Saturday, November 12, 2011

Preface to the second edition

Welcome (me) back. It’s been a year or three since I completed the first edition of Will? I Am! However, that version was only a stopgap, and I knew it. Although at the time I was pretty pleased with it, I was always aware that I had more to say. I indicated as much, but was in a hurry to bung at least a rough & ready version online in case I was side-tracked or otherwise taken out of circulation.
What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was that I would want to rewrite so much of what I’d written. It dismayed me to discover so many pages of useless, uninteresting and repetitious material. My explanations were often poor, and my linking was non-existent in places. A lot of reorganization was called for, so I steeled myself to kill off a whole tribe of little darlings. I’ve since had a whack at it and eliminated a lot, but no doubt there are more to go.
It could take forever to do a perfect job, but I wouldn’t want to wait that long. So here’s the plan: I’ll dive right into that running commentary that I promised you. Otherwise I might never get started. I’ll go through—section by section—and get my work up to scratch. Along the way, I’ll be reminded of points that I’d forgotten to make. I may make them there and then. If not, then I’ll include them in Part Two.
No wait . . . that’d make it Part Three.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Here's to you

THIS IS THE MAGNUM OPUS OF MY LIFE. I’m sorry if that sounds presumptuous, but with this topic it’s hard to avoid coming across in that way. But on second thoughts, why should I care how I come across? It's far more important to set out my personal philosophy without self-censorship.

My philosophy works for me, and it may work for others. That’s at the forefront of my thinking as I write. True, I'm not in this game to change minds, but I do wish to make this text available to every open mind. In fact, I’m dedicating it to the reader. As it was written, it was all about me; now that it's written, it's all about you.

Rose by another name

As per the fashion of the day, I used a two-parter as the name of my book.  Its working title was originally Will? I Am! But it grew on me and I’ve kept it. The pun on my name also serves to indicate that the notion of time will be important as a theme. The subtitle also flags that the book is a philosophical ToE (so be warned).  

Theory of Everythink alludes, of course, to the famous—and undiscovered—theory Einstein hoped to discover in the later part of his life. He did not, and no one ever has, at least not in the field of Physics. It would have combined or absorbed gravitational equations into the other electromagnetic and quantum stuff that he’d done, as far as I understand (or am interested in finding out). It’s not for me, and it’s not what Will? I Am! is about.

You’ll notice that I changed the last letter in the title from a ‘g’ to a ‘k’. I had a couple of reasons for doing that. First, it reflects that the main tool du jour used is thought experimentation. Second, it hints that the tone will be light-hearted; ‘think’ is often how the uneducated pronounce ‘thing’. Finally, I introduced the hyphen in Theo-ry when I remembered that Van Gogh, who features prominently in the book, had a brother by that name.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Not her story

When you are insecure about your writing, it helps to start off with someone else's. Apart from assisting me to slip into the groove, Douglas Adams sets a certain tone: light & frothy, witty and not too pompous. That's my aim too. And when I proofread, I'm immune (at least for his bit) to the temptation of endlessly exchanging one word for another.

In the lead-in to The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you read, or hear narrated in a voice with a BBC accent:

‘And then, one Thursday, nearly 2,000 years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realised what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.

‘Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it the Earth was unexpectedly demolished to make way for a hyperspace by-pass, and so the idea was lost forever.
‘This is not her story.’

In a hole in the ground

They say that for years before he started work on LOTR Tolkein carried around the image, or maybe the sentence: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. In the same vein, I walked about with the first few paragraphs of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe in my head. And most uncomfortable it was too! Why was it there? What was I going to do with it?

But when I settled down to produce my magnum opus, it slotted right into place and I’ve never looked back. The only thing I’ve since done is to preface it with a few sentences of explanation that would help random readers work out where they’d arrived. I had Internet surfers in mind, you see. It was always my plan to make the thing available online, never dreaming that it would become such a roaring success in the real world of publishing—ha ha!

(I’ve always struggled with the issue of commercialism. In the sentence ‘I promise to make it readily available’ I had originally included the phrase ‘and freely’—and may do so again. I’d love to opt out of the capitalist world, but there aren’t many other options.)

And so, yes, I put it out as a blog. And I had a lot of fun finding suitable illustrations. The chapters are very short—as befits the medium. They also made (make) it easier for me to find my way around the body of my work. There was such an awful amount of repetition, detouring, numerous false starts and so forth. It was as if I was stacking a deck of cards.

With the subject matter that I intended to cover, I knew that I risked sounding presumptuous—something to be avoided if I could. I wasn’t at all interested in presenting facts, laying out logic, or substantiating claims with quotes and references. I would not plod an academic route.

I felt that the best approach was to leaven my output with a bit of tongue and cheek. No brow-beating. No insidiousness. No arguments. You just put people on the defensive (I’ve been on the receiving end of such treatment more than once). I meant to be up front and on the level. So that bring us up to Adams’s extract, which, all in all, I felt was the right way to go.