Four Green Squares

the tiny little blog no-one will ever read

A Wheel Made of Sausage November 23, 2013

Filed under: late night thoughts,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 11:48 am

Writing is, in a sense, a process of reinventing the wheel. All the book knowledge in the world means nothing unless you can apply it on the page. This is the sentiment reflected in the observation that “writing cannot be taught; it can only be learned.”

In addition, writing a novel is like making sausage: you really don’t want to see how it’s done.

However, today, I am going to share a realisation while trying not to squick anyone out with gross cartilaginous mechanically-recovered tissue being pumped into intestine casings. Because, yanno, why break with one piece of received wisdom when you can break with two at the same time.

So…a story I’m working on has a romance subplot. As I’m contemplating ceiling shadow monsters at 5 a.m. (as you do), I realised that romances tend to fall into two categories:

• those where the couple are initially mismatched/at odds, so you need plot contrivances to keep forcing them to interact until they realise they are in love (Pride and Prejudice, frex.)


• those where the characters are instantly attracted, and therefore the plot needs to keep forcing them apart until they “earn” the right to be together. In Romeo and Juliet, they earn this through being willing to run away together; the tragedy is in how their willingness to sacrifice causes fatal sacrifice by the other. In more light-hearted fare (for some reason all I can think of now is the film Serendipity, though my 5 a.m. brain had loads of examples. Absolutely brilliant, my 5 a.m. brain. Wish I knew where it hides the rest of the day), all sorts of misc. hijinx or capers can result.

I am, I realised, writing the latter. OMFG.

But it seems so simple! Yeah, before today, I knew this, but today, I grokked it.

And come to think of it, grok also sounds like something you’d find in a sausage. So there.


Three-Dimensional Punks June 3, 2012

Filed under: late night thoughts,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 11:25 am

Reading “The Third Industrial Revolution” in The Economist really got the ole mental gears whirring. The article talks about 3D printers’ staggering potential to upend so many current supply processes. These supply disruptions, in turn, would unleash wider econ and social changes.

Of course, my sci-fi writer’s brain began speculating, a score of story seeds springing into existence. This gush of ideas then made me wonder:

The cusp of the computer age saw the emergence of cyberpunk, stories exploring how a digitally-enmeshed society might develop. So might a new sub-genre be about to bud, one that deals with the incredible disruptions that 3D printing could unleash? 3D punk.

In the same way that older stories’ conceptions of the future look strange to modern readers because characters don’t use mobile phones, will not using 3d printing soon date stories being written now? Is 3D printing the new big world-building blind spot?

For example, the implications for space travel: no worries about spare parts, just make sure the ship has a 3D printer–or two, so that if one breaks, the other can be used to fix it. No need for supply chains other than initial raw materials, a need further reduced if the printer reuses material from a broken part to make a replacement.

So all those trade wars in space stories…obsolete? Future trade focusing on raw materials, luxury items and…designers. Many cyberpunk visions of the future saw people as obsolete in a mechanised future, but 3D printers make people, their ideas, innovation, central once more.

Okay, that’s like, three more new stories, even without speculating on the implication of cities no longer providing economies of scale and… Fine, fine, I’ll stop there.

So, any SF readers/writers out there: What other implications from 3D printers do you foresee? What other world-building game changers do you think are brewing?


A window into a long time ago May 24, 2012

Filed under: late night thoughts,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 4:36 pm

When I research for a novel or article, I tend to collect quotes, ones that either sum up a character’s viewpoint or express an issue I want to explore.

While transferring the last of the files from my old work computer I found the following list on my thumb drive, dating from August 2008. The novel I was working on at that time ended up fizzling out in the third draft but reading these instantly brings it back. Wow, I have the itch to finish it now. Maybe after the five other projects currently on my plate.

  • “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. ” ~Mark Twain

Hmm, I was born on the same day (though not the same year!) as MT so I have a special fondness for his  incisive curmudgeonly-ness. I wonder what he would make of the fact that his observations remain apropos. As I doubt he was ever a believer in the perfectibility of humanity, he probably would expect nothing less.

  • “Imagination was given to man to compensate for what he is not and a sense of humour to console him for what he is.” ~Francis Bacon

Uh oh. All writers live off their imaginations, science fiction writers possibly more so than non-genre writers.

  • A witty saying proves nothing. ~Voltaire

I can see these quotes, collected at random over several months, now forming a conversation.

  • “If you want to make a person angry, tell them a lie. If you want to make them furious, tell them the truth.” ~Arthur Schopenhauer

See, a witty saying would come in handy about now after all.

  • “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials” ~Lobsang Rampa

This one actually surprised me. I vaguely remembered some of the others but this one, nope, not a glimmer. Which is odd, because reading it made me gasp, as this ended up being the central tenet of the abandoned novel. I still remember one character telling another, “Sacrifice is the scalpel with which we sculpt our souls,” so clearly this line sunk in. Maybe that’s why I ended up blocking out the original–it had been so totally absorbed.

  • “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul.” ~Carl Jung

I don’t suppose anyone will believe me if I say I was writing a comedy?

  • “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” ~Oscar Wilde

Ahh, so I had a master plan after all. Fancy that.

  • “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” ~Jiddu Krishnamurti

If my mother was at all politically active, this is something she’d say.

  • “The bad news is there is no key to the universe. The good news is, it was never locked.” ~Swami Beyondananda
  • “If God appeared and offered you either, everything you have now…or exactly what you deserve…which would you take?” ~unknown

Now these sound like prompts for completely different stories. Mental “Clarion” file opening…

  • “An idealist believes the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short term determines the long run.” ~Sydney J. Harris
  • The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run. ~Henry David Thoreau

Again, I see the origins of my character’s view on life. I remember first coming across these while getting my masters, studying the use of violence as a political strategy and tactic.  We all wanted to be realists because, c’mon, cynicism is for undergrads and idealism is for PhD candidates. At that halfway point, realism seemed the apogee before the fall but was in reality, merely us knowing just enough to be dangerous, (to shoehorn another quote in here). I remember us treating the Thoreau line like a mathematical formula, an algorithm of extremism.

All this time later, I still think that this remains my preferred interpretation, but now from, oddly, the idealists’ perspective. I trade my life for this, if not in entirety then in pocket change that still adds up to all I have to give.  At least I can get something I want more, become something else in the process. But this also demonstrates the foolishness of giving all you are to one thing:

  • I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong. ~Bertrand Russell

…Yup, definitely a comedy! Maybe I’ll find some quotes collected while mulling a serious piece and compare.


Soap Pumps and Civilization March 17, 2012

Filed under: late night thoughts — FourGreenSquares @ 8:22 pm

I have seen the end of civilization. I know, I know,  we all have these days. But I promise, my end of civilization isn’t your end of civilization. My end of civilization is…battery powered hands-free soap pumps.

Not because there is anything wrong, per se, with battery powered hands-free soap pumps. Au contraire, they are the logical next step in product development, straight out of the marketing manual: create a need, fill it, then create a new need based on the previous need and fill that, ad infinitum.

But… but…

C’mon, are there really no needs, even imaginary ones, left to fill that do not ooze such clear disdain towards potential customers’ critical reasoning faculties?


Is the thought process really likely to resemble:  ‘Oh, my hands are crusted with filth and germs. I’d better go wash them. Oh no, my soap pump, lord knows where that’s been. Can’t touch that.’

Maybe they’re trying to say that their soap can clean hands of everything but the super germs that their plastic containers can incubate. In which case, they are really in the wrong business and should be making bio weapons that resemble soap hand pumps.  On second thought, maybe they already are…

Sadly, this is the type of thing that keeps me awake at night, pondering the collapse of civilization around our ears. Our clean ears, at least.  So long as we don’t touch the soap pumps, that is.