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This is INFODUMP 41.
I hadn’t the heart to touch my breakfast. I told Jeeves to drink it himself.

When I was a kid, walking late into French lessons necessitated mumbling the phrase "Je m'excuse d'être en retard", and hoping to God there would be no follow-up questions as you scurried to your desk. And so I feel now, having successfully vomited up one of these useless missives on a weekly basis for a while and now finding myself having dropped the ball for a month. Je m'excuse d'être en retard.

In mitigation I would cite a bunch of work that has needed to be done, including the recording of Season Three of our Lovecraft podcast, school going back etc.

But anyway, here we are. I hope everyone's well. Let's get on with it, shall we?

We recorded Season 3 of the podcast (this time titled “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”) in September. The times being what they are, our usual practice of recording everything on location was slightly curtailed. We therefore spent the first few days recording everyone remotely, for studio conversations, phone and Zoom calls and voiceovers etc. We did that using Cleanfeed and it was a surprisingly effective and pleasant experience. 

Directing audio can be tricky on location, because you can’t help but watch the actors and allow that to colour your view of their performances, even though the audience is only experiencing the sound. On Cleanfeed, the sound is all you have, and so you can only focus on the vocal performances.

After those first few days, we went on location to Essex for a day and then for three days in a remote house in deepest, darkest Sussex.

An actor reported having a temperature the day before we were due to work with him and so, even though he subsequently turned out not to have the virus, we told him he couldn’t join us on location. To compensate for his absence, we set up a remote Cleanfeed link to him and hooked him up to a portable speaker on location. This allowed the other actors to interact with him as if he were in the space (both interiors and exteriors). We then recoded him later on Cleanfeed and mapped the reverb measurements from the location onto the Cleanfeed recording, to literally drop him into the same space as the other actors.

The specific challenge in that scenario was less technical and more performance-based; an actor at home in their own studio is naturally going to be very on-mic, as if performing a voiceover. In order to get movement in his voice, and to make it feel like he was recording in the same space as the others, we had to get him to back off the microphone and to move around as he really would. This actually sells the effect a lot better than any amount of technical wizardry can.

This season, which is the last chapter in the current story, brought all the regular cast together, alongside a handful of actors we were using for the first time and who, happily, all turned out to be excellent. 

Writing this, a few weeks after we finished, I’m experiencing the emptiness that always follows a period of directing; the feeling that it was all over too quickly and I wish it was still happening. Thankfully, we have several other podcast projects in the works and so hopefully it won’t be long before we get to do this again.

The plan at the moment is that The Shadow Over Innsmouth will be released in November, but I'll keep you up to date with that. Tim Elsenburg is once again providing the music, and the pieces he's sent over for this series are amazing.

Elsewhere, I'm finishing up some second drafts, of a movie and a Netflix show, and am hopefully about to start a big TV project. We've also opened the writers room for the next podcast show, which is a sci-fi extravaganza called TEMPORAL. I wrote the pilot and then threw it into the writers room to be torn apart by the wolves. The story has evolved so well in that environment that I now don't want to write anything on my own ever again - this thing has become so much deeper and richer in just a couple of weeks, in a way I don't know that I could have achieved if I'd spent months alone with it.

In a surprising development, we have started watching “E.R.” again, from the pilot onwards. The show holds up incredibly well and I still think it’s one of the best things ever to appear on network television.

Late to the party, I read Cixin Liu’s “The Three Body Problem”, which is an amazing piece of visionary, doom-laden sci-fi. I'm now midway through the sequel "The Dark Forest". 

I also read John Le Carré's "Call For The Dead", which is the first of his stories to involve George Smiley and is a brilliant, if short, read. 

In these uncertain times, I have been finding an enormous amount of comfort and escapism in P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves stories.

In non-fiction, I blitzed Ryan Holiday's "The Obstacle Is The Way", which is pretty much a modern account of stoicism; very readable, incredibly practical, and a book I can imagine returning to over and over again.

My bike arrived just as we finished recording the podcast. As previously mentioned here, it’s a Cowboy e-bike, and it may be one of the best things I’ve ever bought. It’s a great design; an urban commuter bike, built from the ground up as an e-bike, as opposed to an existing bike with a motor added. It has a removable battery, so you don’t have to lug the whole bike around to put it on charge, and it’s built to be simple; there are no gears, just an algorithm that senses when you need assistance (primarily pulling away and climbing hills) and kicks in just enough power to take the pain away without making it feel like you’re not doing any exercise. 

This suddenly increased range of movement has seen me travelling wider around the local area, finding nice quiet spots to write notes and do work etc, and making exercise fun for once.

In the last week, I've started venturing further afield; into Central London and down the route of the old River Fleet from Highgate to the Thames at Blackfriars. As a driver or a pedestrian, I wasn't aware of the growth of cycle lanes in Central London, but this has been an eye-opening experience; the C6 route, especially, from Camden across Blackfriars Bridge, is an absolute joy, you can ride the whole way without worrying about traffic and it really gives you a chance to take in the scenery.

I also finally got hold of a CFV II 50C digital back for my old Hasselblad 500C/M. Taking digital pictures on a camera from 1973 is a strange experience, but the results can be great. The whole camera remains entirely manual, so I am still getting to grips with metering the light properly and getting the best out of the camera. Curiously, the digital back has also got me back into shooting film, and I've found a great place to buy film; Analogue Wonderland

I'm kicking the tyres on an app called Obsidian which is a bit like Roam Research, for those who know that, but lives on your desktop and enables you to link markdown notes together. I have a folder in Dropbox where I stuff random ideas; anything from actual plot and character notes to random quotes and title ideas etc. Obsidian lets me find connections between them, often unexpected ones, and promises to help me organise my thoughts better. I'll report back on how well it works.

The writers room for the TEMPORAL podcast is using Notion to collate character notes, episode outlines, story ideas, world-building notes etc. It took a little while to build the system, but it seems to be working very well now. I've been noodling with Notion for a while and never found a real use for it, but it excels as a writers room tool.

An essential and timely piece from The Atlantic: The New Reconstruction

This Scorpion Chair is some serious must-have office furniture.

And yet another piece on the idea that we might be living in a simulation. I'm actually starting to find the notion comforting: Do We Live in a Simulation?

That's your lot for this week. London has now moved into Covid Tier Two, and that is surely a precursor to some kind of national lockdown. It's a little bleak out there. Hopefully America will throw Trump out of office in November, and we can start the process of putting the world right again, after these terrible glitches in the Matrix that have been happening since 2016.

In the meantime, I advise tending your own garden; wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, be nice to the people around you. And if you're reading this in America, for God's sake vote (unless you're intending to vote for a malignant narcissist, in which case maybe stay home and watch the documentary "#unfit" on Netflix instead).

All being well, I'll see you next week.

Fuck it. Send.
Copyright © 2020 Julian Simpson Ltd, All rights reserved.

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