Friday, September 28, 2007

Novel, Draft One

I finished plotting, character development, and planning for my novel. I'll start writing the first draft on Sunday. Insert small, quiet party here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Targeting the DLR

I've been circling warily around CarbonLisp again. I think I've decided not to target the DLR initially. Instead, I will have a compiler that, like Common Lisp, will produce code that varies from very dynamic to static. Once that's done, I may add a DLR component. Of course, I have to get started first.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Speculative Fiction

I just read Margaret Atwood's piece on the uses of science fiction. It's very good, and I want to comment on it more some other time. Right now, however, what caught my eye is her comments on what science fiction is. As a genre, science fiction is interesting. There are different ways of defining it and different ways of subdividing it (alternate history, space opera, etc.). Some people want to include fantasy or science fantasy in the mix; some want to leave out anything that's not strictly science. Some want to include only science as we know it; some want to broaden it to include any stories that use a science-like explanation for their fantastical elements. What made me pause in Atwood's piece was her definition of science fiction and speculative fiction. Here's what she says:
I like to make a distinction between science fiction proper and speculative fiction. For me, the science fiction label belongs on books with things in them that we can't yet do, such as going through a wormhole in space to another universe; and speculative fiction means a work that employs the means already to hand, such as DNA identification and credit cards, and that takes place on Planet Earth. But the terms are fluid. Some use speculative fiction as an umbrella covering science fiction and all its hyphenated forms - science fiction fantasy, and so forth - and others choose the reverse.
I've never heard anyone divide the genre up that way. I've generally heard what she calls *speculative fiction* referred to as *hard science fiction* or *mundane science fiction*. I'm sure that many others use *speculative fiction* in this way, but I don't remember ever seeing it myself before. Of course, the naming is complicated by science fiction's inferiority complex. Is it literature? Is it a backwater of poorly written dreck? This is another topic for yet another day. I tend to use *speculative fiction* myself. What attracts me to the genre is best captured by the word *speculative*. Whether using science (naturalistic explanations) or fantasy (supernatural explanations), it gives me a lot of room to explore interesting territories and to tell fascinating stories. Which term do you prefer or use?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Heroes Season Premier

The season two of Heroes started last night. I thought this episode was all right. In general, I like the show's broad scope, but all those plot threads is also its weakness. This episode was an example of both its strengths and weaknesses: by itself, this episode seemed diffused, but it promised a lot for future episodes. In a sense, however, that's exactly what you want for the beginning. I'm looking forward to seeing where they take all the characters over the course of this season. Chuck seems really good too.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Talking about Writing

The first week of September, my wife and I went to the beach with my extended family. We had a great time. While I was there, I took my laptop and worked on the novel I'm writing. Generally, I would try to slip out to the porch with a cup of coffee where I would write, sip coffee, stare at the ocean, and pretend to work. It was wonderful. One afternoon, my brother-in-law asked me what I was working on. I stammered around a bit, but I didn't have a good answer. Actually, I could have told him exactly what I was writing, but I prefer not to talk about works in progress (WIP). My wife knows this, and she jumped in and saved me. Eventually, I just told him it was a fantasy novel and let it go at that. He doesn't read fantasy himself, I don't think, so he is probably now thinking Lord of the Rings. (It's nothing like LOTR.) I have read other writers talk about how they don't like discussing their WIP, so I'm not alone in this. But when he asked, I really, really felt like I was by myself in the spotlight. I didn't want to give the answer, but I couldn't think what else to say. Part of my "logic" on this is gut-level superstition: if I talk about it, that would ruin the work in some obscure way. However, part of my reluctance is more rational: I write to express something, and if I talk about it, I might not need to write it anymore. Or maybe I'm just crazy. What do you think? How should I have answered my brother in law?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Writing, not Coding

I realize that I've been talking a lot about the coding that I would like to do. But the name of this blog is Writing/Coding, and I haven't talked at all about writing. That is ironic, since I've been writing for pleasure more than I have been coding. I always wanted to write a novel, and to write one well. Last year, I sat down to write a science fiction/fantasy (SF/F) novel. Immediately, I was struck by writer's block, striving to write something original. I knew consciously that my writer's block made no sense: it would be my first novel and utter crap, no matter how original it was. Because of that, I charted a new course: I would write the most derivative, cliché-ridden work possible, intentionally. I wrote more than 125,000 words (a novel is typically 80,000-100,000 words), and as it turns out, originality was not really the problem. Original or not, it was still utter crap. While individual scenes built and maintained tension, I never was able to carry that tension over a longer story arc. In the end, I decided I would have to start again almost from the beginning, and because the concept was unoriginal, I just wasn't motivated to continue that story. So I let it drop. This year, I resolved to write another novel, again SF/F. It took me a long time to decide on and develop an idea I was happy with, but finally I started writing in July or so. I've been developing an idea since then. I've worked on the universe and the characters, and now I'm developing the plot. Six days a week, I get up early and work for an hour to an hour and a half. It's going all right so far: I like the idea I am developing, and I'm reasonably happy with the execution thus far. And that's the news on the writing front.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Common Lisp Tutorial

If you want to learn Common Lisp, an excellent option is Practical Common Lisp, which is also a Lisp tutorial. It's available both in print and on-line. (Note, I get nothing from this shameless plug. But I do honestly recommend it. I have my own copy, and I refer to it regularly.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

LiSP, Revisited

Remember that I ordered a copy of Lisp in Small Pieces from a sales that was putting on? Like many people, I was informed that the price was due to a mistake, and they were canceling my order. Easy come, easy go. C'est la vie. Fill in your favorite cliché here. I did look at a copy of the book in a library. (I don't qualify for a library card there, so I didn't check the book out.) It looks like a great book. Maybe I'll have to get off my wallet and buy it anyway. While browsing through the book, I realized that I'm attempting to implement too much of Common Lisp initially. For example, the lisp reader needs access to the full-fledged lisp system in order to modify its own settings. It's a chicken-and-egg situation. You need a full lisp system to completely implement the reader, and you need a reader to completely implement the system. The answer, of course, is to implement a very restricted subset and bootstrap your way up. Duh. Anyway, now I think I have a plan to go forward with. I haven't done anything on it yet, though. I'll keep you posted when I do.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I'm Baaaack

After almost a month, I'm back. Work has been crushing, and I went to the beach for a week. That's really no excuse, though. More posts are on the way.