How Much SETI Has Been Done?

The completeness of the search for signs of extraterrestrial radio transmissions and other technosignatures to date is roughly equivalent to having searched a small swimming pool for evidence of fish in all of Earth’s oceans.

How Much SETI Has Been Done? Finding Needles in the n-dimensional Cosmic Haystack
Jason T. WrightShubham Kanodia, and Emily Lubar 
The Astronomical Journal
Volume 156Number 6

Image credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF

In Defense of NaNoWriMo

In the last week of October, and the last week before this year’s NaNo, an episode of my favorite writing podcast was dedicated to the question of whether we, the listeners and aspiring writers, should do it or not. And the answer was a resounding NO. Tim Clare, the author of said podcast, brought forward an array of arguments to support his advice. Some of his thoughts made me look at NaNo from a new angle. NaNo has been a part of my life for nearly a decade now, so this fresh perspective is a valuable gift and I appreciate it.

At the same time, I was put off by the tremendous one-sidedness of these same arguments. It seemed that Tim was either unaware of, or intent on ignoring all potentially good things about NaNo. And if there were no good things about it, if all it ever did for anyone was make them miserable and prevent them from writing ever again (which is, basically, what Tim believes), it would have died off a long time ago. Instead, it gets bigger and more popular every year.

Tim isn’t necessarily wrong about its potential to harm, but this risk is limited to a small minority of participants: to people who, like himself, have a troubled relationship with writing. There have been other episodes of the podcast where it sounded like such people are the only audience Tim’s interested in speaking to. But this was the first time I felt there was literally nothing in it for the rest of us, not a single thought or word spared. This spurred me to write a response, even though I realize that NaNo has an army of voices speaking in its favor already and doesn’t particularly need me to defend it.

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The Honours

By Tim Clare

I got this book as a token of support for the author, whose wonderful writing podcast, Death Of 1000 Cuts, I’ve been listening to daily for a month now. I knew it’d be good. In his podcast, Tim explores pretty much every conceivable aspect of the writing craft from his own unique perspective. The episodes where he analyzes excerpts submitted by listeners offer an even deeper insight into what he considers good writing. And obviously I approve of his standards or I wouldn’t be listening to his show. THE HONOURS did not disappoint — but despite the positive prejudice, I ended up with mixed feelings about it.

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An Exercise in Self-Critique

A few weeks back, I was exposed to a Tumblr meme inviting writers to extract the first line from their ten latest works and see if some pattern will emerge. I accepted the challenge and indeed found some patterns — none of which are good. At about the same time, I started regularly listening to the marvelous writing podcast, Death Of 1000 Cuts (“making you an awesome writer one cut at a time!”) produced by the novelist, creative writing teacher and stand-up poet, Tim Clare. Among other things, this podcast features refreshingly honest and incredibly illuminating critiques of story beginnings submitted by courageous novice writers.

Thus inspired, I decided to make a series of posts in which I’ll take a critical look at the beginnings of some of my own stories. I’ll keep the excerpts under 250 words, and I’ll paste them whole before taking them apart one sentence at a time.

The first victim: Ghost in the Machine.

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Warbooks

I took several warbooks to my seaside vacation last month and managed to read three. I’ve never read that genre before and I wanted to get acquainted with it in the name of research for one of my writing projects. My picks were essentially random, from the several dozen old pocket books I inherited from my father and largely ignored because they’re mostly stuff I’m not interested in – books about the Second World War and Vietnam, books about mafia, books about Japan and books based on a variety of successful movies*. Anyway, the three books I read are, in the order I read them: GOING AFTER CACCIATO by Tim O’Brien, AN AFFAIR OF MEN by Errol Brathwaite and AND THEN WE HEARD THE THUNDER by John Oliver Killens. And the extraordinary thing is, not one of them is really a warbook.

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