Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

What a great event Pete!


Children In Need.

For those of you who do not live in the UK, Children In Need is an annual BBC fundraiser, designed to raise money for local charities who would not otherwise get funding. The whole programming of BBC One, on a specific Friday evening, is given over to a telethon fundraiser, a night of varied entertainment, charity appeals, and live fundraising. It is presented by a group of popular celebrities, and traditionally features a host of well-known entertainers appearing in situations you would not usually associate them with. Like the stars of a drama series performing a dance routine, and so on.

During the build-up to this event, the UK is consumed with fund-raising events. Most of these are personal efforts, though many are corporate, involving well-known businesses and shops supporting the cause all over the country. Over the years it has been running, Children In Need has…

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Free publicity for bloggers


Most days, I see comments or requests from people asking me to “Please check out my blog”.
Some bloggers, especially those new to blogging, will add links to their own blogs at the end of a comment. Obviously, they want to get more readers and followers. They might have discovered that starting a new blog is not as easy as they thought, or be disappointed that they are posting stuff that nobody is reading. In some cases, they may already have a hugely successful blog, but just want it to be even bigger. To be honest, I always edit those links out of comments, or don’t allow the comment at all. I don’t regard it as good ‘blogging manners’ to add links in that fashion. But that’s just my own view.

So I had a think, and a change of heart. We all need a chance, after all!

Here is…

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Andy Weir author photo credit Aubrie Pick

I’ve just finished reading Andy Weir’s new book “Artemis”. This time Weir’s characters inhabit a colony on the moon in the late twenty-first century. Because there’s been so much talk recently about the colonization of Mars, I was interested to learn what Weir had to say on the moon becoming a colony vs. Mars.

“I think we will colonize the moon before we colonize Mars. While Mars has more raw materials, the moon is just so much closer it’s considerably easier to colonize. Also, unlike Mars, the moon could be a tourist destination due to the comparatively short travel time to get there.”

I always enjoy the detail of Weir’s settings and his scientific solutions to complicated scientific problems. This time however, besides being a human vs. nature struggle, his book presents a crime story with mysteries involved. In Weir’s own words “a plot that was harder to write but also more interesting, I think.”

Those of us who are fans of Weir’s first book “The Martian” will find “Artemis” a very satisfying read. I really enjoyed it, and I particularly liked his female heroine, Jazz Bashara. As Weir says “all I ever want when I write a story is for the reader to think well, that was cool when they’re done.”

As a science fiction writer myself I’ve been in touch with Andy for about a year now always receiving encouragement and advice from him. Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing him .

What got you into writing science fiction – you’ve been writing it since your early twenties?

I’ve always been into it for as long as I can remember. I think the main influence there was my dad, who is also a huge sci-fi fan. Growing up, I had access to his inexhaustible sci-fi collection – mostly books from his youth. From the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s.

Who is your favorite science fiction author? Favorite plot?

Isaac Asimov. He set the gold standard for science fiction. I’m not sure what you mean by favorite plot. You mean a general plot that’s found in many stories? Or a specific book? I like survival stories like Heinlein’s “Tunnel in the Sky”. And I enjoy the realistic science in hard sci-fi like Larry Niven’s “Ringworld”.

You’ve achieved what all young authors dream about – fame and a large audience of readers. Can you give them some advice? Not in general terms but a list of specifics related to developing their writing?

1) You have to actually write. Daydreaming about the book you’re going to write someday isn’t writing. It’s daydreaming. Open your word processor and start writing.

2) Resist the urge to tell friends and family your story. I know it’s hard because you want to talk about it and they’re (sometimes) interested in hearing about it. But it satisfies your need for an audience, which diminishes your motivation to actually write it. Make a rule: The only way for anyone to ever hear about your stories is to read them.

3) This is the best time in history to self-publish. There’s no old-boy network between you and your readers. You can self-publish an e-book to major distributors (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.) without any financial risk on your part.

Do you write every day?

When I’m working on a book, yes. But when I’m between books (like now) I’ll go a long time without writing anything.

Where do you get your inspiration for what you write? How did “The Martian” first come to you as an idea and as a story for instance?

I was imagining how to do a manned mission to Mars and all the things that could go wrong. As I thought of how to design for those scenarios, I realized the scenarios themselves were interesting. So I created a hapless main character and subjected him to all of them.

In general, I start with the setting. With “Artemis”, for instance, I worked out the details and economics of how the city came to be and how it was constructed before I started making the characters that lived in it.

What is the most important lesson that you’ve learned as a writer?

You have to write. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re “writing” when you’re brainstorming ideas. But that’s not writing. You have to put words down on a page.

What would you have a young writer do to gain an audience for their work?

Blog posts or some other form of posting on the internet. If your stories are good, people will send links to their friends and you’ll get good word-of-mouth. At least, that’s what happened to me.

How do you think early and fast fame changed your plans as far as writing is concerned?

Not really. Because it wasn’t quite fast fame. I spent 20 years failing before I got my first success. So my style and approach hasn’t changed much as a result of “The Martian”.

Have you become a commercial commodity and lost control over what you write – something every writer who becomes successful nowadays fears. For instance in the old days publishers were concerned with quality, now it’s more about commercial success and sales.

That hasn’t been a problem for me so far (knock on wood). My editor (Julian Pavia at Crown) is driven by what makes a good story. I’ve never once heard him say anything about marketability or demographics of readership. His approach is that if a story is good, it’ll sell.

Were you disappointed not to continue with “Zhek” which you’ve described as “a more traditional sci-fi novel. It has aliens, telepathy, faster-than-light travel, etc.”

I was disappointed, but it was the right call. And it was entirely my decision. 

What persuaded you to stop writing that and write “Artemis” your latest book instead?

The book just wasn’t working out. It wasn’t a good book. I didn’t want to release a dud. So I asked the publisher for more time because I wanted to hit the reset button. Thankfully they let me do it. I’d had the idea for “Artemis” for quite a while, so I ran with it. And it worked out well, because “Artemis” is far better than “Zhek” could have been. I can say that with 100% confidence. Now, whether or not “Artemis” is a good book compared to “The Martian” or other sci-fi on the shelves… that’s for the readers to decide.

What do you personally like most about “Artemis” and why do you think it’s a good read?

I love world-building. I think most authors do. But in this case the world-building worked heavily into the story and primary plot. The plot, by its nature, gave me excuses to show my ideas on how a lunar city would work out. When I was a kid reading classic sci-fi, I would get entranced by the details of life living in space or on another planet. I wanted readers to get that sense of wonder from “Artemis”.

In “The Martian” you have a male protagonist – Mark Watney.  In “Artemis” your protagonist is female – Jazz Bashara.  Even though there are profound character differences – Mark is a hard-working scientist and Jazz is a very smart, entrepreneurial and unconventional survivor –  how did you articulate/discover both of these characters for yourself?  

Well, Mark is the idealized version of me. He has all of the qualities I like about myself and none of my many flaws. Plus, he’s better at the stuff I’m good at than me. He’s what I wish I were. Jazz is more like the real me. Flawed, makes bad decisions, has regrets, but still a strong moral code.

Is it harder writing a male vs. a female character?

As for writing a female lead, that was a challenge. I ran the manuscript by as many women as I could trust with it to give feedback, but in the end, I’m not a woman. So I just had to give it my best shot.

Do your characters speak to you?

Well, one time, while I was at my day job of computer programming, I was working through a conversation two characters were going to have in my story. I mumbled both parts to myself as I walked. When I got to the door, I walked through and held it open for a moment. I realized I was holding it open for the “other character” that I was talking to.

 How do you see yourself evolving as a writer over the next ten years?

I am a very plot-driven author so, unfortunately, I tend to make shallow characters. I would like to get deeper into character development and the inner-workings of people. I still have a lot to learn in that area. I took a stab at deeper, more complex characters in “Artemis”, but I suspect they’re still shallow compared to most other fiction.

Will you make “The Martian” and “Artemis” into a series and then perhaps break away and start something entirely new altogether?

“The Martian” is strictly stand-alone. I have never come up with any idea for a plausible or entertaining sequel. But I would love to make “Artemis” into a series. Not just a series centered on Jazz Bashara (the main character of “Artemis”), but a series that centered on the city itself. Different books could have different main characters. Their stories could overlap or barely touch. One book’s protagonist could be a minor character in another book.

Basically, I would love for “Artemis” to be like Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld”. The more independent stories you tell in the same setting, the more real and tangible the setting feels across all the stories.

As for ideas unrelated to “Artemis” – of course I have those! Coming up with story ideas is easy. I have more book ideas in my head than I have remaining lifespan to write. So that’s not a problem. Which story I write will depend on reader feedback from the previous stories. What they like and what they don’t.

How would you describe yourself to others?

“Science dork”.

What else would you like to tell me that I haven’t asked?

Nothing comes to mind.


Imagining Water, #3: Confronting the Holy River Yamuna

Great article Sue!

Artists & Climate Change

The third in a year-long series on artists who are making the topic of water a focus of their work and on the growing number of exhibitions, performances and publications that are popping up in museums, galleries and public spaces around the world with water as a theme.


Vibha Galhotra

I met Vibha Galhotra, a New Delhi-based conceptual artist, at a talk she gave recently in conjunction withUnfiltered: An Exhibition About Water, which is currently on view at the William Benton Museum of Art on the campus of the University of Connecticut.** The show’s themes include: “the power of water and the changing landscape; water pollution and biology; water scarcity; climate change; the physical properties of water; and the Connecticut River.” Vibha’s piece in the exhibition, a 10+ minute film entitled Manthan, as well as much of her work in recent years, confronts the critical…

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One Woman’s Island – print edition now available!

Congratulations Susan!

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

Hooray!! The print version of my second novel in the Bequia Perspectives Series, One Woman’s Island is now listed with Amazon as being available to order!

Since I went with POD (print-on-demand) with this book, here’s how it works if you prefer to read the novel in a paperback format: you place an order with Amazon; Bingo-Bongo! a copy (or copies) is/are printed specifically for you; you receive your order by mail directly from Amazon. (Yes, you pay Amazon directly, but I will eventually receive my royalties on every copy sold.) I won’t be stocking quantities of this book (or lugging them around with me), so your best bet to get a copy quickly is to order from Amazon. Eventually, there should be a listing for every Amazon sales site and I will update the list as I discover new sites.

Here’s a complete list of where to purchase

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Thinking Aloud on a Sunday



For obvious reasons, I have been thinking a lot about WordPress today.

When I started blogging, this platform stood out as being the most user-friendly, to a novice blogger. The set-up was relatively simple, and I was soon up and running with my own new blog. WordPress also enjoyed a huge following all over the world, so this gave me lots to explore, and also attracted followers to my blog. Over time, I managed to get help from many others in the community, and I was able to learn how to add images, change themes, and much more.

Fast forward five years, and my WordPress blogs have become my main hobby. The first thing I do after I get up, and the last thing I do before going to bed. In between, I read other blogs, comment on posts, and reply to comments on mine. Blogging makes me content…

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Smorgasbord – Posts from Your Archives – Back to the Future by Pete Johnson

Great article Pete as always

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Back by popular demand… Pete Johnson with another of his entertaining posts this time a retrospective look at what programmes such as Tomorrow’s World which ran from 1965 to 2003 promised we would have today!

Back to the future by Pete Johnson

Whatever happened to the Future? You know, the one that we were promised by the scientists and TV programmes years ago. When I was young, we were assured that it was only a matter of time before we would be holidaying on Mars. Televisions would be the size of a wall, and the images would be holographic. Food would never be a problem again, so no starvation would exist anywhere in the world. The boffins assured us, that using soya bean and seaweed as a base, they would be able to supply everyone with nutritious pellets of spongy substance, to which we could add any flavour we desired…

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