Wednesday, September 26, 2007

* - A Quick Note

A quick note on my naming of the Laws of Narrative. I’m naming the laws according to where I first encountered them. This is meant to be similar to laws that are named after the court cases that led to their creation. The Laws of Narrative are not meant to be exclusive to whatever I’ve named them after. For example: Fletcher’s Law (A) can also be found in the film, “Urban Legend”.

The Laws of Narrative: Christie's Law (A)

The Laws of Narrative:
II) Christie’s Law (A) - If you don’t see the body, they aren’t really dead.

Many Agatha Christie characters die “off screen”. There is much dialogue about the death, but we (through the viewpoint character) never actually see the corpse. This is a trick to stop us from suspecting that the dead character is the murderer. Remember, murders are like potato chips, one is never enough. Thus, in the last chapter, we find that the “off screen” victim has been alive all along. They’ve either been hiding in the hidden passages or they’re dressed up as a secondary character that we’ve barely noticed, happily wreaking havoc.

Don’t believe it the next time you read: “he died in the war” or “he was poisoned in Egypt” or even “the police found his body”. He’s either hiding behind a secret door or pretending to be the butler. And we all know what butlers do best.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Laws of Narrative: Banacek's Law

The Laws of Narrative:
I) Banacek’s Law - When something that is impossible to steal is stolen, then either it was never there or it is still there.

Every time my dearly beloved and I would sit down to watch Banacek, we'd place a bet: “Never there" or "Still there”. Banacek was a ‘70s mystery show about an over-the-top-cool investigator who solved seemingly impossible thefts.

Let me paint you a picture that didn’t actually appear on the show. Say there’s a heavily insured frigate moored at pier 10. It’s under a large tarp. There are armed guards 24/7. On the night before the big party to celebrate the frigate being un-tarped, catastrophe. The frigate is missing, pier 10 is empty. “But that’s impossible!” the 70s actors all say. Normal insurance investigators are flummoxed. Only George Peppard, as freelance investigator Banacek, can figure out what happened, for a fat fee.

By the end of the episode we’ll see that either:

1) The frigate was actually a large balloon painted to look like the frigate. During the night the owner strolled out to the frigate, pulled out the cork and the frigate-balloon deflated to the size of a basketball that was then thrown away. Luckily, the tarp was really stiff and held that “frigate shape” until morning. Thus, the frigate never was actually at pier 10.

2) Some evil bastard switched the signs and we’re actually standing at pier 11. You see that frigate over there? The one by that other sign. That’s the stolen frigate. You see the frigate is still at pier 10, just like it’s always been.

The Laws of Narrative: Introduction

Over the years, my dearly beloved (who happens to be a writer) has referred to what she calls the "Laws of Narrative". These references are usually complaints, when some story (whether book, movie, or tv show) fails to obey her holy writ, which has never actually been writ. I intend to rectify that, and quantify the laws as I've been able to observe them in action.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The air grows colder.

The autumnal equinox is sunday. Starbucks has rolled out their pumpkin spiced latte. These are my signs that soon, life will turn to chaos. I’m not talking about Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Quanza, Hanukkah or even St. Crispin’s Day. Those are only minor distractions. Blips on the radar that pass quickly.

I’m about to put myself through a month long hell known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). Starting November 1st, I will be writing 1,667 (or so) words a day. The goal is that by the end of November, I will have written a 50,000 word novel. The anticipation has just started for me.

The last couple of years I relied on friends to help me through the process. Friends that said they’d be there with me through the whole process, working on their own novels. True friends that said they’d be at my side through thick and thin. Friends that gave up on their own novels by the 5th and were sick of hearing about my novel by the time I’d given up on the 8th. This year will be different. I’m not going to rely on friends to help me. I’m going to give up on my own!

Actually, I really hope I can make it the whole month. I’ve got an idea for a story that I want to write and the deadline involved in the whole NaNoWriMo thing might actually help me. This year I will succeed, I’m 38% sure of it.

Anyway, if you want to write up a novel during the NaNoWriMo thing, check out or the book “No Plot? No Problem!” by Chris Baty.

ps., to be fair to my wonderful friends, I want to mention that unlike me, they’ve at least finished novels in previous years. The bastards.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Future is here and it’s not as cool as promised (part 3)

William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” came out at a time just prior to the PC revolution. During the mid-80’s, large companies used mainframe style computers, small companies had a single computer and the vast majority homes didn’t have a computer at all. Hackers were lonely guys sitting in their basements dialing randomly with their acoustic couplers, hoping to get in touch with any kind of data link they could access. There wasn’t an internet. Communication happened mostly through bulletin boards. People that used computers were strange folk that lived in a world that 99% of the population couldn’t really understand. From that perspective, I can understand how Gibson thought the future would lead to hackers actually living “online” in a virtual reality, accessing a world that most folks would never see, stealing valuable information from evil megacorporations. It sounded cool. I think that everybody reading “Neuromancer” probably pictured themselves “decking in” to a virtual world and dueling their way into company’s systems.

Then the PC revolution happened. Computers became accessible to everybody. Everybody could get to the internet via their local library. The cool secret online world became mired by what’s known as the “lowest common denominator”. Interfaces like a jack in the base of your head instead became a mouse, keyboard and monitor. There was a short time where we tried to use virtual reality helmets, but using them for more then a few minutes would leave the average person with eye strain and a sore neck.

I think the “virtual world” presented in “Neuromancer” was flawed from the start. Nobody would spend that kind of money to create these exotic interfaces like towers of data when only 1% of the world would see it. The virtual reality we got instead makes a lot of sense. Computers have to be very accessible if your grandmother needs to use it to get her taxes done and it’s doubtful that you could convince her to implant a device into her cerebral cortex.

As for what happens in the actual online virtual world of today, we shouldn’t be surprised. Hacking into companies may seem great to 5% of the population, but most people don’t want to deal with identity theft. Instead we have the internet and it takes care of what humanity really needs to survive. We have porn to take care of our sexual needs. Email and forums take care of our emotional needs. Shopping sites like and allow us to take care of the physical needs. We’re set. Our online virtual world doesn’t sound as cool as the secret world that Gibson dreamed of, but at least this one is a lot more useful.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Future is here and it’s not as cool as promised (part 2)

“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” was set originally set in the future world of 1992- changed in later editions to 2021 (thanks all-mighty but sometimes horribly wrong Wikipedia). In the novel, androids exist that are very difficult to tell from being whatever they were modeled after. I think Honda has gone as far as anybody else towards creating an android that can walk just like a person. We’ve got a while, I think, before we can actually make an android human that works as well as the real thing, so let’s move on to another idea presented. In “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” the earth is a radio active hell thanks to a third world war. Life has become unlivable on earth so most folks have left it. Many species of animal have died out. Real animals are so expensive that people get android animals for companions. Well, here’s where we’ve made the most advances. We didn’t need a war to destroy the earth though. We just needed a reliance on petrochemicals to destroy the ozone coupled with a mad desire to destroy wildlands in third world countries for profit. It’s probably only going to be a matter of a few years before animals only exist in enclosed environments like zoos. Thank goodness for advances in android animals like AIBO, Nintendogs and Furbies. As our animal species die out we’ve already got the technology to replace them.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The future is here and it’s not as cool as promised.

Throughout my life I have turned to Science Fiction for a glimpse of the future. I’ve come to the conclusion that Science Fiction lied to me when it said things will be cool.

“Starship Troopers” by Robert Heinlein came out in 1959, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick came out in 1968, the novel “Neuromancer” by William Gibson hit the shelves in 1984. As a teenager, these were the books that shaped my ideas of what the future held. I was positive that by 2010, I would be living in a world that’s exactly like the ones presented in these great works. 2010 is just around the corner, so I thought that I’d take some time to compare reality with whatever was conjured in my teen mind.

“Starship Troopers” promised me that we’d all be jingoistic, fighting wars because we wanted to be better citizens. We’d all be powerful warriors fighting in exoskeleton suits, proving our value to a society that appreciated what we were doing because they’d been there themselves. The first problem is that we aren’t fighting bugs. It’s easy to hate a species that is so obviously evil. Humans aren’t as easy. I think that the second place where this all failed was when the people in command of the military didn’t actually serve in combat. Since our commander in chief has never been put in harms way, he doesn’t seem to value our military as much as he should. From what I’ve been given to understand, we don’t put our military in exoskeleton suits, much less even armored cars because that’s too expensive. The only time we see that kind of technology at all is when a person survives a combat with a limb missing. At that point we put on false limbs that almost exactly, but not quite, match the properties of what was lost. If we aren’t willing to help out an individual trooper until they have barely survive a battle, people aren’t going to want to be that trooper. Fewer folks are signing up to join the military then ever. So, I guess, jingoism died when the decision was made to go to war without armor, not to mention nifty exoskeletons.

Next time: "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep"

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mom's Favorite - a random thought

If your parents ever said, "We don't pick favorites" to you, you weren't their favorite child.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Psychotic Ramblings.

This is my second attempt to start a blog. I have every expectation that this one will end just as quickly as the first. I give it two weeks, tops.

What am I trying to get out of the whole blog experience?

I have no idea. That might be a major stumbling block for me. I do have problems finishing things when I don't have exact goals in mind. I guess that I'm hoping that since blogs never really "finish", my problem with finishing things won't be a problem at all.

Anywho- welcome to my blog. There are going to be spelling mistakes, major punctuation errors, ideas that go unexplained, and a wide variety of jokes that aren't funny. Sorry about that, but that's the way my mind doesn't work.