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Hello from out here on the Thames Delta. I am on low power this week - I am, in fact, doing a couple of days of Slow Carb to try and kickstart the loss of the annoyingly clinging winter weight I picked up, and I would murder you for a pain au levain and a slice of Cornish cheddar right now.  Or a banana. I would kill you for a banana and a handful of blueberries. Thank god I can drink two glasses of wine.  I found the largest glasses in the house.  Each one can hold half a bottle of wine. 

I have the self-discipline of a squirrel.

I received the following email last week:

I always enjoy your newsletters, but your typical laundry list of deadlines generally makes me want to throw up. I'm curious to know how you manage your time. In a future newsletter, would you be into illustrating what a typical workday looks like for you and/or any guiding principles you employ while engaging an overwhelming workload?

I've had this request in similar form several times in the last few weeks.  So, then, a typical day, which means the weather is not warm and I'm not writing a novel:

I wake up some time between 11am and noon, usually to the alarm on my phone, which is currently either playing "Morning Sun" by Holly Herndon or, for no good reason, "Meditational Field" by Susumu Hirasawa. I will usually skim the iOS notifications pulldown while in bed, to get a sense of the overnight news and traffic, and fire off a couple of snaps to a few friends to denote life. Often, I will also press the button that fires an old Thames Television ident image along with a timestamp to Twitter, as a general signal that I'm awake.  (When it fucking works properly.)

(There's a whole thought process to unpack about the pressing of that button.)

Mornings are not my best time. While my podcast app is updating, I juice a lemon and drink the juice mixed in half a pint of water, eat a protein bar for 30 grams of protein, because I'm 48 and my metabolism needs a fucking hand crank to get started, and put an espresso on. I spend the first hour of every day outside in the back garden, drinking three or four espressos, most often just with my phone and a set of earbuds. I read through the overnight email, get a slice of Twitter and Instagram, read the Guardian and BBC news headlines, properly process Snapchat and WhatsApp, skim the single Slack I'm on, read Economist Espresso, and listen to the Best Of Today and Economist Radio podcasts.  Sometimes also Five Thirty Eight Elections, which has been excellent.

That first hour is vital. If I don't get it, I am beyond cranky for the rest of the day. I need to power up slowly and peacefully.

Ideally, after this hour, I should walk for thirty minutes, where I will listen to a documentary podcast like In Our Time or a music podcast. I might push it til later.  :Lately, I've been so insanely busy that I've only been walking once every two or three days, which is bad.

At this point, I should be making a smoothie, but I'm probably just grabbing a bottle of water (drinking at least two liters of alkaline water a day) and going to the office. I fire up the laptop, the external monitor and the old iPad 2, the latter of which is my office music system. On the iPad, I'm putting on a podcast or Berlin Community Radio or Soma FM Drone Zone, and running Panic Status Board over the top, which is mostly used for news and timezone + weather tracking.

I'm throwing Tweetdeck up on the big screen to see my six Twitter lists, opening Feedbin for my RSS feeds, and I am answering emails and reading more news. Usually also prepping an edition of a private newsletter I run for friends and fellow travellers. Thinking about getting a sidecar clip to put another screen, maybe a tablet, on the right edge of the big external monitor.

I put on a Pebble Time Steel watch at this point - it saves phone battery life and lets me see phone-based notifications while typing if I so choose.

All my messaging apps are on, at this point. They include WhatsApp, Snapchat, Messenger, Twitter and IG direct messages, Telegram, Skype. Most of them get turned off if I'm crazy busy - Skype is usually the first to go.  People with my Skype number can call straight through to my phone (thanks to a Skype redirect product) if it's important. But, honestly, most of them are pretty quiet - it's just handy to have them.

And then I start work. 

From here until around 630 it's basically a blur.  I get up once an hour to stretch and have a cigarette outside. I live in OpenOffice, Word, Gmail and Google Calendar. I eat lunch at my desk during this period, unless I've pushed my walk to later and have decided to grab lunch while I'm out.  

I am guided by the whiteboard on the wall over my desk, by my calendar, by my notebook and by email. Often, it's triage -- what most needs to be done?  Sometimes it's just, what do I feel like writing? I have a few projects on the go at any one time, and, on the good days, I can just decide which one I'm in the best frame of mind for. When the job is dictated by the schedule -- well, I have notes on every project, so sometimes I just take a deep breath and hope that I can get into it or fake it that day.  (Everything gets two drafts - if the first draft is solid, the second draft can be faked, and if the first draft is shit because I faked it, it can be fixed in the second.)

No coffee after 6pm. No drinking at my desk before 6pm.

At 630, I break for dinner.  Dinner is often also eaten at my desk, and it's when I sample some streaming tv or take in some other form of video content.

After which, I am working until around 2am. Sometimes a little earlier, occasionally much later, but I aim to be heading towards bed before 2am.  The sign is my closedown ritual, which is a good way to tell my own brain to pack it the hell in now. Back in the stone age, British TV channels would actually close down, late at night, and finish with a static card, that often said "good night."  I have a jpg of the old Thames Television closedown card, and I post that to Twitter.  As soon as that's posted, everything is turned off.  I'm done.  I go to bed and read until around 3am - backlit Kindle Paperlight. That, by the way, should answer the FAQ of how I read a book a week.

Once again: I am not a role model. You will note from the above that I have no social life.

Well, that was staggeringly fucking boring, wasn't it?  This will teach you people to send requests. NEXT.



I am finishing up the foreword for PROBLEM GLYPHS, the book by Eliza Gauger, now on Kickstarter.

Molly Crabapple — "Eliza Gauger's problem glyphs take crowdsourced agonies and crystallize them into symbols. In the beginning, art was inseparable from magic, and Gauger returns it to its roots, in a twist updated to the pace, needs, and logic of the network."

Neil Gaiman — "I think it's a beautiful way of talking about problems, empowering people, and letting the magic of art happen in their lives."

  • GO! is a comic by James Harvey with Zoe Harvey - and M83. Here's the link. You can listen to the song while reading the comic it was designed for, syncing by listening to the lyrics.
  • I was asked to mention this David Bowie exhibition in London in aid of Cancer Research UK.
  • Enjoy the deep gravelly voice of my comrade Benjamin Percy as he growls at some young presenters about his work at DC Comics. Ben's little smile when he talks about scaring the hell out of people with a voice you normally only heard in trailers for snuff films in your nightmares is worth the price of entry.



Edinburgh SF axis. Charlie Stross somewhere in town, Iain Banks in North Queensferry, Ken MacLeod in South Queensferry.  All very interested in culture and politics to differing degrees.  Ken McLeod is the most outwardly political of the three, as a writer, being an old Trot.  He's been playing with different genre models of late, and, in this first book of a trilogy, I wonder if he hasn't decided to try and play a more commercial game.

No more old political forms in this one.  Brilliantly, he sets up a world war between Accelerationism and Neoreaction.  He starts it in the near future and projects it into the far future and tangles it up with artificial conscious intelligence and a kind of Permanent Late Capitalism and it feels right up to the minute. He's hit the main vein of conversation about locks on artificial intelligence and living in simulations and exoplanetary exploitation and drone warfare and wraps it all into a remarkably human, funny and smartly-designed yarn.

It is, in fact, a king-hell commercial entertainment.  It's not a small book, but it rips along on rockets - and makes you feel bad for a guy called Carlos The Terrorist into the bargain. And, yes, it is about politics, framed in a way that is science fictional in that it also speaks to the science-fictional condition we currently live in where such things actually exist as part of the fabric of our slightly insane world. If that makes any sense. Anyway. It's smart and very Edinburgh SF Axis and you will probably like it if you're in the mood for science fiction.


ZERO K, Don DeLillo.  All week I've wanted to say "this is a chilly book," but I am not Kieron Gillen and I cannot commit such a pun without shame. It doesn't have the propulsive force of POINT OMEGA. Set in a bunker in the middle of nowhere, it explores the notion of cryonics, centering around a dying woman who will be euthanised, frozen and stored right there, under the earth, until such time as she can be revived in full health. Except, of course, that it's not really about her, it's about her moneyed, alienated, rudderless and probably mental stepson, whose name is I Need A Fucking Slap. No, wait. Jeffery. It's not a stupid book, by any means, and it has things to say. It is, in its way, a perfect statement of intent. Late in the man's canon as it is, it may be an ideal entrance to DeLillo for many, as it doesn't have the performative, theatrical dialogue of COSMOPOLIS or the massive tranches of information that made UNDERWORLD a difficult (and physically heavy!) place to start for many.  The style may in fact fit and reflect the material in a particularly apt way -- it occurs to me that something cold and low-energy and meandering and half-buried does evoke the material of the book -- but I keep going to places like "it's half-dead" and jesus christ I can't. 

I'm conflicted. I love it in a few places. I like it in a lot more. I may be in the wrong space for it.

I find myself hoping DeLillo has at least one more book in him. ZERO K is a nice statement about "forward escape" for the rich and lucky, and their vacuous supermodern world of spaces made to travel through and sleep in, and we can forgive it its pantomime autism for it has beautiful things in it, because it's Don DeLillo. But it shouldn't be his last book.  Any DeLillo is worthy of reading and study, but this subterranean, chambered thing, this empty irreality, is absent the human breath that makes a great Don DeLillo book. 

ZERO K, Don DeLillo (UK) (US)


Okay, I was hoping to get this, a foreword and a script done by this time, so I could consider leaving the house for a bit.  But those other two things aren't yet finished.  So I'm going to leave this here.  See you next week, I hope. I love you all.  I wouldn't still be here otherwise.

- W