Posted in Artist in Residence, November 2013- Joe Hope, Writing

Specialisation is for Insects, Chapter 1 continued. Joe Hope

This month Joe Hope has been leading us on a journey into the world of writing.  He set himself the challenge of reading his sleeping novel and reworking chapter one.  Yesterday, he unveiled Chapter 1, Specialisation Is For Insects, which he has be working on this month as Artist Called Anyone in Residence.  If you missed yesterday then read part one first.  Otherwise read on and enjoy…

”Three and five years ago,” agreed Jade, leaning back now that they were going to get to the demonstration without having to go through a shouting match. This was the last university club to maintain his interest, but with the unusually large number of alumni who shared the same opinion and stayed on year after year, it did tend to have some rather rabid political cycles.

Simon snorted. ”I thought you were younger than me. Did you start here when you were thirteen?” His voice was brash. ”Tag along with your older brother or something?”

Jade shrugged, and glanced around the room. It was, now that he thought about it, extremely heavy on male representation. Bias from the content? Or positive feedback in a social identity sense? Visions of bistability hysteresis curves danced through his head idly, as he tried to imagine the group dynamic with a full gender reversal.

The Chair waved a hand dismissively. ”I remember when Jade joined. Thin young man, but he can’t have been quite so young as that.”

Jade shrugged again, and didn’t bother to correct him. ”Couldn’t wait to get started. Speaking of which – ”

Simon’s appraisal became a little sharper. ”Some kind of genius, then, are you?”

It was a tone that Jade knew well. Part compliment, part challenge. An assumption of hubris. He’d heard it throughout his life, and learned the art of the easy deflection. Thankfully, it came up less these days than during his first forays into college or university life, but there was still the occasional awkward pause to be found. It was a blessing that he looked older than he was, and also that people made less direct comparisons now that he was a graduate student.

Jade’s easy smile stayed. ”Let’s just say that I’m sure I’m not the smartest person in the room,” he replied after a small pause, spreading one hand. He turned a little to the Chair, silently willing him to get on with the agenda.

Simon laughed the loud chortle of the young. ”Well, if the books are anything to go by, I suppose this club ought to be full of red-headed polyamorous geniuses!”

Jade offhandedly indicated the redhead-poor room with one hand, while reaching into Sevent’s half-empty bag of recently-made fudge.

”Hope springs eternal.” The cherry vanilla cube popped into his mouth.

With a brackish clearing of his throat, the chair rumbled into action. ”Moving on,” he drawled, ”we’d appreciate your input on the extension skills planning night, Simon, but it’s past time we started on our second session.”

He tapped on his sleeve, and the wall lit up with a simple title slide: ’Protocol Programming’.

While nimbus management is something taught at high school, the majority of people get through their lives using little more than the standard group of interface items, each using one of a handful of standard software templates. Last month we explored both the underlying ideas behind the negotiations with our nimbus, and spent multiple sessions learning how to develop more customised code for fine-tuning the handshaking process. Today, we turn our attention to the side of that process that is usually the domain of professionals: the design of house protocols themselves.”

The chair gestured an invitation to Sevent, who had lifted his gaze during the introduction. ”We have invited our regular, ah, ’consultant’, Sevent Firth, to lead us.”

Sevent palmed two more huge cubes of fudge as he stood up. Without any visible triggering movement or voice command, a complicated rendered schematic of a network replaced the title slide on the wall. ”We interact with protocols every time we change locations, every time our nimbus changes state, and even every time we send or receive data. More than simply a hierarchy of filters and permissions management for data, they can be used to inject or edit active code. These abilities are why nimbus programming is so full of nested sandboxes – with great power and flexibility come serious security concerns.”

Sevent’s voice carried easily across the room, and the words were surprisingly well enunciated given their extraordinary speed. The newer members of the club might have interpreted it as an expected effect of the enormous sugar high that he must be experiencing after consuming approximately a kilo of fudge over the last hour, but older hands knew it was just the same when he wasn’t eating simple carbs. The words came out like a barely controlled torrent.

”Even without video input, a typical protocol setup can pinpoint most network active devices to the metre scale.” At Sevent’s nod, the wall’s screen blossomed into a map of the room. The devices were represented as shadowy icons, each displaying a label and table of summary information, floating in three dimensions.

Each person was clearly visible as a cloud of such items. ”Here you can see the standard visual representation of the diagnostic interface,” Sevent said, as he reached for his pTerm. ”Which can be used for ad-hoc work.” He tapped furiously on his screen for a few moments, and the advertising streams on every shirt in the room suddenly went blank.

”This session is going to introduce you to a brief schematic of the substructure used for these interactions, and then we’ll start with an exercise to try to re-establish your ad-streams.”


It was almost two hours later before Jade and Sevent re-emerged into the late, late afternoon sunshine. Supplies had run out half an hour before, and Sevent was starting to act a little fey. Jade stretched in the autumn light, and yawned in the gentle air.

Sevent unlocked their bikes. ”You could always dye your hair red, you know.”

Jade grunted. ”So could you.”

Sevent shook his head. ”I’m not a polyamorous genius,” he declared as he wheeled his bike backwards. ”So it wouldn’t have the same effect.”

Jade considered this with a tilted head as he retrieved his own. ”Let me find a bottle of oil, guarantee you’ll sit still and do as you’re told for two hours tonight, and I’ll try to bring you around,” he suggested.

Sevent’s eyes lost their playful gleam as seemed to consider this. ”It’s not the worst offer I’ll get tonight, but I just don’t think I’m built that way,” he said as he looked up at the snow-gold skin of the gum tree. ”Would take too much balance. Someone’s always got to come first.”

Sevent’s helmet blocked Jade’s momentary dumfounded stare. Every now and again, my friend, thought Jade, you can be such a moron.

Jade sighed as he pulled his own helmet on.

”If we’re going to get you a better offer tonight, we’d better get to the party before everyone gets too drunk.”

Jade slid over his bike in one smooth motion.

”To the Resurrection!” he announced.

Joe Hope

Posted in Artist in Residence, November 2013- Joe Hope, Writing

Chapter 1: Joe Hope, Artist in Residence

With an introduction from Sophie

When I was envisioning this blog, it was as a place for people, including myself to come for creative inspiration, whatever our starting point.  The Artist Called Anyone in Residence is a big part of that vision.  This month we have seen Joe set himself the challenge of waking his sleeping novel, reading it and reworking chapter one.  This novel has been with him for over 20 years, and he wants it born.  It has been a huge effort and I am excited to read it.  Through this process Joe has inspired me write more, both volume and depth.  He has also inspired me to visualise my novel, imagine the cover with my name on it.  That has been an awakening in itself.  Thank you.

And here is Joe’s work, the culmination of ‘Joevember’

Chapter 1  

Specialisation Is For Insects

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, co-operate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialisation is for insects.

– Robert A. Heinlein

Only two paragraphs into it, Jade knew that he was in safe hands, so he tried to settle in to read. The young man two seats to his left was working himself around to committing heresy, however, and it was terribly distracting.

”It’s just,” the young man had tried, clearly quite aware of the bristling chairman’s increasingly aggressive objections, and yet determined to make his point regardless, ”that the spirit of the quote seems to be quite clear. There’s nothing particularly special about ships or sonnets over, say, tractors and haiku. If Hein-lein were here, he’d be the first to –

”The Chairman, a grizzled greybeard in both the metaphorical and literal sense, couldn’t hold it in past that point. ”So you happen to be quite sure what Robert Heinlein would say, do you?” he barked. ”Over the hundreds of thousands of words that he considered, and wrote? It may be a sample list, but it spans much of human life quite deliberately, I can assure you.” The seats in the fluorescent classroom had been arranged in a pair of circles, and heavyset leader swung his shaggy head from left to right, scanning the faces around the large ring before returning to the source of his pain. ”Simon,” he said, piercing the adolescent with an authoritative glare. Jade was suddenly reminded of a time he saw one of his professors hammer down a suggestion that the offices in the mathematics building be reassigned. The professor in question was a slender asian man, but the aura of active immovability seemed shared through some ill-defined brotherhood. ”We have a considerable auxiliary skill list on the main boards, for which we are always glad to accept input. But the core list has been unchanged from the original text in Time Enough For Love ever since this club was founded over forty years ago. We see no reason to change it now.”

Simon was flustered, but unabashed. ”…but surely a core list of skills is something that should be updated over the years? As inspiring as that quote has been…”

Jade’s head lifted up. Here it comes, he thought. And may the Departed Greats have mercy on his soul.

”…there’s nothing special about that particular moment in time. And though Heinlein was well ahead of his time in many ways, we shouldn’t take his pronouncements as gospel. Even a genius of one age couldn’t write this list for a later age, and Heinlein wasn’t really what you’d call – ”

Then: anti-sound, as the comforting flutter of human-generated background noise suddenly paused. Jade glanced over to Sevent. Sevent’s head hadn’t moved from his pTerm, and his eyes flicked wildly across the dancing text, but he had grown a tiny smirk. In the remaining half second, Jade attempted his rescue.

”The thing is, Simon,” he announced in a kind and firm voice, ”we’ve gone through the process of attempting to revise the core list before. At least twice since I joined the club, and presumably many times before that.”He gave the room just enough time to grunt some kind of approval, but not enough to interject. ”And every time it’s been a disaster. Because everyone comes up with their own list, and precisely because it’s an arbitrary subset in the first place, there are no real guidelines for throwing out anybody’s suggestions. So we circle around it for a while and agree to update the auxiliary list, while returning to the core list from the quote. Most people don’t worry about going through the lists in any kind of order, so it’s not like it really matters that much.”

Simon was evidently unconvinced, but his plans to nail his theses to the church door were temporarily disrupted by a thought and a single raised eyebrow.

”Twice?” he asked, incredulous.

To be continued tomorrow…

Posted in 15 Minutes, Writing

Tuesday, just try it: Writing what no one must read.

I don’t think i have ever written ANYTHING without thinking in the back of my mind that someone, someday may read it.  Every journal entry, every computer file has had that thought behind it.  So because of that everything I write has been self censored, something I wouldn’t have reflected on except that Joe, this month’s artist in residence has set this challenge.

Here’s a quick challenge for you.  Anyone can do this.  Write down, as short as you like, something that is true, but something that you feel like you must never let anyone else read.  Maybe it’s something lots of people think, but you feel is forbidden to say.  Maybe it’s a truth that could be painful for someone else to hear.  Maybe it’s something of which you’re ashamed.  But write it down, right there in front of you. In black and white, as clearly as you can say it.

By all means, dispose of the evidence if you wish.

And dispose of it I will, lest the censor visits again.  Here I go…


and you will never know.

Posted in Writing

Monday Musing- A month of writing

Today is the last Monday in Joevember, which has been my month of writing, in line with Joe, our Artist Called Anyone in Residence.  I have been aware that he is working away reading through his novel with the aim of a rewrite of Chapter 1.  On top of this he has managed to produce new work for the blog.   So how have I gone?  How have you gone?  Do I have to be honest?

I have felt challenged and impressed by Joe’s ability to say what many people wouldn’t.  To embrace the difficult topics, to bleed onto the page.  I have reread my own words at times and found them trite by comparison and yet the Artist Called Anyone concept is about jumping in at our own level, moving progressively towards the edge of our comfort zone.    It is above all about just engaging,  simply writing and seeing where it takes you.  We have both been doing that, though Joe and I have been to very different places.

I have written on most days so far and feel like I have removed some of the extraneous muck out of my head.  I find it hard not to relax and let life take over. What would it take for me to manage my 750 words of ‘stream of consciousness’ writing everyday? Maybe the threat of no chocolate?  Actually if that were a real threat it would probably work.

And now onward into the final week of Joevember…

Posted in an hour or two, Writing

Make your own story book

If you would love to write an illustrated book but you are not into illustrating then may be for you.  It is a site where you can choose illustrations and write a book around them, you can even order a copy if you create something which you like.  I would think twice before putting your life’s work up there due to potential ownership issues but it is good fun.

Here is an example- What will you do when the monsters come?

Posted in Artist in Residence, November 2013- Joe Hope, Uncategorized, Writing

Artist Called Anyone in Residence- Joe Hope

I’ve seen so many, they’re starting to blur together unfairly. Suited or casual, cocksure. Award-winning and sound. Some of the trappings of maturity, but bluster if threatened. Questions are threats. Facts can be questions.

Compulsively piling toys, hanging with the in crowd. Now that the schoolyard clique has the money and the tools, it must be the centre, right? Free to bully. Free to help. Free to offer advice. Dismissive. Capable of tantrums.

If I could give temperance to a toddler, I could say: Every little thing must be built. Every plate washed. Every heart held. We are all stripped naked by the end. And bonds that do not take a lifetime to make peel away with the warpaint.

But I can’t. I hear:




Posted in an hour or two, Writing

The First Line writing game

I just spent a weekend away with an awesome group of women.  In the evening we played a game I know as the ‘first line game’.  I love that you don’t need to remember to bring it with you, all you need is a few books and a pen and paper for each person.

Here is how it goes…

One person grabs a book from the bookshelf ( or a few to choose the best from).  They show the front cover to the group and read the blurb on the back cover. Each person then has to write a plausible first line for the book on a piece of paper.  The person who chose the book writes the actual first sentence on their paper.

The answers are shuffled, numbered and read out in turn.  Each person votes for which they think is the actual first line.  If someone votes for your first line you get 1 point, whoever guesses the real first line gets 5 points and if no one guesses the real one, the person who chose the book gets 10 points.  Or you just enjoy the laughs and skip the scoring.

By the end of the game you are a pro at whacking out first lines and some of them even seem good (or brilliant depending how much alcohol you have consumed).

House on the Hill:

  1. Although it didn’t seem important at the time, Peter was soon to regret his decision to leave Chichester on the 8.05 train.
  2. From the track the house looked innocent enough- well tended gardens, manicured lawns and a white hinged gate.
  3. It was built by Rose’s father, in the palladian style, symmetrical and grand.
  4. Glasgow was rich
  5. It was not until the middle of October, with dusk curtaining the hills, that Emma at last arrived at the house she had so oddly inherited.
  6. Jeremy gripped the handle of his walking stick until his knuckles whitened as he strode across the echoing front hall to answer the door himself, for the first time.

Which do you choose?

We got into a discussion the next day about whether we had the rest of the book in us and which book we would like to read based on the first line.

Some more:

I was just about to overtake Salvadore when I heard my sister scream.

There was a time when there was no tomorrow, now was all I knew.

Rose wondered if cats cared about the gender of their kittens, she herself, wished she had had a boy.

and for the record…House on the hill- first line -4

What did you guess?