and back again, as Bilbo Baggins used to say. Both are rich in deadly traps, of the explosive and other varieties, such as magic spells.
A good first tier of the book is devoted to a description of T-Rain, its design, history and creators, a medley of British and US genial weirdos, recruited by, and under Richard’s influence. I must admit having lost the thread more than once (a fuller understanding would require a second reading, at least.) The real world’s thread centres on Zula and her companions, and their odyssey. For Reamde, the virus, cuts across the machinations of a criminal gang from the East, whose extortion racket is disrupted by the virus. The consequences of the gang’s brutal intervention, and a chance meeting with a bunch of jihadists, make up the second half of the novel, as the separate trails slowly converge back to the US-Canadian border, and Richard’s eagle nest.
There are hints of Snow Crash, Stephenson’s earlier novel that introduced a proto-virtual world, and multiple references to the world of hacking and virus developers. There are peripheral characters, some roughly inspired by the “war on terror”, and of course, the very nasty, and yet noble jihadist, the infamous Jones.
I only caught up with the female characters, all three of them, once I had acquired the paperback, having to backtrack through the 1044 pages! I think, now, that sometime I will re-read Reamde, when I have some uninterrupted three or four weeks of quiet vacation (maybe when we visit Seattle?) Stephenson lives in Seattle and his geographical knowledge of the region is evidently vast. I struggled with the trails through the mountainous area above Richard’s Schloss! A map would be as useful to the reader as it would be to Zula and her friends.
Reamde is, in turn, hilarious and tragic, a great read, and a milestone for Stephenson’s aficionados.

Photo: [By Ryan Somma – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ideonexus/6191024454, CC BY 2.0, Link]

My reading of Cryptonomicon

As a #writer, is #Facebook useful to me?

Au Pont de la Tournelle

Today, a very good friend of mine, in real life as well as in cyberspace, quitted her Facebook account, which she created in 2009. She said to me she no longer had time to keep her page up to date, even to the minimum level that would be of interest to her “friends”. And she added: “But of course, the real friends and I keep in touch, by writing – yes! oldfashion letters – and via our blogs, that are the right places for a genuine exchange of ideas.”

It makes sense to me. When I started using Facebook, it was an attempt to build up the main character in my first novel, and later on, to promote my work. It has been a mixed success. Quickly the character achieved a life of her own, and was never really dependent on social media for her development. From a writing and work promotion viewpoint, I have to admit having had close to zero contribution through the Facebook page I created for the novel. By comparison I found Twitter a far more effective tool, to meet other writers, keep up to date on news that interested me, and promote my work.

In truth, the real writer tool is the blog. There, it is possible to develop a meeting of minds, with genuinely interested readers, and people of common interests, who are willing to take the time to comment and follow. It’s give and take. There is nothing artificial in the development of such communities. Given the time it takes to keep up on social media, one has to be economical, and discerning. Has Facebook helped me in my development as a writer? The answer is, probably, very little, compared with the real progress made on the blogs, and, also compared with the source of inspiration and contacts I found via Twitter.

Is this then, conclusive? I have nothing against Facebook, it’s fun to use, but just appears, often, pointless. This is of course a very personal viewpoint, what does not work for me may well do marvels for others! Our main resource is time. So, maybe, it’s time to reconsider?

#Promptbox: Melting

DSC_0200We have to go back to a few million years, when this world was hotter, so hot that there was no ice, anywhere, and no humans nor other animals, like us, a burning inferno…

But now, after only a few short decades, we have succeeded, to ruin our chances, to rob our children and grand children, and grand grand children, for centuries to come, of their life chances: poison in the oceans, in the rivers, filth on the land, more poison in the air…

But greed is good, and look how rich we are now, after all those revolutions: admire our cities, and the clever elites who live within – walled islands of wealth…

Satan laughs, quietly, in his corner, watching human stupidity, working hard, for him!

#DailyPost: Binding Judgement

Does it ever make sense to judge a book by its cover?

Alberto SevesoIt was old and dusty, and must have been hidden in the ancient trunk for centuries. For a while she contemplated the cover, cracked leather worn by the passing years, touched by the hands of long dead knights.

Around her was silence and the smell of decay. The sacred chapel’s walls shimmered in the morning light filtering through narrow windows. She placed the book on the altar, as the rite demanded, facing the nave.

She drew the Infinity Blade. A ray of light fell on the book. Far away she heard the light steps of Her she would soon meet, as the prophecy had predicted.

She open the cover, placed the Blade flat on the page with Her name.

The door of the chapel opened silently. The Queen walked slowly toward Isa, who fell on her knees.

“My child, I see you are ready for me.”

The Queen seized the Blade, and lightly touched Isa’s shoulder :

“Now, go and fight for me, and take this book, it will teach you how to overcome the Deathless.”

Image: Alberto Seveso

#FiveSentenceFiction: Doors

In front of the doorOn the threshold, in front of the massive gate, she hesitated: the fort would be booby-trapped, perhaps even ready to crumble on top of any intruder.

But then she remembered what the prisoner had said to them: it was only the third door which was trapped, after that, no-one knew other than the enemy.

She pushed the heavy panel, which moved slowly without sound, and stepped into the entrance.

Her boots felt the paved floor: there was no light, and no sound but her breathing and the beating of her heart; a ray of pale sunshine reflected on the wall in front of her: she’d left the small panel open behind her.

She only had a fraction of a second to flatten herself on the cold floor, as the second door opened and machine gunfire flooded the entrance: the prisoner had lied, and now she would have to die fighting – but she knew how to.

#DailyPrompt: Going Obsolete

Of all the technologies that have gone extinct…

Minotaur - George Frederick WattsThe president sat silent in the well-known office. This was not a day for triumph, nor gesticulation: the country, or rather its establishment, singularly of the military variety, had by now sobered up.

The proof was there, on the President’s desk. The report that spelled out the disaster, with photographed evidence, across continents, and those islands, the hidden deathly gems of the once great power.

All gone to ashes. A swift, quiet and pitiless strike that had reduced the stockpiles of nukes and assorted missiles to dust. Without appeal. There had been no warning, no press conference, no invitations to media.

The president, feeling rather tired, looked out of the window, across the celebrated lawn, where not long ago he was proffering threats and, now, obsolete-sounding statements on punishing others, the lesser nations…

People were demonstrating, there, on the street, apparently in a joyous mood. Then it dawned on the once most powerful man on Earth: the people were celebrating.

Image: MinotaurGeorge Frederic Watt

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Monopoly

James Christensen 1) Monopoly is a popular board game invented by Parker Brothers and made by the Hasbro toy and game company, dating back from the 30’s, although its origin goes back to 1900’.

2) According to Wikipedia, “a monopoly exists when a single person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity.”

From Williams: “Monopoly can be difficult because it has a common literal meaning but also a rather wider meaning which has been historically important. It came into English in C16 from monopolium (Latin), monopolion (Greek) (from monos: alone, single, and polein: sell). Two senses appear in the early English examples: (i) the exclusive possession of trade in some article, (ii) the exclusive privilege granted by license of selling some commodity…

… The modern phrase monopoly capitalism (describes) a phase of Capitalism in which the market (is) either (a) organised by cartels and the like or (b) dominated by increasingly large corporations. Either use can be criticised form the literal sense of monopoly, which would suggest that large corporations with or without formal cartels do not compete in selling: i.e., that there is only one seller.”

See also:

State Monopoly Capitalism

The Age of Monopoly-Finance Capital

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Communication

Do not speak Raymond Williams, author of “Keywords” (see entry for “K” on April 12) wrote:

Communication in its most general modern meaning has been in the language since C15” (15th century). The word stems from Latin communis – common: “hence communicate – make common to many, impart. Communication was first this action, and then, the object thus made common: a communication… It was in C20, with the development of other means of passing information and maintaining social contact, that communications came also and perhaps predominantly to refer to such Media as the press and broadcasting.”

Our age has been called “the information age”, but would it be better named “communication age” with that last meaning, to include “social media”?