I am considered a fast writer. But I am not a very fast writer. That encomium is reserved for scribes like Isaac Asimov, who wrote hundreds of books. Ike’s notion of a vacation was to lock himself in a room and writeanother book. He wrote all the time, except when he was appearing at conventions or on television (no podcasts and such back then). And possibly while eating (he may have written while sleeping: I wouldn’t be surprised).
Yet there were successful authors who wrote even faster than Asimov. I’m put in mind of Honore de Balzac. Sleeping during the day and fueling himself during the night with that wondrous new drink, coffee, Balzac churned out something like sixty books while writing with: a quill pen. I can’t even comprehend writing like that. My hand starts to cramp up if I have to sign a couple of checks. Long before Balzac Egyptian scribes not only wrote on papyrus but engraved their work in solid stone (“Hey Hapshut, I did half a wall today!”).
But by contemporary standards I am considered fast. There have been several instances where readers speculated that because of my output, the name Alan Dean Foster had to be a house moniker for several writers. I reckon that’s flattery, of a sort.
That said, I do not write all the time, or fill in non-writing hours with only research. There are domestic matters that need attention, and something else called Real Life. I do find time (too much time, really) to spend on the internet, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite places with you.
Being a news junkie, and because I have to keep up with current events and developments lest I write something that makes me look like an idiot (example: “Looking out the port of the starship, Dave opened his flip phone and ….”). But I don’t run through only the major US news sites. If I want to find out what’s going on in southern Africa, I read the The Mail and Guardian from South Africa. When I tell someone I saw something on the ABC site, I sometimes have to explain that I am referring to the Australian Broadcasting Company website. And I love reading the news from small countries. The Post-Courier from Papua New Guinea, for example, or The Island Times from Palau. You get a completely different perspective on the media and on what is important to people by reading their local news. Usually there are articles on subjects you never see in any American media.
After news sites comes YouTube, which provides entertainment as well as information. I’ve previously discussed how YT videos introduced me to the whole musical subgenre of symphonic metal, as well as the wealth of world music that never seems to make it to the US. In addition to music there are three particular YouTube sites that I’d like to share.
Many hobbyists as well as professionals now employ various software and AI to not only colorize but animate old photographs. The best of them go further and turn images in old paintings into strikingly modern portraits. Beyond that are the truly clever who use their tools to make lifelike the busts of Roman emperors and other ancient sculptures.
The most impressive of these that I’ve found are on a site called Mystery Scoop. There you’ll find not just long-deceased beauties restored to lifelikeness with color and enhancement, but Mystery Scoop ages them, makes them smile and, using the latest advances, animates them. Among my favorite examples of his work is an Abraham Lincoln who smiles and blinks. It’s not just striking: it’s shocking to see people from the early days of photography smiling or grinning.
Next, there is so much good work being done restoring old (often very old) film footage to 4K at 60fps that I can’t settle on just one site. You’ll have to hunt around to find your own favorites, and it’s a wondrous journey. How about restored footage of the oldest person every captured on film? Pope Leo XIII, filmed in 1896, who was born in 1810 (a contemporary of Napoleon).
What about a trip down Market Street in San Francisco? In 1906, before the earthquake, realized at the proper speed, with color and sound? Or a trip through Paris in the 1890s? These restorations, which get better with each new advance in technology, are the nearest thing we have to time machines.
Lastly, a personal favorite of mine (and the other 1.61 million subscribers to her channel), Itchy Boots. This has nothing to do with footwear and everything to do with a most remarkable woman, Noraly Schoenmaker. Continuing her solo around-the-world motorcycle journey, she somehow manages to simultaneously record, edit and narrate her travels while posting 10- to 19-minute videos once or twice a week, no matter where she is. And where she is encompasses the most astonishing places, from (currently) the western Sahara to the backroads and dirt tracks of everywhere from India to Patagonia, Alaska and Africa. An astonishing individual, a trained geochemist, and the poster of some of the best drone video you will ever see (National Geographic and Discovery Channel should be jealous). As a bit of a traveler myself, I am amazed at her courage, perseverance, unfailing good humor and talent, all maintained through sometimes incredible difficulties and dangers. No camera crew, no support team. Just this flying Dutchwoman. Give her a look.
Prescott resident Alan Dean Foster is the author of 130 books. Follow him at AlanDeanFoster. com.