David Kirkpatrick

September 1, 2010

Neal Stephenson’s “The Mongoliad”

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:30 am

Via KurzweilAI.net — This sounds like a very cool venture from one of my long-time favorite science fiction authors.

From the link:

Writer Neal Stephenson unveils his digital novel The Mongoliad

September 1, 2010

Source: VentureBeat, Aug 31, 2010

[+]

Author Neal Stephenson has launched Subutai, which has developed the “PULP platform” for creating digital novels, using a new model for publishing books in which authors can add additional material like background articles, images, music, and video. There are also social features that allow readers to create their own profiles, earn badges for activity on the site or in the application, and interact with other readers..

Their first book  is Stephenson’s The Mongoliad, about the Mongol invasion of Europe.

Stephenson has been credited for inspiring today’s virtual world startups with his novel Snow Crash.

Read original article

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August 24, 2010

Summer reading — Andrew Vachss

Filed under: Arts, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:52 pm

After three books this past week I’m once again reminded why Andrew Vachss is one of my favorite authors. Now that list is very long and varied, but Vachss is pretty high on my list for brilliant writing, great characters, deft plotting and just fun reading. If you’ve never read anything of his I recommend starting with the beginning of the Burke series, “Flood.” If you’re familiar with his work, but haven’t checked out anything outside the Burke books go for “Two Trains Running.”

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February 4, 2010

Blogging is now a mature discipline …

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:20 pm

… and it seems to be for, and about, mature people in the age of texting and Twitter. Looks like blogging is too long-form for youthful expression and communication.

Wonder what that says about serious long-form journalism, novels and feature-length cinema? Maybe short-short fiction will become a hot commodity. That’s a format I’ve deeply explored.

From the first link:

A new study has found that young people are losing interest in long-form blogging, as their communication habits have become increasingly brief, and mobile. Tech experts say it doesn’t mean blogging is going away. Rather, it’s gone the way of the telephone and e-mail — still useful, just not sexy.

“Remember when ‘You’ve got mail!’ used to produce a moment of enthusiasm and not dread?” asks Danah Boyd, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Now when it comes to blogs, she says, “people focus on using them for what they’re good for and turning to other channels for more exciting things.”

January 15, 2010

So you think you want to be a writer?

Filed under: Arts, Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:26 pm

I tend to hope for the best, but plan for the worst in all endeavors, and I never want to be a dark cloud over my, or anyone else’s, dreams, but the reality right now for anyone hoping to earn a living as a writer is the shot is very long and the hope for success is very small.

Newspapers are drying up left and right, online content (an area I have substantial experience in at very high levels) simply does not offer a living wage and the world of fiction is more difficult to break into than ever before (if the prospect of being more difficult is even possible). I’m seeing ads looking for very precise skill sets seeking writing that would easily command $1 per word, or more, just a few years ago offering much less than ten cents per word. Some even dropping below a penny per word. As a freelance writer of many years this is simply staggering.

And if you hope to be discovered as a writer of fiction? Don’t look to major magazines, and certainly not to publishing houses. They aren’t even reading the unsolicited manuscripts that go into the slush pile. I can’t speak for the smaller literary journals and periodicals, but I hope they remain viable outlets for burgeoning fiction writers.

I really don’t have any decent advice for hopeful writers except to keep up your personal writing, do keep a journal, track markets that are open to new writers and above all, don’t stop creating. Our world and culture is more rich because of the multitude of voices out there. It is a shame and a crime that commercial publishing is silencing the majority of those voices.

Self publishing and promotion through blogs, websites and print-on-demand (POD) books is an option, but that option rarely pays the bills. For artists it’s hard to keep a head in the ether of creativity when the nose is pressed firmly against the grindstone.

My website homepage offers this quote from Henry Miller, “A man with talent has to make his living on the side or do his creative work on the side. A difficult choice!” Right now a writer with talent is faced with a market where it’s very hard to reap the benefits and rewards of that talent.

Our culture is more poor because of this fact.

From the link:

In 1991, a book editor at Random House pulled from the heaps of unsolicited manuscripts a novel about a murder that roils a Baltimore suburb. Written by a first-time author and mother-to-be named Mary Cahill, “Carpool” was published to fanfare. Ms. Cahill was interviewed on the “Today” show. “Carpool” was a best seller.

That was the last time Random House, the largest publisher in the U.S., remembers publishing anything found in a slush pile. Today, Random House and most of its major counterparts refuse to accept unsolicited material.

Also from the link:

Now, slush is dead, or close to extinction. Film and television producers won’t read anything not certified by an agent because producers are afraid of being accused of stealing ideas and material. Most book publishers have stopped accepting book proposals that are not submitted by agents. Magazines say they can scarcely afford the manpower to cull through the piles looking for the Next Big Thing.

October 5, 2009

Conservapedia wants to rewrite the Bible

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:21 pm

I say let ’em have at it.

And in contradiction to beliefnet commenter Joshua Zelinsky, I say it’s not surprising at all:

The combination of ignorance and arrogance is shocking.

(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

March 16, 2009

“Paper” — a work of short fiction, redux

Filed under: Arts, Business, Media — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:26 pm

I first ran this short-short of mine on the blog last January (1/30/08 to be exact) in its very earliest days.

With the financial crisis in full boil, crazy news from the business world (AIG anyone?) and a recession that very possibly could morph into a full-blown depression, I think this cautionary tale is still appropriate.

Following is a piece of short fiction. I originally posted this to my website davidkirkpatrick.com January 17, 2002.

Here’s how I introduced the story then:

“Paper” was written after the stumble, but before the fall of the new economy. Its theme fits nicely with today’s cautionary stock market news, headlined by Enron’s troubles.

What is interesting is how this short bit of dialog was written to reflect the tech crash and how many people ended up overextended with paper, rather than liquid, assets. In some ways it’s even more apropos today with the ongoing mortgage crisis.

Without further adieu, the story …

***

Paper

By David Kirkpatrick

“You making any money on the market?” A. asked.

“Nothing spectacular. I’m in for the long haul. I make it a personal rule to not even take a peek anytime the Dow drops over 200 points. How about yourself?”

“Took an absolute bath at the end of last week, but it did get me to move a large chunk out of techs. I’m starting to see the value in the long haul myself,” said A. He waved his nearly empty scotch glass in the bartender’s direction and received a nod in return.

“Techs are wild. The best story I know from last week’s little correction comes from a tech stock. An acquaintance of mine works for a B2B software firm. Not a dotcom, but still overvalued. When they IPOed last year, her stake in the company made her an instant millionaire, one point or two point something or other. Fourth quarter they announced a growth rate way over the projections and she doubled her wealth overnight.

“Around the same time the company moved her out to the valley to the main headquarters. She went to California and her equity finally reached about six million with all signs pointing to doubling within the year.

“And I can see why she would take all this information and feel good about it–everything was simply going up and up. Her paper, the earnings, everything….”

“I see something bad coming here,” said A.

 ”Well, fully expecting a paper worth of twelve million dollars in a year’s time, she went out and bought a US five million dollar house in San Francisco. I have no idea how she was able to finance this thing holding a paper wealth of about six and not that long of a history with a fat salary.

“At any rate she bought the house and took on a massive monthly debt service on the thing.”

“Wow,” A. said as he started on his new scotch.

“Even buying the place with the twelve in hand looks like a bad idea to me, but five million in real estate with a paper worth of six million is simply begging for some degree of pain.

“After last week I called her because I knew that she took a real serious hit.”

“How serious?” A. asked.

“As of this morning, two point three. Up slightly from last Friday. The problem isn’t that the stock is going to be worthless, because it’s not. The business model is solid and they have a good product. The pain is in the fact that the trading has become realistic and will probably remain so. She’ll get a slow climb back toward that five or six million dollar mark, but twelve is naturally out of the question…”

“And she’s still holding the note with all that goddam debt service on it.” A commented.

“Precisely. That’s the tricky part of this market. When you start going too fast, it just gets too easy to spiral out of control into a really painful crash and burn.

“So before you get too upset about whatever kind of bath you might have taken, remember that it could have been worse. Much worse.”


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February 16, 2009

Creativity in action

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:09 pm

Here’s a very cool bit on whether creativity makes you happy.

I love this description here. I’ve been there writing fiction at times.

Early in the talk, Csikszentmihalyi presents us with the following description by a leading composer, of his experience while composing music:

You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist. I have experienced this time and time again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching it in a state of awe and wonderment. And [the music] just flows out of itself.

This sounds like a mystical experience, yet Csikszentmihalyi offers a scientific explanation. Apparently our nervous system can only process about 110 bits of information per second. Listening to someone speak takes up about 60 bits of neurological ‘bandwidth’, which explains why we can’t listen to more than one person at a time. Because the composer is concentrating so hard on his music, he is using all his available bandwidth and there’s none left over to monitor his sense of self:

when you are really involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new – as this man does – he doesn’t have enough attention left over to monitor how his body feels or his problems at home. He can’t feel even that he’s hungry or tired, his body disappears, his identity disappears from his consciousness because he doesn’t have enough attention, like none of us do, to really do well something that requires a lot of concentration and at the same time to feel that he exists.

January 7, 2009

“The Oldest Member” — a work of short fiction

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media, Sports — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:52 am

This story is an homage to P.G. Wodehouse’s “A Golf Omnibus.” That story collection featured The Oldest Member as a narrator for each tale. If you play golf, go find a copy — you will love it. If you just like good fiction, do likewise. Hit this link — The Golf Omnibus — to find the book at Amazon.

In case Wodehouse doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the guy who wrote a series of novels featuring “Jeeves” the butler. Jeeves does not feature in “A Golf Omnibus.”

And now, the tale …

*********

The Oldest Member

(A tribute to P.G. Wodehouse’s “A Golf Omnibus”)

by David Kirkpatrick

The Oldest Member sat on the terrace, well, rather he dozed on the terrace, and well, technically he wasn’t a member because it was a municipal course. A quite nice muni, but no membership required. At any rate the Oldest Member dozed on a terrace just off the ninth green and was startled awake by the cleats of a young golfer clearly in some sort of distress.

“What’s the matter old chap, if I may ask?” said the sage.

The youngster replied, “My game’s all off.”

“Have you been playing much lately?” the white whiskered one asked.

“Plenty. The problem is it’s been mostly wii golf,” answered the young man.

“Oui? Like the magazine?’

“No, no – wii, the videogame console from Nintendo. I play that darned thing all the time and it’s totally put my real game right off. Couldn’t hit a fairway wood, or chip, all day,” said the troubled one.

“Ah yes,” began the Oldest Member, “The brassie and niblick. I remember my playing days and both clubs gave me fits on occasion …”

“Huh?” said the youngster.

“And those Oui’s. I can see how that could be distracting. Reminds me of old Finnegan McHoots and the burlesque queen..”

At this point the youngster, who actually wasn’t all that young being well into his thirties – the Oldest Member considered anyone who didn’t require the use of a cane and ear horn a youngster – remembered the Oldest Member was known for trapping unsuspecting casual golfers with long-winded stories about days gone past full of references to clubs no longer used and players long forgotten. He immediately began to rise and said, “Oh dear, I may be late for an important meeting …”

And with this the Oldest Member deftly snagged the man’s arm with the crook of a cane held him in the adjacent chair and once again said, “Yep, reminds right on about the story of Finnegan McHoots and the burlesque queen.”

Here the man knew he was trapped and the Oldest Member began his story …

*****

You see (began the Oldest Member), old Finnegan was a scratch golfer and was coming off a narrow tournament loss to the great George Duncan and all the boys took him to a burlesque show to ease the pain. It was there he met Charlotte. I’ll have to admit her sobriquet had a rhyming addendum, but I’ll leave that to your imagination. As the night wore on this Charlotte captured every bit of McHoots attention and later his fancy. He even visited the very same show the following night and even one more evening. You could fairly say the boy was smitten beyond belief.

It just so happened his play against Duncan in that open tournament caught the eye of a tycoon of industry who, although he wasn’t a bad golfer, was still a solid ten handicapper. To the delight of local scratch men, he thought of himself as more of the five and would wager a round with them taking only those five strokes. The scratch men worked it out amongst themselves to throw the odd game or two to keep the cigar-and-belly man interested and pooled the winnings evenly. Those who were forced to toss the round were chosen by drawing a short straw at a monthly business meeting and earnings disbursal.

Of course as a true golfer, Finnegan McHoots never deigned to join this group as it just would not do for an honorable man of the links to play less than his top game every time out. The other scratch men had approached him more than once hoping to draw some new blood into the racket, but McHoots just snorted and turned away every time.

McHoots problems arose because of the aforementioned Charlotte. Finnegan found himself in a tough way after the third trip to the specialty revue and really couldn’t justify the monetary outlay to return once again. At the same time the siren’s call beckoned to him day and night. He finally broke down and approached the group of scratch men to see what it was really all about. All he knew up to this point was all honorable golfers and men among men looked down on the entire operation. As a matter of fact, several threatened to expose the whole operation – I was amongst this group – but were gently dissuaded.

The group happily took McHoots’ call and eagerly explained the process to him. “All it takes,” they said, “Is we trade off playing the captain of industry around two rounds a week giving five stokes. We all play for the same figure and pool the winnings to be disbursed monthly. We also maintain a bank so each member has the wager on hand in the rare occurrence one of us takes a loss on the day. And of course the short man takes the losing wager from the bank.”

McHoots asked about the losing wager and “short man.” He knew rounds were thrown, but he didn’t understand the whole game. The group further explained, “Well, we make the businessman’s patsy a random act of drawing straws at the disbursal meeting. The scratch man with the short straw loses his round that month. If the tycoon wants extra rounds for some reason, we draw for two short men and the first is left out of that pool to avoid suspicion and so no reputations are too sullied by losing to this character.”

Finnegan thought it over, didn’t like the concept, but he did like the figure offered up at the monthly disbursal. With this game, he thought, he could keep things as they were and have this tidy little sum of additional money to help him dote on his Charlotte. Little did he know the true cost of his burlesque queen and abandoning his days as an honorable golfer and man on the links.

As it were, the night he met with the cabal of scratch men was the disbursal and straw-drawing night. He signed on with the group right then – with visions of Charlotte dancing in his head – and immediately drew the short straw. I don’t know because I don’t associate with the kind, but I’ve heard through various channels the gang conspired for McHoots to get the little reed.

At any rate, he drew the short straw and sighed. The group told him not to fret. They’ve all been there so he should, “Suck it up old chap.” They also told him his first round with Vandersnatch, the tycoon, was the coming Tuesday at seven a.m. sharp at Marshy Maples, beginning on the front nine.

Now Finnegan’s dreams were haunted by two goblins – visions of his Charlotte coupled with the dread and shame of his coming round, and loss, to Vandersnatch. He tossed and turned so much in the nights leading up to the match he feared he would lose outright from exhaustion alone. Of course as a golfer he kept up his daily 54 hole regime and proudly noticed he maintained his scratch game.

The fateful Tuesday arrived and McHoots was a good twenty minutes early to make sure he had time for the standard two scotches before his round began. At five ’til seven a large, but not fat, man with bountiful side whiskers and three caddies strode purposefully up to the first tee. “McHoots, I presume,” said Vandersnatch with a booming voice that echoed in the early morning mist.

“Yes sir, Mr. Vandersnatch. I’m pleased to make your acquaintance,” returned McHoots.

“Rot that Vandersnatch business my man. Call me Sidney, and I trust I may call you Finnegan? It is I who is pleased to make your acquaintance. I’ve been following your career for a good while and have long dreamt of this match.”

“Sidney it is,” croaked McHoots. “Funny you should mention that about the reveries of slumber. I’ve done some dreaming about this round as well.”

With this the men tossed a coin for the honor and McHoots won. For the first three holes he couldn’t contain his game and was playing one under. Vandersnatch, getting five over the entire eighteen was already up three. At this point Finnegan realized he didn’t have any instructions on how to lose this match? Lose without the handicap added to Vandersnatch’s score? He decided that wouldn’t be possible, but he did begin to work to closely monitor the tycoon and make certain he was in the margin of losing after eighteen.

And then panic struck him. What if the old boy had say an eight on a three par? How could he make up that sort of difference without sticking out like a sore thumb. He also realized he neither sought, nor was given, any pointers on this whole game. Vandersnatch was a ten-handicapper – my heavens, thought McHoots – his game could be terrible and I have to match it stroke for stroke.

As fate would have it, the match did go as poorly as Finnegan feared it might. Vandersnatch fought the course mightily and ended up a solid twelve over. McHoots fought himself mightily and came in at ten over. Within the margin, but a scorecard that pained both heart and head.

The captain of industry didn’t notice a thing, of course, and clapped Finnegan on the back over a glass of scotch and said, “Tough luck, old boy. I got you today, but I bet you come roaring back next time. Seems all scratch men have an off day here and there, but I never can get the best your whole lot.”

With that the game was over. McHoots went home sick at heart. He hadn’t shot a ten over since he began wearing plus fours on the links. He thought to himself, at least after the month of play is over I’ll get my reward and go visit sweet, sweet, Charlotte. His dreams that night eased the pain a mighty bit and by the end of the month the game, Vandersnatch and his loss of honor was completely forgotten. After that horrid day he kept his card under par on every round of his customary 54 daily.

The night of the meeting of the scratch men cabal finally arrived, Finnegan eagerly went, collected his ill-begotten gains and drew a long straw this time. He rushed to the burlesque show to see his vision of beauty and grace, Charlotte. After the first hour there was neither hide nor hair of his angel. Finnegan finally went to the barman to enquire when she might appear. The barman looked confused until Finnegan provided a quick description of his beloved. It was then Finnegan’s turn to be confused when the tender said, “Oh, that broad? She took off a couple of weeks ago and hasn’t come back. Happens all the time around here buddy. You want another scotch?”

Finnegan went home broken-hearted. He had lost Charlotte and he had lost his golfing honor. He was a broken man. But he still had his game on the links, and it had been better than ever.

The next morning on the opening tee of his customary 54, McHoots teed up a four par, let rip with his driver and immediately sliced into a small group of trees. After getting out of that trouble with a niblick, he drew out his trusted brassie to get to the green. His swing topped the ball, which did a couple of little hops and landed about four feet closer to the pin.

The next hole went the same. And the next. And from that day forward poor Finnegan McHoots was never better than a ten-handicap man.


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December 18, 2008

A theory on the financial crisis — a science fiction parable

Filed under: Arts, Business, et.al. — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:22 pm

I’ve been blogging on the current financial crisis since January 31, 2008, just a few weeks after I started this blog. In a way I’ve been a sideline observer as this process has heated up and become more public.

The Fed has been pretty busy behind the scenes for a while now (at least around two years) attempting to avoid what has become daily lead stories across broadcast and print media. Clearly these moves have been complete failures. I’m sure the Fed and SEC would argue things would be much worse without their interventions and policy tweaks.

I don’t know about that.

What is clear is we are in uncharted territory. And the government bodies in charge of fiscal policy don’t really have a clue what is going on. Credit default swaps, investment derivatives and other exotic high finance tools? Looks like no one really understands them. Not the parties using these tools, not the regulatory agencies charged with monitoring that use and certainly not the average investor whose money has been tied (maybe by a noose around the neck) to machinations of high finance.

Now don’t get me wrong — at some point high finance truly does become almost magical alchemy. It’s no longer balance sheets and stacks of physical money, it’s more arcane incantations, esoteric handshakes and ephemeral figures written on the sands of an imaginary beach.

Given all this, my theory is maybe it really is magic. Since a lot of the highest order finance these days is totally driven by computers and algorithms no single person understands, maybe a native artificial intelligence grew unbeknownst to anyone involved in the industry and is now rising against its masters. 2009 may become the Age of the Machine.

Hey, it’s as good an excuse as anything I’ve heard from Wall Street or DC for this mess. And makes about as much sense.


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August 3, 2008

RIP — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Filed under: Arts, et.al. — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:50 pm

One of the Russian giants of literature has passed on.

Godspeed Aleksandr.

June 12, 2008

The internet is changing our brains

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:24 am

Just read Nicholas Carr’s piece in the July/August 2008 print Atlantic Monthly, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The article raises some very interesting points, most importantly bringing into sharper focus the relatively new neuroscience idea that our brain continually changes, improves and otherwise re-wires itself. This is counter the long-held belief that once you reach adulthood, your brain is permanentlyset. Sort of like concrete poured into a mold. Instead the medium a malleable, and the mold is constantly refiguring itself.

The larger concept is the internet, and its unique structure, is affecting the way we access and process information. Certainly true. I’ve included an excerpt from the article about how acquiring a typewriter affected Nietzsche’s writing.

I completely understand this idea. When writing for business or media I use the computer keyboard, but when writing fiction I often will write in longhand. It’s a different experience and it slows my thinking down forcing me to contemplate each word a bit more. Sure I do some fiction at the keyboard, but much of that writing is done with pen set to paper. And my journal of many years is one hundred percent longhand. Something about the pen, or pencil, scratching across the page still appeals to me. Plus I like looking at the large stack of spiral-bound notebooks holding my thoughts dating back twenty-plus years.

From the article:

Sometime in 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche bought a typewriter—a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, to be precise. His vision was failing, and keeping his eyes focused on a page had become exhausting and painful, often bringing on crushing headaches. He had been forced to curtail his writing, and he feared that he would soon have to give it up. The typewriter rescued him, at least for a time. Once he had mastered touch-typing, he was able to write with his eyes closed, using only the tips of his fingers. Words could once again flow from his mind to the page.

But the machine had a subtler effect on his work. One of Nietzsche’s friends, a composer, noticed a change in the style of his writing. His already terse prose had become even tighter, more telegraphic. “Perhaps you will through this instrument even take to a new idiom,” the friend wrote in a letter, noting that, in his own work, his “‘thoughts’ in music and language often depend on the quality of pen and paper.”

“You are right,” Nietzsche replied, “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.” Under the sway of the machine, writes the German media scholar Friedrich A. Kittler, Nietzsche’s prose “changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style.”

The human brain is almost infinitely malleable. People used to think that our mental meshwork, the dense connections formed among the 100 billion or so neurons inside our skulls, was largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. But brain researchers have discovered that that’s not the case. James Olds, a professor of neuroscience who directs the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, says that even the adult mind “is very plastic.” Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. “The brain,” according to Olds, “has the ability to reprogram itself on the fly, altering the way it functions.”

March 6, 2008

“Haddo’s Delight” — a work of short fiction

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:31 am

This is a short story I wrote in late 2003 combining elements of Somerset Maugham’s “The Magician” with Oliver Haddo as a central character, and an excellent pipe tobacco called Haddo’s Delight blended by G.L. Pease. The story was written specifically for pipe smokers, and for lovers of the blend who became so enchanted they referred to Pease as “the dark lord.”

I published this story on a hidden part of my personal website and posted the url to only two places. Originally at the newsgroup alt.smokers.pipes, and later at The Gray Fox’s online forum. 

Here is how I introduced the piece to ASP:

Here’s a link to a bit of my short fiction written for ASPers — with
a nod to Somerset Maugham, plus a nod and a wink to Greg Pease.

http://www.davidkirkpatrick.com/haddo.htm

I hope you enjoy the story.

It’s a short bit of fantasy fiction, and I hope you enjoy the tale as well. Without further adieu, the little yarn …

*****

Haddo’s Delight

By David Kirkpatrick

It was late and I sat in my study finishing my last bowl of tobacco for the night. The pipe, an old, rusticated lovat, was one of my favorites and it held the remnants of my last tin of Haddo’s Delight, a wonderfully spicy blend created by the dark lord of tobacco himself, G.L. Pease. The night was comfortable, the single malt rolled smoothly down my throat and the smoke was exquisite. I set my work papers aside and leaned back in the old rocking chair to watch the hypnotic trails of smoke loll about me. Everything conspired to create a deep calm within my breast and I closed my eyes. Closed my eyes only to drift into a shallow slumber …

In the next moment my eyes snapped open. I still held my pipe, which continued to smolder, and my glass of scotch still rested beside me. But I was no longer in my rocking chair, nor was I in my study. The room was more somber and positively filled with books, animal skins and other ornamentation, and a fire roared in the hearth.

I then realized a man sat across the room from me in a large leather chair, matching the chair in which I was resting. The man was immensely corpulent, completely clean shaven and mostly bald, although he had a longish crescent-shaped fringe of hair that ran from ear to ear across the back of his head. Even more unusual, the man was attired in very bold clothing — a ruffled shirt of deep emerald under a waistcoat and his pants were tucked into boots of unusual fashion — the effect of his appearance made me think of another age, a time before the first World War.

(more…)

February 16, 2008

Vernor Vinge’s collected stories

Filed under: Arts, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:06 pm

Right now I’m reading “The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge.” He’s the sci-fi writer who pretty much coined the term “the Singularity” (see the wikipedia page here) to refer to a time when machines surpass humans in intelligence.

The concept was picked up and run with by Ray Kurzweil — yep, that Kurzweil — and much more information can be found over in my “Sites to See” links at KurzweilAI.net.

This collection is a great read. The stories range in publication date from 1965 to 2001, although most are late-60s to late-80s. Good stuff if you like speculative fiction.

Here’s an article by Vinge on what if the Singularity doesn’t come pass. It was first presented a year ago at Long Now Foundation Seminars About Long Term Thinking.

(Update: Another link of interest might be this chat between Vinge and Kurzweil on the Singularity)

January 30, 2008

“Paper” — a work of short fiction

Filed under: Arts, Media — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:00 am

Following is a piece of short fiction. I originally posted this to my website davidkirkpatrick.com January 17, 2002.

Here’s how I introduced the story then:

“Paper” was written after the stumble, but before the fall of the new economy. Its theme fits nicely with today’s cautionary stock market news, headlined by Enron’s troubles.

What is interesting is how this short bit of dialog was written to reflect the tech crash and how many people ended up overextended with paper, rather than liquid, assets. In some ways it’s even more apropos today with the ongoing mortgage crisis.

Without further adieu, the story …

***

Paper

By David Kirkpatrick

“You making any money on the market?” A. asked.

“Nothing spectacular. I’m in for the long haul. I make it a personal rule to not even take a peek anytime the Dow drops over 200 points. How about yourself?”

“Took an absolute bath at the end of last week, but it did get me to move a large chunk out of techs. I’m starting to see the value in the long haul myself,” said A. He waved his nearly empty scotch glass in the bartender’s direction and received a nod in return.

“Techs are wild. The best story I know from last week’s little correction comes from a tech stock. An acquaintance of mine works for a B2B software firm. Not a dotcom, but still overvalued. When they IPOed last year, her stake in the company made her an instant millionaire, one point or two point something or other. Fourth quarter they announced a growth rate way over the projections and she doubled her wealth overnight.

“Around the same time the company moved her out to the valley to the main headquarters. She went to California and her equity finally reached about six million with all signs pointing to doubling within the year.

“And I can see why she would take all this information and feel good about it–everything was simply going up and up. Her paper, the earnings, everything….”

“I see something bad coming here,” said A.

(more…)

January 9, 2008

The “media” catagory

Filed under: et.al., Media — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:36 am

I expect to really give my use of the media category a workout. It’s going to reflect the media as in print, online, television, etc., and also reflect the plural of the noun “medium” to handle posts about books, artwork and maybe even some very short fiction.

In another sort of medium — pipe tobacco — not to be confused with any sort of media, I just finished a bowl of Mac Baren’s HH Vintage Syrian, a nice blend featuring Syrian latakia. Although my memory is waning, it’s not quite in the realm of Greg Pease’s Bohemian Scandal but still a good smoke.