A Picture is Worth 20,000 Words

This one is, anyway.  This one shows the current state of a chunk of Dumbspeech:  individual passages, whole scenes, teensy philosophical inserts that take us from Low Earth Orbit all the way down to the center of the solar system.  Everything else more or less hangs together; this chunk here is why I haven’t been so chatty lately.

Go ahead.  Click on it for hi-res clues.  Go wild.  I’ll be over here, beating it into shape.


This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Friday August 05 2011at 05:08 am , filed under Dumbspeech, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

54 Responses to “A Picture is Worth 20,000 Words”

  1. Oh, dude that is so cool, a graphical representation of a book as it comes into being. With little color cards. I am digging this way more than I am enjoying the thought of the thing I am writing for work right now. Supposed to be writing for work right now. This is making me very happy right now.

  2. Uh, one word: Scrivener.

  3. Steve, for some endeavors you just need palpable physical objects.

  4. Since the cat is on the job, I have no doubt that the passages will soon be beaten into proper shape.

  5. Bitchin’. I love these little glimpses into how people approach their creative process.

    And “Dances with Vampires”? I love that kind of shorthand. I hope you have a leg cuff that shackles you to your laptop so you can finish this and give me another book to rave about to all my friends.

  6. Just don’t shackle that fucked up leg. I’m not that much of a greedy sadist.

  7. I’d wish you Darwinspeed, but that would be slow. So I guess Orca-speed. Nice to see your click trail.

    Favorite bits . . .

    -Poking Portia
    (ball bearings)
    -Dances with Vampires
    -Slime Mold (you first)
    -God as a Process
    -My Dinner with Zombie

    These scream to be song titles.
    Like all the references.

    Also nice to see your sense of humor poking through, even in an outline.

    I’m glad I turned off my gleaning brain for this, although I don’t mind spoilers.

  8. You keep your start menu on the left? That’s evil.

  9. … sweet. We’re gonna visit the Icarus Array. 😀


    More establishment of the Scramblers use of magnetic effects (“Knocking on Heaven’s Door”, “Exorcising the Haunted Hallways”) on the mind.

    “Moore In The Shell” a play off of Ghost In The Shell.

    “Thanoparosis” –> Weakness caused by death? Having a hard time nailing down the ‘parosis’ part.

    This is a fun way to tease, Peter. 🙂

  10. I’m curious if the index card colors have any special significance.

    Also, has the opening chapter (http://www.rifters.com/real/in_progress.htm) changed much?

  11. Very cool indeed! I need tor try something like that the next time I think about writing anything longer than a blog response.

    BTW, that “dances with vampires” just snapped me back to one of Tom Clancy’s books, “Hunt for Red October” IIRC, which had a chapter titled “Dance of the Vampires” which was about attack-and-countermeasures in submarine warfare. Evidently “vampire” is US Naval slang for “guided missile”.

  12. @Ross – technically, it’s sinister.

    (Sorry, sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

  13. @Bahumat: yes no kinda no. But I made thanoparosis up: it’s a tweak that makes the subject cognitively incapable of contemplating their own death.

    @ken: mostly. Couple of minor additions.

  14. Oh cool!

    I love you, man!
    /drunken guy movie quote

    Hey, hey you, I can’t see your fortune cookies.

  15. Hljóðlegur and Steve,

    For programming sometimes we use cards taped to white boards, or tacked to walls, and in swim lanes, or in software in a tool in our bug tracking system that makes them resemble cards if you want. I haven’t made up my mind what I like better.

    …sometimes I like writing components on post-it notes and moving them around my desk when I’m trying to figure something out.

    oh man! this is so cool to see the planning process! I did not think I was a dopey fanboy, but I feel like one right now. squeee!

  16. Really, Hljóðlegur, that is so gauche.

  17. a tweak that makes the subject cognitively incapable of contemplating their own death.

    That is so nefarious! and cruel! those guys are evil bastards.

  18. HAR HAR. Mike G wins that round!

    @Sheila – I find that physically moving objects with my hands helps with arranging things in my head. Also, it feels good to have chunks of abstraction made real, able to move through space, and interact with them. It’s very satisfactory.

    “a tweak that makes the subject cognitively incapable of contemplating their own death.”

    A “tweak” being the old English term for “four drinks.” Three tweaks to a dozen, etc. A tweak generally works for me in terms of making me unable to contemplate my death.

  19. This is just cruel. ;_;

  20. “a tweak that makes the subject cognitively incapable of contemplating their own death.”

    So does that mean they all go back to thinking like teenagers? >:)

  21. HAR HAR. Mike G wins that round!

    I think some jokes went over my head. I’m going to have go back and remedial read this thread later when I am smarter.

    … unable to contemplate my death.

    at first I read it as a way to prevent your employees from committing suicide, but I guess they’d probably be wanting them to have insane bravery first. But I’m still focused on the idea of preventing someone from suicidal ideation as seriously cruel. There’s no escape. It’s like how his government wants to prevent Terry Pratchett from choosing his own time to die. It’s a form of slavery.

  22. Ross, I can’t tell what OS he is using. It doesn’t look like the latest version of ubuntu (oneiric ocelot), which has a hard to get used to left doc-thing that was driving me crazy even though on my macs I’ve tended to stick my doc on that side. but enough about me. Peter, show us your dot files.

    (I asked Charles Stross in one of his ask me anything posts if he had any cool .vimrc stuff but he said he doesn’t deviate much from vi since he has to log in a lot of places… I can understand that but I like my bells and whistles so much that I stick my dot files on anything I’m going to be logging in to repeatedly.)

  23. Oh, gauche, as is the other word for left stuff. I got sinister and not gauche.

  24. @Sheila – I had complete faith you’d get it. Vi tog en vänstersväng till Punville!

    Do you realize that all those icons on the left of his screen link to a file or application, that they are links? Sie sind links! Nicht rechts – The Links sind am links!

    Oh, the pain.

  25. Do you realize that all those icons on the left of his screen link to a file or application, that they are links? Sie sind links! Nicht rechts – The Links sind am links!

    I thought they were minimized application windows. I don’t want to see his links! That would be too much spoiling for me. I don’t mind the cards though.

    but I’m not so sure about that beer one. Chug chug sounds too happy to me.

  26. I think Chug! Chug! Chug! might be the next fiblet I post. Either that or Moore talking about what it’s like to be a zombie. Or why most zombies are black.

  27. Egads, I hope that ‘back breaker’ is why the cat seems to be immobile in this picture and not because…well…its a fucking cat.

    This picture represents in colorful detail why I continue to suck as a writer. I always start with the glittery bits and neglect the skeleton and infrastructure of the story. Always seems to end up painting me into corners and leaving me with a bloody pile of grotesque half-novels.

    Can’t wait to see how it all turns out!

  28. Like our primary cat, yours seems to be employed by the Department of Work Prevention.

  29. If Brian Eno could market his Oblique Strategies cards, surely you can do something with these.

  30. I think Chug! Chug! Chug! might be the next fiblet I post. Either that or Moore talking about what it’s like to be a zombie. Or why most zombies are black.

    Yes. I am looking forward to this.

  31. […] A Picture is Worth 20,000 Words from Peter Watts  […]

  32. You mean you don’t just write and let a work of genius magically appear? You actually plan things out? We’re allowed to do that? Man, I’ve been reading too much Stephen King.

    This doesn’t seem like a King crowd here so I’ll explain – he likes to go with a single idea and let things just happen as he writes. Nice to see another good writer do it differently.

  33. and I saw another author post pictures of cards over on google+. maybe this is catching.

  34. Looks to me like Windows 7 in classic mode to me so Scrivener is out of the question (Mac only…. talk about limited audience).

    Love to see the creative process at work.

  35. Since there seems to be some interest in this: yes, the laptop (aka Banana) is running fucking Windows 7. My desktop (bedroom-base, actually) is a custom-built machine with Xp and Opensuse Linux partitions, the Linux being primary (and which has a Windows emulator used exclusively for laptop-synching purposes). I have downloaded a beta of Scrivener into OpenSuse, but faced-with-an-imminent-deadline is not the time to embark upon that learning curve.

    Besides, I’m growing sick of Linux; none of its apps seem able to play DVDs without stuttering on the panning shots, and I can’t play Blu-Ray at all. I want to run entertainment from an actual optical disk I pretty much have to go back to Windows. So if anyone can recommend a good Linux multimedia app other than Kaffeine, Totem, VLC, or SMPlayer, I’m all eyes.

  36. You need a “Dear lazyweb” post a la jwz. Carl over here wants to know if you’ve tried xine.

    but If windows 7 solves your problems, I’m not going to tell you to uninstall it. particularly inflight.

    if you miss any *nix things, you can install them. I installed cygwin when I was working on a windows machine. plus, in an entirely unrelated note, IrfanView. install IrfanView. I love Irfan.

    I hate Notepad. maybe it’s better these days? Try SciTE or Notepad++.

    and JavE because everyone needs an ascii drawing program in case you need to embed diagrams in your text files.

  37. Carl is mumbling about installing ubuntu and mentions that “some guy” he knows was complaining about suse and not getting skype to run etc etc. same guy is also fighting the city over not mowing his lawn. ok, now Carl is off on a tangent. I think what I’m gathering from this is that people who use suse need their lawns mowed? I hope this has been a useful tip.

  38. What, there’s a Linux version of Irfanview? I did not know that! IV has long been my multimedia app of choice in Windows environments.

  39. Transcendence = Suicide
    God as a process
    Gimp Hood

    Mother. Fucking. Gimp. Hood.

    I’m buying this book the nanosecond it comes out.

  40. Peter, crap, no. I mentioned it as something you should use on windows. sorry!

  41. If I were paranoid, I would think that you are changing the board in a very subtle way every so often, and reloading the image, like a stealth book-cam. If I were paranoid.

  42. Have enjoyed your novels for years but have been out of touch for a year, and I just found out about the whole NF thing, which shocked me– but clearly this affliction only strikes persons of pellucid mind, because the other sufferer of whom I am aware is Eric Allin Cornell, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics (a somewhat more-accomplished alumnus of my old high school in Cambridge, MA.) Shall we pencil you in for the 2021 Literature prize.

    Keep fighting the good fight.

  43. That’s a funny idea. Now not joking… It might be cool to see a time lapse set of images. except for eventually when they’d get too spoilerish.

  44. A time-lapsed would be awesome, seeing the cards grow, move, change, the cat pops in and out of the frame, coffee mugs appear and disappear. I like it.

  45. Someone who is talented should take the photo and make a little animated film with cards moving around and doing tricks. like maybe one of them starts having bubbles of air rise up and it swims over to a paper and eats it and then one of the cards from later down the time line swims over and bites the other card. some benthic creature could rise up from below the cork board boundary and grab something.

    and there should be a cute sound track.

    and someone tries to pull a nice beer in to the beer card but it goes wrong and foams over. oops.

  46. Thanks for showing your “roadmap”.

    Apropos DVD: did you test another Linux distribution? One of those Live-Linuxes booting from DVD or pendrive, and then completely running in RAM. My favourite is “Puppy Linux”.

    VDR (Video Disk Recorder) is rather suitable for a dedicated recording/multimedia server. Sadly, configuration is not that easy and its DVD plugin rather rudimentary, but it simply works. In the VDR community XBMC ( http://xbmc.org/about/ ) gathers more and more interest. It looks quite interesting, though I hadn’t tried it yet.

    IrfanView seems to run with Wine.

  47. Hahahhaha. I totally see it!

  48. Windows, Linux; DVD, Blu-ray? Physical index cards! On an actual corkboard!! You really like to do things the hard way don’t you?

    I’m even more amazed at the quality of your output given the crudity of the tools you use.

  49. On an actual corkboard!! You really like to do things the hard way don’t you?

    yes what he really should do is tile one wall in magnets so he doesn’t have to use pins.

  50. [i]yes what he really should do is tile one wall in magnets so he doesn’t have to use pins.[/i]

    But then he wouldn’t have the visceral satisfaction of [i]stabbing[/i] the ideas to the corkboard with small metal pins.

  51. Oh yes, the furry lover/killer is back. Look at the murderous piece of fluff there, scootching toward the interface. It’s all bad, motherfucker, all bad.

  52. Greeting, Mr. Watt.

    This sounded like what happen in bar back when. P.R. blond lady?


  53. I’ve had this http://www.thenetworkadministrator.com/linuxdvd.htm recommended to me to solve the Linux movie dvd trouble, Problem with most Linux video programs is that, being open-source, they can’t very well implement the DRM protection schemes, and many of the people writing said programs are against DRMs itself, so DVD decoding isn’t a usually offered feature. That link there claims to solve the problem, and d/l-ing stuff off Piratebay and the line would be even easier if the internet cops in your area aren’t very active.

  54. I would concur with the pro-Scrivener guys (the Windows version seems to work all right, from what i read on the literatureandlatte forums), but you can’t trust the cat to tear up the wrong index cards for you.