Thursday 31 August 2017

Guy T. Martland is now on Steemit!

So I've taken the plunge and set up a Steemit account.

For those of you who don't know what this is, it is a social media platform.  But if your posts catch someone's eye and get upvoted, you accrue Steem dollars. Do I understand how this works, with the payments you get for posts?  Not really, but I'm assured the Steem dollars you get for an upvoted post can actually be turned into hard cash... Possibly.

As you can see, I'm still getting to grips with this, but so far it all seems pretty exciting.  There are some very enthusiastic writers on this platform, who seem to be pretty encouraging.  Writing competitions are flying around (see below) and there are a bunch of enthusiastic writer folk on board.  I've only really dipped my toes into the ocean, but the water seems pretty temperate. 

Guy's Steemit account: here

So far I've put a few posts up  - 'Time Out at the Cafe Metropole', which featured in a 2014 issue of the legendary Perihelion SF, is getting another airing.  I also added a story I wrote for one of the Steemit competition prompts, entitled 'Space Cold'.  I didn't win, but received an honourable mention.  And I also wrote another sort-of-story about battling social media.

More to follow...

Sunday 11 June 2017

We Become Machine

The Art Show, 1963-77 (Environment aus Galeriemobiliar und 19 Figuren) - Edward Kienholz und Nancy Reddin Keinholz

Technology’s advance, trampling across the first few decades of this millennium, has been rampant, unstoppable.  Every day we plug into our machines and are bombarded with countless pieces of information – more than we can ever properly absorb.  People flick through information, hardly ever reading to the end of an article.  Look at the tube – everyone stuck into their phones in the morning, all silent and lost in a bubble of information.

In fact, we have become so dependent on our machines that our memories just don’t work as well.  How often have you tried to recall something, then instead just checked Google?  This happens mid conversation with some friends - I’ve even done it myself.  ‘Hang on, let me check the collective consciousness,’ I’ve quipped, to stifle my slight embarrassment, to try and cover the hiatus in normal conversation.

But hang on a minute… What has happened here?  Let’s recap a little.  Most human communities were hunter gatherers.  Then came increased agriculture, industrialisation and the move into big cities.  Could we really cope?  Not so much.  The sheer size of our communities was confusing for our brains.  People were used to running around but suddenly have sedentary lives.  We hadn’t properly evolved into such societies.  But suddenly we were in the middle of them, trying to cope.  Cue diabetes, heart disease, mental health disorders and a whole host of other medical problems.

Now throw in tech.  And our increasing reliance on it.  Another significant step change from our hunter gatherer predecessors.  No wonder our minds are going crazy with this.  Our tech is interrupting our normal human interactions, changing us as humans, affecting our relationships and our minds.  And no wonder we are getting addicted to our tech.  And it IS addictive.  That feeling you get when you look at the TV, then look at your phone, then back to the TV?  That’s dopamine, released by your basal ganglia and causing pleasure.  And an addictive pleasure at that – it is the same reward pathway associated with heroin addiction.

The Art Show, 1963-77 (Environment aus Galeriemobiliar und 19 Figuren) - Edward Kienholz und Nancy Reddin Keinholz

When writing ‘Update 13.0’ all these thoughts were floating around.  I was trying to envision where our tech will take us next.  Attending the Keinholz exhibition in Berlin solidified some of the ideas in my mind.  Keinholz was critical of many of the facets of modern life and his strange chimeric human machine creations are a reflection of this.  It came as a shock to see his work, which preceded our modern day society, but to which we've been heedless.  In Update 13.0 I came up with a weird amalgam of our current tech and our biological form, which needless to say has disastrous consequences: it is meant to function as a stark warning, similar to Keinholz's work.

But would it actually happen like this?  Would our nervous systems be able to cope with such a wetware interface?  Our current technologies prevent us from sleeping properly, due to the blue light, the repeated stimulation.  And as humans we need sleep.  Poor sleep can cause a host of disorders, from depression to poor glucose control and, some even suggest, obesity.  And this is even before we talk about the disruptive effects electromagnetic fields can have on the brain. 

I’ve been listening to the mindfulness tsar Burgs recently, who claims that even plugging ourselves in for a short time can cause significant damage.  And that’s really it - we stop being mindful, we lose ourselves in our phones and stop being aware of what is around us.  We lose the beauty of the world, and instead become reliant on that dopamine fix.  Generations of people hooked on the drug of information.  This is our version of Huxley's Soma, and it has crept upon us so quickly we haven't even really considered it; we've hardly had a chance to sit back for a moment and wonder whether this is actually a good idea.

The Art Show, 1963-77 (Environment aus Galeriemobiliar und 19 Figuren) - Edward Kienholz und Nancy Reddin Keinholz

Update 13.0 is one scenario, but there are others.  Lavie Tidhar’s wonderful Central Station, a Clarke award nominee this year, shows us tech a bit further along: this has become so prevalent that if you aren’t enhanced, you are regarded as a cripple.  It isn’t hard to imagine being regarded as a pariah if you don’t have a phone – I’ve seen people look askance at those who have one of the older Nokias and refuse to update.  ‘You can’t get Facebook on your phone?  What are you, some kind of dinosaur?’

However, the floodgates have opened and now there is no turning back.  But we need to be able to deal with the flow of information, and somehow control the proliferation of technology before it harms us significantly as a species.  For all Gate's genius, he didn't foresee the alternative consequences.  We need to take stock and consider the negative effects these new technologies can have before we plunge headlong into a virtual reality, where real human life no longer really exists.  As I see it, we are moving towards a worrying singularity event.  Every technology has its pros and cons, and whilst our current tech is useful, it isn’t part of the reason for our existence.

Step back, go outside, look at the trees, listen to the birds.  Consider why you are here.  There is a big world out there, outside the confines of your computer, your phone.  There is a reason mindfulness is suddenly the rage.  Unplug for a while and then you might, if you are lucky, start to live properly again.  Or maybe, if that is too much to ask, put down your phone, pick up one of those paper books and read it to the end.

The Art Show, 1963-77 (Environment aus Galeriemobiliar und 19 Figuren und Guy T. Martland mit iPhone) - Edward Kienholz und Nancy Reddin Keinholz

Read Update 13.0 by Guy T. Martland here:

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Update: Sequels, Stories, Readings, Speeches and Disclaimers

The writer Guy T. Martland in action - Eastercon 2017.

After neglecting this blog for a while, I’m back - mostly in response to those who have been asking me questions like: what have you been up to? how's the writing going? where's the sequel to The Scion? where can I buy your books from?  Well, I'll attempt to answer a few of these questions in this post.  Here you go:

December to March: Putting the finishing touches to the sequel to The Scion.

I took the first 12K words or so of 'the sequel' to the Milford SF conference last year.  At this stage the novel was pretty much complete.  But this process helped me align various thoughts about the plot, which wound themselves together over the following few months.  And I had to add a few massive space battles.

Being a regular at Milford I was ready for what the collected writers would throw at me, but it went down pretty well, all things considered.  If you are about to get a bad crit, people present chocolate or beer – I wasn’t one of the receivers this time.  Although in previous years, I remember Bob Neilson (Albedo One) handing over a bottle of ale, before proclaiming that he couldn’t stand my piece and that it was ‘Like bloody Harry Potter in space.’  I forgave him when he published ‘The New Galvanism’.

After The Scion was pulled from publication due to the small press going the sad way of many small presses, I thought about consigning its sequel to the dustbin.  But I kept being asked about what happened next...  In any case, I couldn’t have written 'the sequel' - in fact I might not have even got started - without the encouragement and help of many people.  Of note, Carol Kean from Perihelion SF, who was so enamoured with a particular species in The Scion that she begged to see more of them: having annihilated their planet in The Scion, this wasn’t without problems, but I found a way.  I’d like also to thank Liam Orchard-Webb for his infectious enthusiasm and kind words about The Scion, which inspired me to get back on the sequel’s horse.

So 'the sequel' is now complete.  Despite it being a standalone (i.e. you don't have to have read The Scion), it is still a sequel.  And with The Scion is still floundering in limbo without a publisher, will it ever make it out there into the big wide world?  Who knows…  To paraphrase GRRM, I may not ever get another book published, but I sure as hell am going to write one.

Following on from this, the process of editing and re-editing this book did spark something in me.  I had been planning to finish this up and move onto pastures new, but ideas kept coming and before I knew it, I’d been bitten.  I am now embarking on the third installment of Mr Septimus Esterhazy, complete with shapeshifting aliens, hideous alien creatures, warts and all.  Basically, I couldn’t resist – I was having too much fun.

Oh, and by the way 'the sequel' now also has a title: LINE OF THE DEAD.

March Monday Midday Murakami.

More from March:

While procrastinating about LOTD, mostly reading rather than writing, I'd started going through some old stories and was beginning to put them together as a collection.  I’d been meaning to do this for ages, and with a week off work, my wife away, this seemed like a perfect time to take stock of my short story history.  Gordon the cat didn’t seem to object much either – he is always busy writing another bestseller, putting my efforts to shame.

The collection pulls together stories from 1996 to the present.  I went for a chronological order, followed by author’s notes or epigrams, whatever you want to call them (hopefully not epitaphs).  Some of the stories intersect with The Scion, some don’t.  A number have been published over the years, a number haven’t.  The early ones seem to have stood the test of time, although a spring clean was necessary in a few cases: tricky, that, trying to add a lick of paint but maintain the original feel of the piece.  But I’m pretty happy with the way it all turned out.

From L to R: David L. Clements, Arthur Chapell, Aliette de Bodard, Arthur Chappell, Guy T. Martland, Donna Scott

April: Eastercon

I’ve been to Eastercon, the British Science Fiction Association’s big annual bash, for the past few years, but have mostly been content to prop up the bar, chat to the Milford writers and let the whole thing wash over me.  But with a sense that I should be doing something a bit more constructive, perhaps getting involved somehow.

So when I was asked to read for the Shoreline of Infinity event this year, I leapt at the opportunity.  My story ‘Approaching 43,000 Candles’ had appeared in the inaugural issue of Shoreline.  For those of you who haven’t read it, it is about a bunch of lighthouses going to a conference in Birmingham, having partly been inspired by a visit there.  Kismet had decided that this year’s Eastercon was also in Birmingham, so it seemed appropriate that I should read some of it.

The Doctor: last seen in Bos Vegas

Not having done any readings since back in Bristol when I used to do poetry open mic nights, this meant practising: my wife grew weary of hearing the first part of this during the preceding week.  On the day, it turned out we weren’t on until about 9pm, having been knocked back by Doctor Who, the first episode of the new series being shown at the conference.  Not that I mind Doctor Who being my support act, but… it did mean I had to forgo the vast selection or real ales on offer until after the gig.  (I rarely do well on Dutch Courage, just turns me into a slurring mess.)

Anyway, despite a few nerves, it all went well.  It was a pleasure to feature alongside such luminaries as David Clements, Arthur Chappell, Aliette de Bodard, Andrew Wilson and Donna Scott.  And on the plus side, according to Noel from Shoreline, we managed to shift a few copies of issue 1.
Editor (Noel Chidwick of Shoreline) and Author catch up in the bar.
May: Speeches and Disclaimers

I’d been a best man before, but not for many years.  Having to write a speech for one of your best friends, whom you’ve known for 30 years is a tough ask.  And very different from writing science fiction.  Nothing like a prompt to start you writing though…

The groom warned the guests beforehand that because I was a science fiction writer, nothing I said was necessarily to be believed.  However, with 30 years of stories, it wasn’t necessary to veer too far from Earth, or indeed into other dimensions.  Although I had used the venue for a short story a few years back.  I was pleased when someone came up to me afterwards and slurred: ‘You can tell you are a writer.  I’ve never heard the word ‘nuanced’ used in a best man speech before.’  I told the drunken guest that I'd actually said spaceship and they'd misheard.

Balconic Solent Vista. And a nice day for a wedding. Pier and gardens as featured in my story 'The Leather Bracelet'.

On the same day as the wedding, just after the speech, sat somewhere on right of the photo above, I got an email through to inform me that my story ‘Update 13.0’ had been published by Disclaimer Magazine.  I’m intending to blog more about this over the weekend, but for the time being, you can find it here:

And that is it, November to the end of May in just over a thousand words.

Consider yourself Updated.