I’ve been away from my blog for a long time. There were several little issues that I think of as “reasons,” but the real problem was the damage I took in being relegated to the scrapheap by my former employer when they laid me off. I didn’t admit to myself how much that hurt me — how it left me unconfident and devastated, despite my sure knowledge that it wasn’t personal, it wasn’t even reasonable, and that I could be more than I had been in my new role.

So I’m writing again. A little. Here in this blog, and maybe some day soon I’ll be finishing my A.N.G.E.L. story.

One hurdle in getting this blog back into shape was that I had started moving the whole thing to another hosting mechanism. I started with WordPress, found it appalling, then moved to Ghost, which was nicer but seemed just not quite what I wanted.

I found Hexo and it’s just what I wanted.

I do have a new role. I’m a system architect for a gigantic electronics manufacturing company (no, not that evil one everyone knows from Apple’s struggles with human rights, but one nearly that big). What I do isn’t directly engineer as such — it’s more like I act as a translator (sometimes literally) between our customers and their needs and the “real” engineers, who are mostly located in Shanghai.

Ah, Shanghai — one of the largest cities in the world, and a showpiece for the thriving future China envisions for all of its citizens. What a vibrant, exciting, self-contradictory place it is. I’ve spent many weeks there in the first six months of my new job, and I expect I’ll continue that. The people I work with there are good folks with talents and energy and a real sense of espirit de corps in their work environment. This despite the causually dismissive attitude that seems to pervade the electronics and engineering communities when it comes to Chinese talent. These people are a product of their history, but they also have a lot of future create and they are fucking doing it.

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I have characters who have to give speeches. I’m sure most authors have this problem. How do you write a speech, really?

Here’s a speech from my character Rik van der Gelder after the conviction and initial sentencing by tribunal of the would-be warlord, Soong. I worked on this for almost two days, and I still hate it. But I think it’s as good as I could do at the time. Maybe I could make it better now, but that ship has sailed.

My fellows in the United Planets, I want you to think about what it means to have freedom and to be a society dedicated to justice and peace. I want you to think about what our fundamental principles mean today, and every day, to each one of us. I want you to think about what it is we have been fighting for. Not only do we enjoy the fruits of these beliefs, but we are also bound by the responsibility of fidelity to them, no matter how difficult that may be.

It’s obvious that the worlds of the United Planets have been wronged, terribly and unforgivably, by one insane man’s ruthless pursuit of personal power, and by many others who blindly followed him. Stories like this have played out in human civilizations for all of our recorded history. In some cases, the result was remembered by historians as positive and unifying, and in others as despicable acts of senseless aggression.

We all know, objectivity, that many of the formative moments of our civilization’s history could be viewed in either of these two polar opposite ways. In each case, whether the ‘good guys’ or the ‘bad guys’ triumphed our civilization eventually moved on.

I don’t suggest we eliminate punishment for those responsible for the deaths and destruction we’ve all endured for the last seven years. Nor do I believe we should grant clemency. But I ask you to consider, in your mind and conscience and heart if a society such as ours, dedicated to justice and peace as we claim we are, should mete out punishments as brutal and barbaric as those that have been prescribed by the Tribunal today.

Do we believe in justice? Of course — it is fundamental. Is punishment for these war crimes just? There’s no doubt that it is. Consider the following critical question: Does the proposed punishment sound like justice? Or does it sound like an angry mob’s mass animal instinct to seek revenge?

Thank you for your attention.

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Neil Gaiman](http://33.media.tumblr.com/4236de1d4a7d4310e60c379fa936f0df/tumblr_n92u08Qc751rstdiyo1_r1_1280.jpg) Neil Gaiman’s 8 rules of writing.

Wil Wheaton often surprises me. He’s profane, silly, stupid, and often very wise. I find he suffers from Sturgeon’s Law, but the ten percent that isn’t crap is sublime. Wheaton finds things for me that I wouldn’t find any other way. It was Wheaton’s blog post that led me to Gaiman’s eight writing tips, even if I choose to link to the original post instead of Wil’s graphical form.

These “rules” are right on. I find that I have accidentally managed to follow them in my writing over the years I have been learning how by doing. Gaiman, as usual, is bloody well right. If John Scalzi is living my image of The Perfect Life, Neil Gaiman is living the one I would live if I weren’t an old, stodgy person - he’s married to Amanda Palmer, for Christ’s sake! That fascinatingly wild woman is someone I couldn’t survive living with, I’m certain; my wonderful wife is a perfect match for me. In fact, as my mother would tell you if she were still living, I was born stodgy and conservative. To corrupt an Indiana Jones quote, apparently it’s not the years, honey, it’s the genes.

Each of these rules of writing is important in its own right. The one about putting your manuscript away for a while before re-reading it has been vital for me. I found a lot of bugs in the storytelling from doing this, but also my perspective had changed over time. That might have something to do with the amount of time — I put it away for nearly a decade while I worked for a startup that demanded all of my energy, and later got a divorce. Sometimes life gets in the way of art.

Listening to your pre-readers is hard. Not in the sense of ego being crushed — I expected them to say things that crushed my baby’s soul. But knowing what to _do_ about the issues they found, where they arguably had a point of view more relevant to my book than I did, now that was difficult. I had two people read my book that weren’t science fiction fans of any stripe. In fact, they were both English majors. They found a lot in my book to like, which helped me feel better about it. But they also saw things that I could never perceive because I was standing in the middle of the stream that had flowed through my own experience reading science fiction for fifty years.

Gaiman and Scalzi are geniuses in their field. I’m only striving to be above average at this point.

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Alan Mimms

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Seattle, Washington, USA, Earth