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Monday, 28 January 2013

BLACK HOLE.

Events intrude. Life. You may be forced to write nothing for a week as you deal with hospitals, maintenance issues, or weird technical stuff that slows your world to the consistency of something that has fossils in it.
   Sound familiar? Go back one blog post. I crawled from a digital BLACK HOLE to write this entry. Not so long ago, I was handed a free computer. It wasn’t a great computer, but it was better than the one I had. Oh, and it was free.
   My office arrangements changed. I’d run two computers now. A whole computer as a back-up for the other. If one engine sputtered, I’d still have the reserve to keep me in the air. Cables and components were moved around. Chairs. Books. Notepaper. All the big things swirled with the little things.
   And, when the dust settled, I was more or less happy. The year 2012 drew to a close. There was no Maya Apocalypse to trouble me. Unbeknownst to me, a microscopic Maya shaman was chanting and dancing atop a peculiar pyramid inside my old computer.
   The great change, dawn of a new era, had come.
   I worked late into the night struggling to copy my archive. For some reason, this straightforward process was anything but. The forces of evil themselves were in deep array, preparing to march against my glorious cause of saving data.
   With back-ups done, I was closing in on the end-of-year sale. There was a temporary archive of the last few months. Now I wanted a full back-up of the latest changes. Putting another year to bed in the vaults.
   Good job I did all that the night before. Next morning, zap. Nothing. The machine wouldn’t start. I ran through the emergency checklist. Was this the result of a loose cable after migrating from office to library? Check the connections.
   Connections seem fine.
   In that case, are you missing something obvious? Perhaps you only think you flipped that switch over at the wall. Highly unlikely. See to socket.
   Socket and switch seem fine.
   The TV is on, so there’s no need to fall back to the electric light to check on failure of mains power.
   Power seems fine.
   Switch everything off and get into the workings of the computer. Check internal connections. You know by this time that you don’t want to. And that you have to.
   Internal connections seem fine.
   After each test, the button is pressed. No go.
   Bonus test. Unhook the umbilical. Atomic batteries to power. Turbines to speed. Disconnect the machine and cast your computer into space. Connect the new computer to the set-up and see what happens.
   New computer works just fine.
   Damn. It’s the old computer’s innards. Something went. You’ll likely never know what. Engage Plan B. That’s Brain Transplant. Shift the old hard drive over to the new machine. Some fiddly work is called for here…
   It’s all a bit too dense and technical for you. I say that as it’s all a bit too dense and technical for me. Things were unplugged. I invoked Cosmic Law. When removing something and placing it out of the way, that item automatically gets in the way of the next thing you move around.
   Repeat as required.
   I experimented with the computer brains. The new machine’s brain was set in charge of the old archive. That worked. For complicated reasons of the plot, I switched the old brain around so that it invaded the new computer and seized power.
   That worked too.
   A crisis was averted.
   Deep in the computing jungle, a digital shaman planned an evisceration. Days passed. I was staring at the near-empty shell of the old computer. There lay an item of equipment. It may have been faulty. Let us suppose it was.
   Something in the old machine had failed. I’m inclined to call this item the KIDNEY. An evil organ. I stared at the kidney. That kidney could have a new home in the working computer. Hey, I’d performed a brain transplant. I could handle a lowly kidney, right?
   My authorial sensibility tells me the audience can see where this story is headed. Into a BLACK HOLE. I moved the old DVD player over to the new computer. Now my machine would have two brains and two kidneys.
   Atop a pyramid hidden in the depths of the DVD jungle, the tiny Maya shaman raised his sacrificial blade and brought an end to civilisation.
   Bastard.
   With everything plugged in, I was raring to go. Nothing happened. As an author, I am prepared to construct a tale from this series of events. A bad thing stopped my computer from working. No big deal. The computer’s mind survived the infection. Nothing nasty passed across the blood-brain barrier.
   I then moved the faulty item of equipment over to the new body and the same shit happened again. BUT I couldn’t say that for certain. Many factors were at play. Anything could have gone wrong. I called in an expert.
   He’d given me the free computer, and remembered exactly how it was wired up to start with. In the process of investigating the problem, we blew a fuse. Something nasty had shorted in there, and the fuse took a bullet for the team.
   A fuse.
   Straight from the lone wall socket to the computer. No go. I had to visit my reserve stash of fuses – which hadn’t even been removed from the packet. That’s because, these days, no one blows a fuse. I can’t remember the last time I had to change one.
   The expert, parachuted in to help save the day, couldn’t remember ever blowing a fuse while running a computer. Ow. The Maya shaman must have been up all night sharpening that sacrificial knife. We concluded that something electrical went for the first computer’s guts.
   And with the transplanted brain working just fine, the culprit – lone suspect – looked like the KIDNEY. Though I stress other items could easily have been at fault. In electrical terms, I’m sure it’s obvious. But I’m going with storytelling terms.
   An evil kidney transplant of a digital Maya pyramid, complete with micro-sized sacrificial shaman, was responsible. I’m going with that.
   There was redundant computing equipment sloshing around, so my expert handed me a laptop to save me from a digital BLACK HOLE. I was in the BLACK HOLE for a while, and caught up on some reading. Aside from that, I wrote a story outline by hand.
   To minimise the risk of a third rat leaving a sunken ship, I reorganised many things. A fuse had blown. Perhaps cabling was damaged. I checked a lot of stuff. Then, in a mad experiment, I cloned the laptop’s screen to my TV via a safe cable.
   My reconstituted office flew along on one engine, again. I’d emerged from the darkness. Yes, my publishing plans were put back. And some plans changed. But I could type in a file once more. This almost affected blogging.
   My store of automated blogs wound down. The blog monster drained its egg-sac and threatened to vanish with little trace. I’d have fixed a temporary sign to the door, letting a few readers know that technical difficulties were to blame.
   Non-technical difficulties are harder to apportion.
   My plans must resume. But what are those plans? I didn’t see far beyond four collected editions of blog posts, truth be told. Allowing for eighteen blog posts in my INCOMPLETE UNCOLLECTED WORKS, that’s 90 blog entries plus the odd emergency blast of the horn.
   With assorted stops and starts to my plans, I’ve still managed to blog weekly. Publication dates for collected editions weren’t fixed in stone. They were fluid. And I’m glad of that. So now, after falling into a BLACK HOLE, I’m sitting here asking myself what happens next…
   Enough blog material gathers for collection in March. That would be the third volume. A fourth carries me through to Kacey Vanderkarr’s publishing launch in the summer of 2013 – which will be plugged here on this blog in some or other fashion.
   Not for the first time, I contemplate halting the blog. Perhaps temporarily, come summer’s end. By then I’ll have a surer picture of what’s coming out next, and where my fiction heads after all that. There’s a writerly duty to warn my 0.75 readers that the blog might wind down for a break.
   Or, who knows. I may keep writing blogs ahead of the game, and automating these reports from a fugitive.
   Today’s lesson, for writers? If you can’t type into a machine, use a pen and a piece of paper. Use a physical paper dictionary to check troublesome words while away from troublesome machines. Always have a back-up. And a back-up for that. If all else fails, be prepared to reconstruct from memory.
   And I thought I had troubles with the computer desk. It, at least, is still functioning more or less as intended. I’d say at the 98% level. Good enough for government work. The chair’s just fine, and that’s the main thing.

NEXT BLOG: KACEY VANDERKARR.

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