Tuesday 26 November 2019

Tales of Lost Time: 2016

It's been a while.

A long while.

October 2016 was the last time I posted. A lot has happened since then, some of which gradually caused me to let go of my blog (even more so than before).

Part of the reason I have this blog is as a record and a reminder to myself. My work in software development is filled with constant reminders, such as videos of my conference talks and tweets and retweets on Twitter. But when it comes to some of my other interests, such as creative writing and photography, it's easy for me to lose track of what happened and when.

One role this blog served (serves...) is to track what stories I've read at spoken word events — partly so I can avoid rereading the same story at a venue, or reading the same story too many times to perhaps much of the same crowd. So, this is mostly for my own reference, but perhaps you can find something of interest here.

Right, where did I leave it? Ah yes, right here:
Yesterday the Bristol Festival of Literature kicked off. Sadly I missed being able to join the rest of North Bristol Writers for their sell-out readings at Arnos Vale Cemetery, but I'll be joining them tonight at the Flash Slam. I'm reading something apocalyptic at Writers Unchained's Sunday Story. At BristolCon I'm on a panel about AI and robots and will also be running a flash fiction workshop.
All that happened, and more:
  • At the BristolCon Fringe open mic the night before the main con I read an unpublished flash fiction, "Sweet Nothings".
  • At BristolCon itself, I enjoyed being on the Uncanny Valleys of the Mind panel. Drawing from both science fiction and what's actually going on in the field of machine learning, I made the point that most people's perception of AI and robotics is that of artificial general intelligences (AGIs) in SF, that of something sentient and pseudo-human. Which is almost exactly what isn't going on. Unlike a baby, an AI system really does start out as a tabula rasa. There is no predisposition towards any particular behaviours or world views, no baseline concept of the world or morality, etc. The valley — or chasm — to cross is that anthropomorphising will not equip us to reason about what the strengths and weakness of such systems are. It was a really good panel, vouched for by co-panelist Rosie Oliver.
  • I also ran a flash fiction workshop at BristolCon, which was very well attended  — nine people... so, inevitably, I had prepared print-outs (such as this) for eight. There is a great write-up of the workshop by Rexx Deane, which outlines some of the process and the exercises I went through, and another one by Dolly Garland. We used prompts (this and this), we described character, we looked at examples of flash, we played with sentence length (write something using a single long sentence, then again using only short sentences) and we worked with index cards to help constrain the writing.
  • My last story-related event of the year was a paid gig (my first!) at Southampton's Festival of Words. It was well attended and I got read a few of my favourites: "Lost Love's Labours", "First Date, Last Date""Plans for Tonight""Ashes to Ashes, Mañana, Mañana" and "Possession".
And that was a writerly wrap for 2016.