Today I read an amateur science-fiction short story that opened by describing at length the twin-sunned planet the protagonist’s ship was orbiting. It then moved on to several paragraphs about the mega-corporation whose employees worked on planets like this, the unfortunate circumstances of said employees, and why they needed the protagonist’s services.
And then the action started with the protagonist arriving at a completely different planet to engage in work that had nothing to do with the corporation or its employees. None of these things was ever mentioned again.
Continue reading “Set-up and pay-off – focusing on what is relevant”
Recently I was lucky enough to get a look around the Natural History Museum in London. This glorious building houses a vast collection of artefacts representing the fascinating (if deeply colonialist) history of the British exploration and developing knowledge of the natural world.
Presented with such a wealth of historical and ecological information, the challenge wasn’t learning new things, but narrowing down my choices on what to write about. Here are three that stood out: a feat of comparative anatomy, sea life recreated in glass, and the secret of the opal’s colours.
Continue reading “This week I learned – Natural History Museum edition”
Quick recap from last week: my psychiatrist has put me on clonazepam, a benzodiazepine-class tranquilliser, while I ramp up the dosage on my new SNRI.
The clonazepam has created an immediate and very measurable transformation – enough so that, for the first time, I feel like I’m in a position to observe the differences in my patterns of thought and behaviour with and without anxiety.
So I’m recording my observations. If you’ve never had anxiety (or if you don’t know if you have it), I hope this helps you understand what the world feels like to someone who does.
Part one was about the “obvious” (in hindsight) effects of anxiety; this week is about the rest of it. Before clonazepam, I would have said that anxiety was just one of a suite of problems my brain had in functioning. It turns out they were a lot more related than I’d realised.
Continue reading “This is my brain on anxiety… and this is my brain on drugs (pt. 2)”
Brain weasel update: I’m lucky enough to have found a psychiatrist who really seems to listen to me and to have good ideas about what I need (it only took two tries – would that everyone in the mental health care system could be so fortunate).
After concluding fairly definitively that my major (perhaps only) weasels are variations on anxiety, he’s put me on an SNRI antidepressant to try out (SNRIs can also be effective in treating anxiety) – and since this style of antidepressants take effect only after four to six weeks, and since we’re ramping my dosage up slowly to see what happens (therefore requiring even longer), in the meantime he’s also put me on clonazepam, a benzodiazepine-class tranquilliser.
Continue reading “This is my brain on anxiety… and this is my brain on drugs (pt. 1)”
This week I learned how to make art with microbes, why so many older Japanese women prefer to be in prison, and about the amazing possibilities of golden orb-weaver silk.
A note for any arachnophobe readers – the last of these pieces contains no imagery (unless you follow the links), but plenty of spider-related text, so I leave it to you to assess your level of OK-ness with that. I’ve placed it last so that you can still read the rest of the post if you want to.
Continue reading “This week I learned: agar art, Japan’s senior citizens behind bars, and the strength of spider silk”
Quick reminder that from next week I will be reducing my output to one post a week, on Thursdays, alternating between TWIL posts and more serious posts like this.
This is the story of a book that changed me life, and how it wasn’t enough.
Continue reading “Farewell to the northern white rhino”
This week I learned about a boiling river, bottleless water you can hold in your hand, and the lengths George Lucas went to to keep Chewbacca from getting shot.
A quick note before I get into the fun stuff: because life is getting busier for me, from next week I will be reducing my output to one post a week, on Thursdays. I’ll still be creating TWIL posts, because they’re both a lot of fun and a great way to get the creative juices flowing, but they will be posted on alternating weeks, with more serious posts in between.
Continue reading “This week I learned: Boiling River, bottleless water, and endangered Chewbacca”
This is the sequel to last week’s post about all the ways Ted Chiang’s book blows my mind and makes me want to be a better writer.
I’m aware that what follows may come across as overly critical, so let me start by reiterating that I really enjoyed these stories. They intrigued and surprised me, and made me feel like I was wrestling with some incredible intellectual notions.
If I’ve written more about what didn’t work for me than what did, it’s only because those were the aspects I felt best able to get a grip on when it comes to analysing why they affected me the way I did and applying those lessons to my own writing.
Again, this review contains very minor and non-specific spoilers – unless you’re reading the book right now, you should be fine.
Continue reading “Book review: Ted Chiang’s ‘Stories of Your Life and Others’ pt. 2”
This week I learned about how people feel about having almost no control over their bodies, about mind-controlling wasps, and about what happened when one woman let a homeless person use her car as a bed.
Continue reading “This week I learned: life with locked-in syndrome, voodoo wasps, and sleeping in someone else’s car”