The Voodoo Viewpoint: Is new media stealing our souls and memories?

Halloween bookshelf

I haven’t blogged for a while, having had new things to deal with through the summer and autumn along with writing, and waiting for other things to be resolved – everyday life has got in the way, and all of it worthy of my time – so I can honestly say I don’t feel I’ve missed anything by not procrastinating online too much.

This post has been on my mind for a while over the past year, and I’ve turning it over further in my mind since a topic came up on Facebook regarding the well-roasted old chestnut of ebook vs. print books, and what might supplant them in the future. When I made my comment, I didn’t realise how much of an observation it really was. But the thought of it keeps returning to me, so I’ll attempt to dissect it further now. (I’ve used ‘Voodoo’ in the title as I was originally going to post it as Voodoo Spice first – but there is another relevance to the reference).

My comment on the post was:

I think real books will stick around for another reason – the same reason as real music disc collections, and real movie DVDs, and real photo albums. The death of these things will mean the end of being able to remember lost loved ones. Imagine going into an elderly relative’s last residence, and instead of shelves full of their favourite media that you can pick up and read and smell, and admire, all that’s there is a computer tablet full of password-protected cloud-storage erotica. Supposing they’re survived by 20+ family members all wanting a memento? Will they have to take turns hacking into his or her tablet to read their, erm, favourites???

It’s not only the issue of having physical objects with which to remember a loved one, though. When you first make a new friend, visit their home for the first time, you see immediately by their books, music, film collections, and photographs what you have in common. Without those, it takes far longer to define. How do you learn about a person who wears nothing on their sleeve in real life? Are they hiding something about their personality, their cultural and entertainment tastes, behind password-protected anonymous digital storage products? How much of their social media persona is genuine – do they really like Top Gear, or do they just ‘Like’ it on Facebook? How long does it take to make early judgements of compatibility when all you see in their home is the faceless packaging and housing of technology? Is this creating the hacking, snooping, prying, suspicious culture that troubles present-day relationships?

Are we sacrificing our personalities, our ability to connect with one another in real life without the social media screens, in favour of electronic packaging?

Back to the subject of bereavement and memories, there is another agenda surfacing to consider.

Electronic media itself has no re-sale value. The tablets and electronic devices can be re-sold, but they lose value in the very short term. Unlike physical books, vinyls, cassettes, picture frames, CDs, and DVDs – when you buy anything in digital format, to watch, read or listen to, its solvency value is zero. So even if your descendants, friends and family don’t want to share the digital tablet and know your passwords to enjoy your *ahem* favourites, they can only sell the tablet itself. Even if you have bought 70,000 books, movies, and songs in your lifetime, they do not add up to £70,000 worth of house clearance on ebay to divide among the mourners. They add up to zero.

They money you spend on electronic books and media to fill your device has gone for good. You cannot donate the products to an Oxfam bookshop after you have enjoyed them in order for others to benefit. You cannot have a yard sale or a car boot fair stand of portable entertainment to fund a party, or to pay a few bills. You have not invested your money in anything physically reminiscent that can be enjoyed as part of the soul of a lost loved one, or liquidated as an asset in the future.

The money has gone for good, into the great black hole of the business that also sold you the device to enjoy it on, or to store in some online cloud.

So in the future, without personal possessions for family and friends to remember us by – not even the chance to flick through the same books and photo albums we held, and no idea how to access our family photographs and music – and more and more social lives being conducted online – how will anyone remember their grandparents and great-grandparents beyond faces on a screen?

Will the youngest family members have the sense of identity and individual heritage that children before the digital age grew up with?

Will old people just die and disappear, leaving nothing behind but an online account full of media they spent thousands on, which is worth precisely nothing to their descendants even if they have the ability to access it? Will their living memories and personalities evaporate the second you tap on ‘Confirm shut down/log off device’?

Will folk start leaving clauses on their departure, that no-one is to hack into the tablet at all to avoid finding out how much porn and erotica they downloaded to keep them warm in their old age?

Never mind what to do with Granny, the last Will and Testament says we have to burn her Kindle first… aptly named device, if ever there was one. I see a new business opportunity looming – the “Kindle Crematorium” where dirty old reading habits go after you die…

It’s a mystery that leaves me very curious. I already find houses without books, music, photograph or film collections very odd – rather like pictures of home interiors in advertising, with no identity of the occupants visible. Sterile, like a showroom to sell a product or furniture lifestyle – not a working, living home. And if that is what remains in the future, when individuals die, what is left to know of them? An indentation in the sofa, perhaps – where they sat while playing Candy Crush Saga online?

So never mind that a computer tablet doesn’t provide the same decorative impact as a bookshelf, or provide the same soundproofing from your neighbours. Never mind that it’s a good way of hiding your reading habits, and a bad way of storing your nekkid selfies. It’s also a good way of spending your children’s inheritance – permanently. Throwing your small change onto the Kindle Fire (literally), never, ever to return as second-hand small change, ever again. Quite possibly thrown away along with the material potential for any of your descendants to remember you for more than one surviving generation…

Happy Halloween! 🙂 xxx

If you want to learn to how to format a print-on-demand book, publish and distribute for free, click here for my tutorial. You can also learn how to format ebooks and multimedia booksIf those still light your candle 😉 x

Fly-tying – part two

See previous post for details – all footage (c) Lisa Scullard 2002


WE WANT YOU for Hard Ink Café…

Hard Ink Café Hall of Fame

Join us in the Hard Ink Café Rogues’ Gallery of Contemporary Authors

You may have noticed, no matter how much I love you all, author promotion here is not my bag. In fact, bags are not my bag either, so perhaps I should say, not my cup of tea. I’m just not attentive enough (in the time that I’m not thinking about zombies) to keep it up.

But if you’re looking for an author promotion opportunity that’s a bit different from the rest, pop over to Hard Ink Café for a browse. It’s two weeks old today, and just passed 100 likes.

It’s free to feature, and submission rules are on the ‘Rogues Submit!’ page. You can feature as many times as you want, and gradually build up your own author profile gallery under your author name tag.

You don’t need to be published yet to feature, just have a blog or website featuring your writing, to link your name in the Author Index to your work.

So be brave, get the cameras out, and show us what’s beyond the screen 🙂

L xx

We are officially post-Apocalyptic…

At the first annual ‘1066 Walk of the Dead’ Hastings zombie walk…

Welcome to my personal 2012 round-up…

Two eye operations (resolving four years of eye infections and one year of sleep deprivation), three live zombie events, one Book Fair, one new 83-chapter parody novel blogged all the way to completion and published, four first dates, fifty pages of non-explicit quotes from my older books compared to prose and scenes in the Fifty Shades trilogy analysed very kindly by the legal office of Random House (who initially stated their author had never heard of my books, but investigated anyway, to assure me later that the list of similarities must be coincidental), the world didn’t end (and neither did the superstitions of everyone who believed they saved it), a very recent and encouraging response from the BIG romance publisher, DS-10 said she doesn’t need a dad around because watching Jeremy Clarkson and the lads on Top Gear tells her everything she needs to know, new cousins, family weddings, fantastic reunions, one stone and two dress sizes dropped, an unprecedented variety of editing and formatting jobs (from true-life books to cultural thrillers to creative self-help therapy to more zombies), accidentally deleting Sophie Neville’s blogger image source file for Funnily Enough four days before Christmas while trying to clean up unused duplicate images on Google+ (doh!), managed to pass yet another year without either having sex or watching any soap operas / reality TV / celebrity game shows, one charity book contributed to and associated book trailer made (New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan), around 165 Youtube clips and mash-up tunes shared on this blog, from Reaps007 to movieclips (I don’t have a problem, really), meeting Olympic gold multi-medallist Ben Ainslie and remembering what it feels like to be star-struck on that occasion, around 1000 sunset photographs / 370 zombie photographs / 240 family photographs / 7 cat photographs / 5 hedgehog photographs and 1 photograph of my car (not by a speed camera, I have to say)…

Wishing you all a happy and merry and peaceful post-Mayan-Apocalypse future! 🙂 xxxxx

The Youtube trailer for ‘New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan’ shot and edited by yours truly…

New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan – the book trailer

A Charity Anthology – all proceeds go to the Japanese Red Cross.

Here’s what I’ve been working on for the past week, and the reason that I’ve been out with a camera in the Forestry Commission zone at the crack of all sorts of unsociable hours, in all sorts of places that other people normally get to themselves, with their imaginary dogs and stuff. Yes, I avoided the car-parks with the camper vans in at 5:00a.m, in particular. Pity, because there was an awesome bit of lake fog and tree reflections going on there. I even had the black hoody with skull patches on that morning, so probably not great news for the state of anybody’s sleeping-bag if they saw me.

Maybe after my car’s service I’ll give that one another shot. The car will be running on newly cleaned-up ‘stealth mode’ which means I might get some good shots of deer too, as well as not disturbing the happy campers too much 😉

I did get a couple of shots of a deer this time, while it was bolting away from me in the gorse. I’d driven through a bit of a pea-souper that morning knowing there was some high ground at one of the Forestry car-parks, which on a good day was above ground fog level. And it was spot on, so I parked in the turning on one side and crossed over to the other, the only life in sight being a herd of cows about 250 yards away, grazing on the verges of the main road in silence.

The best view into the valley was just beyond a patch of scrub on the far side, with lots of nice artistic trees sticking up out of the mist. As I got closer and switched on the camera, suddenly there was the sound of hoofbeats, and a Bambi-butt rapidly receding into the gorse right in front of me. I got two shots of her at a distance by the time the camera was active, rather rewarding that she stopped to turn and look at me for both. Probably wondering why I wasn’t wearing verderer-khaki, and carrying a rifle. She kept poking her head up out of the bushes to check up on me while I got my shots. But they weren’t artistic shots worthy of the video above, so I just kept those aside for fun.

I headed back to the car after a few minutes, and got a shock crossing the road, the zombie Cows of the Dead were only about 80 yards away, in exactly the same grazing formation, as if they’d drifted on an undead tide. Sod that. Back in the car, next site.

Next shots were from the woods, looking out from under the trees. The forest makes weird noises at 5:30a.m. Honking, hooting, cawing – more darkest Africa than British garden sparrow wildlife. It reminded me of what Sophie Neville said to me about how to spot leopards hiding in trees, so I gave them a pretty good look while I was there, just to check. There’s a good reason you’re supposed to be able to sense someone’s eyes on the back of your head. Got my shots and didn’t stick around there long either.

The next car-park was totally deserted, which was awesome. News obviously travels fast about photographers stalking isolated public access locations at ungodly hours. Did see more cows, of the more lively variety this time, but they were guarding young calves, so I stayed on my side of the barrier and left them to it after a couple of snaps that I wanted.

The sun eventually came out to play above the fog at my next location, about an hour after sunrise was actually due, so I got enough shots to complete the project above, combined with some I’d taken at the beach back in February, and a couple of odd ones from March. For the lake sunset last week, I was out for two hours and took 455 shots, nearly froze my hands off in the process, but the swan and geese came out to play, so it was worth it.

The charity anthology ‘New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan’ is set for release in June – for updates and background news, including contributors, check out the New Sun Rising blog.

(I’ve got a literary contribution in there too!) L xxx 🙂

If You Go Down In The Woods Today…

All the interesting action was occurring about ten miles north of here… and maybe some of it about sixty yards to the left…

Okay, so I get a commission, and with nothing over the weekend, an overcast day was looking pretty promising by about 7pm. Cloud was starting to break nicely. DS-10 was making the right lets-go-out noises as well, so armed with camera, and mental shopping list (including whatever latest Man v Food style pudding craze is likeliest to make me feel sick afterwards and guarantee continued adherence to diet), we headed out by about 8pm, heading into the Forestry Commission zone to stalk sunset pics.

Unfortunately, high atmospheric wind distribution meant the weather had turned brilliant, too quickly. So instead of interesting cloud formations overhead, the interesting cloud formations were pretty much on every distant horizon, except for the important bit out west. If I’d been about fifty miles east, I’d have had a better sunset to photograph, in terms of having at least a bit of cloud in the way. Sometimes, as above, you get sod all of interest to look at. Just glorious blue skies. Boo.

We still had a good old drive, in terms of scouting to see if anywhere along the route would be worth a re-visit if the weather looked more promising on another occasion. Some nice areas of water which would make good reflection work. Some good tree patterns here and there, but most at an inaccessible range for the impact I want to achieve.

So we got distracted as usual. Passed a herd of pregnant donkeys heading along the road for the watering-hole, and a fire-engine, also heading for the ‘watering-hole’ (i.e, the pub, which wasn’t on fire). Sadly no time to waste camera battery on either, still hoping to get a sunset pic or several, before actual sunset.

Stopped at a couple of turnings into Forestry car-parks to jump out and take test shots, like the incredibly dull one illustrated here (the irony of complaining about the fantastic weather is not lost on me, you can believe that!). Didn’t want to risk bottoming out the bodywork in the potholes by going too far from the main road, and definitely not into the actual car-parks, where I could see the rooftops of other cars on site, but no dogs being walked, if you get my drift…

It was when I was standing by my car, just off-road at the entrance to one of these out-of-the-way idylls, taking pictures of the sky in all directions and basically thinking to myself stuff like ‘useless’ and ‘stupid blue sky’, that I realised the LAST thing anyone else in the area at the time wanted to see was a stranger with a camera. Especially since it was just starting to darken enough for the flash to initiate automatically a couple of times. I heard a few car doors slamming in succession (still no sound of any actual dogs though), and my camera informed me at one point that ‘Blink Detected’ was recorded on digital capture. I swear I was pointing it at the sun at the time too 🙂

Maybe it has got a longer range than I thought 😉

Good thing I wasn’t out there with a full paparazzi sniper rig, and a black hoody on. That’d have been some even more embarrassing stains to clean off someone’s upholstery.

Anyway, what with DS-10 still hooting with laughter at my announcement “I’m not going right into the car park because of the pot-holes and the doggers” and the sky being beautifully crap to photograph besides, which wasn’t going to change, I decided to call it a bust. We stopped off a bit further north to try again for some shots, but the clouds weren’t playing tonight. Still a few more dogless car owners in the car parks though. But then I guess it is pretty much early summer now, and sunset is approaching 9pm already. Too late for tea and too early for bed, for some people 🙂

Saw a herd of black cows without reflective collars on driving back, which is the other reason I avoid the forest at night. I don’t want to turn a corner in the dark and drive into a wall of Moo. When I had the Pug, I swear a llama jumped right over the bonnet out of a verge, on the way to University early one morning. I’ve seen albino muntjack, and one animal in particular driving back late at night that nobody sober should have to witness, ever. And you wonder where people like Tolkein and Stoker got their ideas from…

So anyway, all you folks walking your imaginary dogs in the forest early in the morning and late in the evenings, if you see anyone apparently taking pictures of the sky in your vicinity, Yes, that is what they are doing, and No, it is not about you.

And if you must play dog-walker, learn some dog-barking impressions. You might even get away with it. Or not, as the case may be… I’m sure there’s a huge market for human-dog impressions on Youtube 🙂

L xxx 😉

The Facebook Pub Crawl

Best pub-crawl on record 🙂 (Pics by Jason Kay for the OC)

In the old days, a pub crawl was a handful of close friends trying to make it across the village to the last lock-in.

Nowadays, it’s a combination of fashion show, Mardi Gras, and most of all, social networking. Tagging everyone in photographs within seconds of taking them, and uploading onto Facebook.

Is nobody actually enjoying themselves anymore without the endless posing, stalking, and trying to be your own paparazzo?

I remember when taking photographs in the pub was strange. Only on Christmas and birthdays (in defence, the photographs above were for a birthday). And occasionally, for a police crime scene. (Ahem…)

Nowadays, most people are photographed most of the time.

No wonder women daren’t leave the house without dressing like it’s Oscars night. Everywhere is now a photo location. The bar, the toilets, the car-park…

I have a feeling I was among those whose started that, with my Screen Kiss Scrapbook in 2003. Just getting my prints on a CD from the developers and adding them to my own webspace, so my university friends could email the link to friends and family back in the USA, China and wherever else, to share photos and a joke commentary of their night out.

And they said I took ‘too many’ photos. Nobody normal brought a camera on a night out back then. And they were 35mm disposable flash cameras, too. That was all you had the choice of. Less than ten years ago.

Strange how things catch on, isn’t it?