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Aaron D. Bilodeau

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(no subject) [Feb. 1st, 2011|11:58 pm]
WTF

I have no idea who these people are or what they are doing, but it is made of awesome.
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Package Tracking Fail [Jan. 15th, 2011|02:33 am]
It's amazing what constant access to information has done for us.

I'm not going to dwell on it, but it is quite amazing.

Sometimes, however, it doesn't work quite as planned. Take my recent purchase, for example, made on January 10:



Today is Saturday, January 15. That means, according to this update, my package hasn't moved in two business days. However, in those first two days it accomplished some truly remarkable teats of travel. According to Google maps, my package has traveled approximately 3,365 miles in two days.

Here's a map of the travel route:



Note that I live in northwestern Indiana, about 350 miles from the origin point.

But never mind this. Let's look at the fact that, according to the tracking software, for those first two days my package traveled at an average speed of just over 120 miles per hour. All this without getting pulled over. Let's hear it for those delivery drivers.

But that's not even the most amazing part. After taking exactly 24 hours to get to from Nashville, TN to Hebron, KY (about 270 miles from Nashville), my package then raced back to its origin point in only 1 hour, 26 minutes and 36 seconds; a speed of just over 187 mph. Most commercial delivery trucks aren't even capable of this speed, so we must be dealing with some truly phenomenal drivers here.

But my delivery service isn't one to rest on their laurels. They then shipped my package from Nashville to Fort Lauderdale, a distance of 895 miles, in just over five hours, maintaining an average speed around 180 mph. That's not bad, but then, just to prove they could, they shipped my package to Saint Louis in 39 minutes flat.

39 minutes.

That's 1846 mph.

That's 2.5 times the speed of sound.

These guys are fast.

Okay, so I forgot to account for the change in time zone. That adds an hour to the travel time, which comes out to be only slightly supersonic. But they next sent my package all the way back to Hebron at a now-stately 263 mph. By comparison, the return trip to St Louis was practically glacial at 100 mph. I don't know what happened. Perhaps there was a strike.

In addition to all this, my delivery service managed to not just send my package to all these places, but to deliver it three times in three different cities, not one of which is within 300 miles of my own. That's what I call thorough service.

When my package does ultimately arrive I will enthusiastically give this delivery service five stars. In eight different galaxies. Separated by billions of years.
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Special Effects [Nov. 23rd, 2009|04:24 pm]
It is a tempting move, when writing speculative fiction, to include some kind of weirdness for no other reason than to show how weird the setting is.

DO NOT DO THIS.

This is a bad habit that started in the pulps, but the biggest culprit for the last three decades has been Hollywood. Science Fiction films are plagued with scenery cancer -- runaway imagery that serves no purpose in the plot, but is there solely because it looks cool.

But wait, I hear you asking, isn't stimulating imagery a vital part of any story? Well yes and no. Certainly it's difficult to tell an interesting tale without any appeal to visuals at all. But I'm not talking about sucking the coolness out of your story. By all means, use every cool image you can imagine in your writing. Just follow a few simple guidelines and you, too, can help prevent scenery cancer.

1. Write the story around the image. If you have a really cool scene in your head involving a futuristic city illuminated by frog-like beings that hang upside-down, are made of living crystal and feed on sound, go for it. Just make sure that the story is about the inverted glowing crystal frogs, or that they at least play some vital role in hindering or helping the hero.

2. Be selective. There are many weirdnesses that have become popular tropes in speculative fiction. magic swords and warp drives are common, and you can include as many of these as are appropriate for your setting. But anything that can't be roughly described in two words is going to really stand out, so pick two or three of the best ones and save the rest for another story.

3. Flesh it out. If you want to have a spaceship made of zombie squid parts you'd better also know who manufactured such a thing and why, how common they are, what sort of crew and cargo they normally carry and other details about how it fits into the rest of the world when it's not just floating there providing ambiance.

Cool imagery is not a bad thing. Writers of literature have an unlimited special effects budget, and it's a shame to waste that potential. Just choose your imagery carefully and make it work for your story, not the other way around.

Happy writing.
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On Momentum [Nov. 22nd, 2009|08:23 pm]
It's vital for a story to have lots of forward momentum. Novels must occasionally pause for breath, but that pause should be pregnant with tension. Slow parts must be not just laying the ground work for the next climax, but creating and tending to that exquisite anticipation.

It's equally important for the writer to have a powerful momentum. In short stories this is easier to accomplish, as one can often get past the halfway hurdle before the excitement of the new beginning runs out.

But a novel takes months to write. And the longer it takes the harder it will be to finish it. Part of being a professional is having the stamina to just wade ahead even when you're fatigued and want to throw the damn thing out the window. Some writers just plow right through this phase, hardly slowing down. This is the way to do it. Doing a second complete draft is much, much easier than trying to make major repairs as you go.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go make some major repairs.
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Why? [Nov. 21st, 2009|03:23 am]
One would think that blogging would be natural for a writer. After all, it's what we do for a living, our stock-in-trade. As professional put-words-on-paper people it seems inevitable that we would want to spend every minute of our free time doing exactly what we do during our working hours, only without the cumbersome burden of getting paid.

And, as it turns out, this is completely correct.

Perhaps it's because, by the time we get to the point of actually getting paid we've spent so much time not getting paid that it feels more comfortable. It could be that anyone crazy enough to want to make a living at this is already suffering from a kind of compulsive disorder. For some, we are so acutely aware of our own brilliance that it seems a shame, nay, a crime against humanity to withhold these nuggets of our genius from the less fortunate masses. Thus do we labor for the good of all mankind.

Of course, there's always the possibility that it's just plain fun. ;)

Happy writing.
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