An Office Life 1: Woven Labels


When I first started work I had a desk, numbers to crunch and occasional to a calculator which I used on my number crunching. I calculated loom efficiencies. To those not familiar with textiles, looms are machines designed to weave fabric using warp and weft. I worked in a business called Bell Woven (also commonly called Belwoven) which made labels to go into garments: jeans, shirts, jackets, ties, underwear and the like. These were ‘woven edged’ which meant they were unlikely to cause irritation in contact with the skin (a unique selling point!)
My day job was collecting production records, which were filled in by shift foremen on a document known as a Pick Sheet, and touring the looms to collate stopped time which was filled in by weavers. This was used to assemble a daily production record which was disseminated to the shop floor notice board, the foreman’s office, the engineer’s office, the production manager and the managing director. Its importance stemmed from the fact that loom activity correlated pretty well with future sales. It was the key element in the bi-annual bones calculation.
Stopped time meant lost income (so galvanise the salesmen) production glitches (keep production planning informed) mechanical issues (ensure the engineer knew about overnight / late shift work breakdowns) and low efficiencies. Crunch time was every May and November: how much was bonus going to be? Was there enough for a summer vacation? What about Xmas?
Bonus tended to be around 10% of basic pay and so quite a boost at the time of year when it was needed. There was pressure on the office wallahs (including me) to get their collective fingers and out and keep those looms working. A virtuous (or vicious if you were the hangover type) circle.

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Being vegan


Fancy a garden for tea?

After a few mouthfuls:

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Writers of the Future


The late L Ron Hubbard is famous for Scientology, Dianetics and being a Science Fiction writer, in that order. His legacy of the first two items is questionable however, as an SF devotee, he left behind a free to enter, well-regarded, quarterly competition – Writers of the Future.

Competitions are a spur (out of interest this is one I enter) and the entrants are also provided with a forum. Forums, like most social media are a time sink but there are some worthwhile questions. I’ve been on the forum several times and here’s my answers to some of their questions.


New Users! Introduce Yourselves!

I live in Accrington UK. For the geographically minded, this places me slap-bang in the middle of one of the oldest football rivalries – Burnley and Blackburn…that’s soccer to the many Across-the-Pondanians :-). I started writing in 2009 and I’ve written four novels as well as 50+ short stories and several exploratory, novella length narratives. Although I think of myself as an SF writer, much of my shorter works are… well normal. I’ve been entering Writers of the Future on and off since 2015 (honourable mention plus a silver). Some of my stuff is on Lulu and Kindle; my non-SF stuff includes a book on my home town, Burnley, plus a book of poetry. I’m also a writing group junky.


What are your favourite short story collections

I’ve upwards of 150 short story collections. Over the years I do revisit them. I was always struck by how an author could produce a great collection and then come up with an absolute stinker. Some of the best include:
The Green Hills of Earth (Robert Heinlein – from his Future History)

The Green Hills of Earth
Neutron Star (Larry Niven – Thrints, Bandersnatchi, Puppeteers – Known Space)

Neutron Star

The Illustrated Roger Zelazny (enjoyed this also for the illustrations – I’ve been a fan of Gray Morrow since his work on El Diablo for DC)

The Illustrated Roger Zelazny

All the Traps of Earth (Clifford D Simak)

All the Traps of Earth and Other Stories

Lost Worlds 1 (Clark Ashton Smith – Zothique, Averoigne and Others)

Lost Worlds, Vol. 1

Metamorphosis and other stories (Franz Kafka – I just like Kafka)

Metamorphosis and Other Stories

The John W Campbell Memorial Anthology (a good guy well remembered)

The John W. Campbell Memorial Anthology

Spectrum Volume 1 edited by Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest – the introduction to this volume puts the case for well written Science Fiction – given where the genre is, it’s still worth a read – I blogged this series as part of my obituary to Robert Conquest

Spectrum I: A Science Fiction Anthology


Did New Wave Science Fiction deliver?

Hindsight’s a wonderful thing – you get to be judge, jury and executioner. In the mid 1960s New Worlds Magazine was the premier British SF journal. It was circulated in WH Smith and was a valuable window into the genre. Michael Moorcock then became editor. Moorcock was an evangeliser for New Wave SF. I remember reading about how New Wave SF was going to be good for the genre, and thinking: ‘that’s impressive’. That was over 40 years back.
New Worlds failed: WH Smith dropped it, it became dependent on Arts Council subsidies and then they pulled the plug. It ceased monthly publication in 1970. The New SF, published just a few months later, laid out all the flaws of the movement to the paying public – yes I bought a copy – it had morphed into a sanctuary for literary self-indulgence.


Where do you get your inspiration?

This is different for everyone. Observation of the writing groups I’ve been to suggests that many depend on a prompt. Professional authors have themes they work to – this I guess will tie into their respective book deals. A prompt seems artificial and forced to me. Themes aren’t hard, there are thousands of them just waiting to be explored. The exploration side is different; I have a number of different ways of dealing with the actual process, depending on whether I’m progressing a scene, resolving a plot discontinuity or sharpening up a character.
Those different ways can mean going for a walk, sleeping on it, listening to a relevant musical piece in the car or just plain writing out the ideas (paper or PC). Sometimes, all it takes is a measured discontinuity to the process of writing, to get things to click.


Which Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books You Enjoy?

Sci-Fi books I have enjoyed (Fantasy another time)
Hothouse by Brian W Aldiss – a delightful take on flora / fauna gone evolution/ecologically crazy

Hothouse

Galactic Pot-Healer by Philip K Dick – Dick on top form Glimmung, the Kalends and the original gig guy Ceramic pot healer Joe Fernwright. What more could you ask for (apart from 40+ novels and 100+ short stories)

Galactic Pot-Healer

Stardust by Neil Gaiman – it doesn’t belong here but I’m putting it down anyway – a fan since Miracle man days.

Stardust

Deathworld 1 by Harry Harrison – before the Stainless Steel rat was Deathworld

Deathworld

Podkayne of Mars by Robert Heinlein – could have chosen many by Heinlein – still the grand-master

Podkayne of Mars

The People: No Different Flesh by Zenna Henderson – aliens that are neither distant nor uncaring

The People: No Different Flesh

Dune by Frank Herbert – excellent working of religious motifs + holy war, the urge to improve the human race + all the accompanying shenanigans and manoeuvrings.

Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1)

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin – fluid sexuality in SF (not too fluid mind)

The Left Hand of Darkness

The Marriages between Zones Three, Four and Five by Doris Lessing – Ms Lessing urges the genre to vacate its ghetto.

The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, And Five

Ringworld by Larry Niven – the exploration of artefacts and cultures in SF – yup

Ringworld

The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle – a gripping account of (one of) the dangers of first contact

The Mote in God's Eye

Dark Piper by Andre Norton – the collapse of interstellar civilisation, secret animal experiments – a darker Ms Norton

Dark Piper

Gateway by Frederick Pohl – more investigation of alien artefacts (Heechee 1)

Gateway (Heechee Saga, #1)

Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg – a thoughtful look into telepathy

Dying Inside

Halcyon Drift by Brian M Stableford – the adventures of a space pilot with character (Hooded Swan 1)

Halcyon Drift (Star-Pilot Grainger, #1)

The Eyes of the Overworld by Jack Vance – ah, the Dying earth in all its glory

The Eyes of the Overworld

The War of the Worlds by HG Wells – Mars, ancient Mars brought to a Victorian England in all its tripod glory. When my daughter finished reading the copy she borrowed from me about 5 years back, I’ll scan its cover because Goodreads’ version of the image I want to use is the pits.

The War of the Worlds

The Time Machine by HG Wells – wow – needs no intro

The Time Machine

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham – a cure for the world’s fule needs – there’s just one slight snag

The Day of the Triffids

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny – a reworking of Hinduism and Christianity in a Science Fantasy setting

Lord Of Light

No Asimov, Anderson, Ballard, Blish, Bradbury, Brin… and many, many others. Plenty of good works between them but I’ve gone for notable.


Go for the novel? Or stick with the short story?

Initially I wrote my first draft in 3½ months. It was 60k words. Eventually I expanded it by rewriting and restructuring. As it stands it’s a collection of peripheral stories that centre on a main character whose line of work takes him through the reason behind the collapse of civilisation. It could be deconstructed into its constituent story lines. The point is: what do you want to say? If you just want to narrate, trial until you hit the right length. If you have a vision, consider using different angles of approach so the beast you are describing gets several perspectives – this being the point of the Elephant in the Room. There are plenty of techniques at your disposal, get them played with!
Testing writing preferences – my experience. I’ve done four novels, three novellas, the first 20k words of another 4 works, 50+ short stories; and I’ve ventured out of genre (SF / Fantasy) to poke around in Noir, Americana and Historical Fiction. In addition I’ve done a book of essays on my home town (Burnley, Lancs), a poetry collection plus I’ve prepared anthologies for various writing groups. There isn’t an ideal writing length – my longest is 165k words and my most common is sub-1,000 words. I’m currently planning novelette sized takes on the future of humanity in space.
The important thing is to write. Once you’re underway, you’re a ship set sail for distant lands; pace yourself to tell the tale. Don’t skimp, get it told and if you get to first draft, then you can consider length etc.

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Notes on Darwin’s Theory of Evolution


Last night, after the South Manchester Writers Workshop (14/11/17), we headed to the Dog and Partridge and got to talking about our projects. The subject turned to speaking – the author I was in discussion with was developing a talk on Evolutionary Theory – and how much time to allow. He expected to read at just under 200 words Continue reading

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Check out free reads on Deviant Art


Put some free reads on Deviant Art. Here’s an up to date list.

Lucky (SF / Space Opera – see below for details)
The Human Hunters (SF / Military)
Writing Day (Dystopia)
Ice Made (Magic Realism)
Fickleday- Visitors (Alternate Earth)
The Faerie Tree (Alternate Fantasy)
Nurse of the Night (dying gangster)
Sky High (Dystopia)
Taxed (General)

Continue reading

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CPD – Continuing Professional Development


Well I’ve finally come to the end of that, for a while at least. In a way it’s essential part of the condition – demonstrate adherence to the principle of maintaining your relevance in a changing world, and frequently, learning for learning’s sake. Long a staple of legal profession and others, Continue reading

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An Afternoon With 3 Authors


I go to too few book readings and I suspect this is as much to do with the weakness of the local writers’ grapevine as it is with ivory tower syndrome. It’s also more of a rarity in my neck of the woods. Today I go over t’other side off t’Pennines to an author reading at The Gallery. Enough of the colloquialisms already. Slaithwaite is 5 miles south-west of Huddersfield on the A62. I use satnav – I know how to get to Slaithwaite but my route will involve getting lost on the A62 plus a brief tour of the inner ring road in Huddersfield – I’ve been lost there before so once I gravitate there at least I’ll know where I am, and possibly an excursion to discover if pie shops in Huddersfield open on Sunday. But I haven’t the time, so it’s the M62 and a switchback route down steep, single lane roads. I am early so there’s plenty of time to locate the reading room which is in the café in the basement floor. The event is graciously hosted by Wendy Beattie, Gallery Owner. Pretty soon I realise I am going to blog this regardless of the fact I’ve come unprepared. Evidence:

An Afternoon With 3 Authors - the evidence

An Afternoon With 3 Authors

Reading time approx 15 mins each. Continue reading

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Raymond Chandler and Science Fiction


I’ve always felt the influence Raymond Chandler. Unrelated to this, I’ve been aware for quite some time that SF has its detractors. Eighteen months back, I came across an article linking the two:

WHEN RAYMOND CHANDLER MOCKED SCIENCE FICTION

cover to Unfinished Tales by Carley the Slothmeister

cover by Carley the Slothmeister

SJ Perelman said of the pulps “they have juxtaposed the steely automatic and the frilly panty and found that it pays off”. Chandler wrote for the pulps but gave the readers more than sex and violence. His novels and short stories reshaped the Detective genre. In correspondence dated 14 March 1953 to HH Swanson, he parodies Science Fiction as it was then. Let’s make some time for Raymond Chandler; his SF parody was actually a challenge. How has SF responded?
Science Fiction started off as a potpourri of novelty; its theme: ‘anything else’. Early authors were formulaic ER Burroughs did Tarzan, Barsoom, Pellucidar or Amtor but read one and you’ve pretty much read them all. E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith and Asimov left you gagging for a real character. Asimov’s laws –let’s not forget these were pre-articulated by John W Campbell –turn out to be aspirations; (obvious once you do AI design). The Milford Method named after the place where Judith Merrill, Damon Knight & James Blish lived was a 1950s step in the right direction. Heinlein apart, genre writers struggled to get informed feedback. The New Wave SF movement tried to fix that. Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions flirted with notoriety and Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds then the UK’s leading SF periodical folded. It had become a vanity project.
Are Chandler’s points still valid? I’m always conflicted on matters of SF; although I’m fiercely loyal, too often it’s a let down so I’ll stick: Is it plausible? Is it authentic? These tests have been around a lot longer than the long form fiction narrative we call novels. The evidence from Amazon is promotion works and trash sells.

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List of Works


Here’s a list of works as of 18/10/17. These are mostly on Lulu. If you don’t mind paying to use Google’s book ordering technology, that’s fine by me but it’s usually cheaper to order direct from Lulu. The web links below go direct to the pages they can be ordered. What does POD mean? It means Print-on-demand; find a book you like, when you buy it, it triggers a system where an individual copy is remotely printed and delivered. Printing on demand means it’s no longer necessary hold a stock of books.

Short story collections and novels.

The Tau Device (POD, POD XL, Kindle)
Space Opera, Romance, Alien culture, Manifest Destiny meets Terraforming plus an interstellar crisis just as humans get into space.

The Tau Device

The Slow Holocaust and other stories (POD)
Short, dystopian fictions.

The Slow Holocaust

Unfinished Tales (POD)
Detective fiction plus historical fiction (set at the time of Norman Sicily)

Unfinished Tales

A Guide to First Contact (POD, POD XL, POD HB, Kindle)
Nothing like my original 1st novel, yet eternally linked by bonds of sweat and fatigue. Civilisation is about to end, humanity is about to be wiped out, aliens have been contacted, the Rapture is at hand, sub-humans are waiting to spawn, an ancient source of life delivers a last gift and the Mandat Culturel lies ready. Continue reading

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Burnley Literary Festival 2017


This year’s festival seemed a good deal bigger. Circumstances got in the way of attending all the events I’d have liked but you do what you can. Unlike last year’s blogathon (beginning here)  it’ll be just this post.

Kate Field.

Kate has been writing for 18 – 20 years. Her early works were Continue reading

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