Patrick O’Sullivan is a writer living and working in the United States and Ireland. Patrick’s fantasy and science fiction works have won awards in the Writers of the Future Contest as well as the James Patrick Baen Memorial Writing Contest sponsored by Baen Books and the National Space Society.
Neal Stephenson gave a talk at Gresham College in 2008 and I missed it until today.
In it he offers a description of speculative fiction, insights on its appeal and audience, and thoughts on genre in general and the evolution of modern culture.
This is the first talk I’ve seen by a writer of immense talent and standing, speaking not about the nuts and bolts of their work, or the craft and business of writing, but about speculative fiction’s evolving place in culture and importance in society.
The 2008 vintage videography isn’t “Ted Talk” quality but the content is outstanding and there is a complete transcript.
Like Stephenson’s fiction, there is a lot here to unpack, particularly if you’re a writer or aspire to be.
I’ll be thinking about the implications of his analysis for days.
I wish I’d seen this 10 years ago.
Again I ask.
How could I have missed this?
Here is a link to Gresham College’s page on the topic:
And I thanked them.
Last night I was shot in the face by a detective and hammered upside the head by a captain of police. It was all in good fun, part of the Citizen’s Police Academy, a six-week program put on by our local sheriff’s office.
I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I decided to make one for 2019. This year, I vowed, I would examine any opinion I held which seemed to have little or no basis in fact, and take steps to prove or disprove it.
For example, I am an iPad hater but my wife swears by them, and thinks that I don’t know what I’m talking about. The new iPads are great. Grow up.
So I got an iPad Pro to see for myself, and my longstanding prejudice is proving mostly true. (Astropad and Luna Display may well change my mind, but it’s too early to tell.)
Same for the Apple watch. Hate it. Think it’s stupid. Except everyone I know that has one swears by it. Evangelizes for it. Now I have one, even though I haven’t worn a watch in more than 30 years. Time is not my master.
Again, the jury is out. It’s meh. But I just realized I’m wearing it now, as I type, leading me to wonder.
What do you call a dog that puts on its own leash?
You get the idea. I have strong opinions, mostly about technology, but about other things too. I’m taking action to examine those opinions, to see for myself, to arm myself with facts. With arguments I know are true. Not handed down, but experienced. First-hand.
And that leads me to getting shot in the face with a Simunition round and beaten about the head and neck with a rubber crowbar.
I signed up for the Citizen’s Police Academy program for several reasons:
Because knowing about real police equipment and procedures would help make the details in my writing more informed, and thus more believable.
Because I wanted to get to know the people behind the badges; to learn how they think, what motivates them, what scares them. Again to help my writing by making it more faithful to life. I want my lies to depict truth.
And because I don’t like the police.
Why? Because. I just don’t. It’s one more of those unexamined opinions I hold, partly based on past experience, partly based on the opinions of people I respect, partly based on stuff I see and hear; in the news, on the internet, down at the crack house (kidding).
And my conclusion so far, after three weeks of a six-week course?
I may have been mistaken.
I’m interested in everything about writers and writing, and like a lot of writers, enjoy seeing pictures of other writer’s spaces, from George Bernard Shaw’s rotating garden hut, to Kipling’s Edwardian man cave, to Mark Twain’s breezy gazebo and cozy billiards room.
I have often wondered what it would be like to have such a distinctive space in which to work.
I no longer wonder, thanks to the unexpected remodeling help of Hurricane Irma.
When the evacuation order was given I was already out of town. My family wasn’t, and had to prep and leave in relative haste. The cats didn’t enjoy the hours-long car ride but everyone made it out safely.
Getting back in was another story.
We were kept from returning for many days after the storm. This was absolutely the right thing to do for safety but it also meant that properties were left open to the elements and essential cleanup delayed.
It was unseasonably hot, and rain-soaked sheetrock had days to dry and bake onto whatever lay underneath. Everything perishable perished, and rotted in place before being hauled to the curb, a curb I could now see and smell, not only through the window, but by sighting and scenting along the rafters.
We were very lucky; our home was still standing. There were entire neighborhoods leveled, and families that returned to find a vacant lot where their home once stood. There are many businesses that haven’t yet re-opened, in part because of storm damage, but largely because their employees have moved to the mainland, found new jobs, and won’t be coming back.
Faced with major repairs, I had to make a decision. I didn’t feel that I could write, run a business, interact with others in person and on line, and deal with a major reconstruction project simultaneously.
Something had to give, and it did.
If you weren’t buying a story, fastening on a tool belt, or brandishing a roofing nailer I probably haven’t spoken to or written you in over a year. And if, in that time, you came here expecting news you left disappointed.
We’re nearly back to normal now. Concrete spalling repairs remain to be done. Landscaping as well, along with a few smaller projects that are important but not urgent.
Over the next few weeks I’ll fill you in. There are a couple stories published in anthologies that I haven’t mentioned yet, upcoming opportunities for us to meet up in person in the US and Ireland, and more.