In 1988 I was sufficiently impressed on watching the BBC series Supersense
, about the ways in which the senses of other animals exceed our own, that it stayed in my mind for many years afterwards.
In 2003, seeing the book of the series in the library, I got it out and was impressed all over again.
Earlier this year, I bought myself the DVD of the series... and was less impressed. At first I thought it must be because it was telling me material that's no longer new to me, but going back over my mail archive it looks like there's a lot more in the book than there was in the series. The series, for example, does not mention such fascinating facts as that spiders raster scan with their main eyes, moving the retina back and forth (apparently the resulting image is about six times worse than ours and competes with the vision of some vertebrates). Or that flying foxes have got corrugated retinas to increase their depth of focus, or that diving birds have extra muscles, allowing them to drastically alter the shape of their lenses and even squeeze the lens through the iris (!), giving them an accommodation of 50 dioptres (as against 14 dioptres for humans—and 1 dioptre for presbyopics). Maybe I ought to get myself the book of the series too. (Or maybe not: I've just found the two thousand words of notes I took on the book at the time.)
Anyhow, one thing that watching the series brought home to me was how much of an influence it was on my abortive undersea aliens dawn-of-civilisation whodunnit novel The Colours of Thought
. Watching the series made me regret not finishing the novel, particularly since I am very pleased with the final draft of the first chapter, which is my best attempt at conveying a truly non-human point-of-view character (and turning the penultimate draft from normal narrative into alien PoV was the hardest piece of writing I have ever done).
Then about a week or two later, I read The Hound of the Baskervilles
(which I had previously not read, not having read any
Sherlock Holmes until I was in my thirties), followed by The Valley of Fear
(the two being packaged in the same physical volume); and that had the same effect.
When I finished The Valley of Fear
last night, I was beginning to wonder if they were going to make me
pick up my pen
put hands to keyboard and resume work on The Colours of Thought
after all... but I doubt now that's going to happen. I've finished reading the Sherlock Holmes, and have moved onto another book, and I've finished watching Supersense
, and it would take quite a while to go through my notes and bring myself back up to speed on all I'd need to have at my fingertips to resume work on the novel, and I still don't have the foggiest how to pull a whodunnit off.
But maybe I should start the refamiliarisation, and maybe once its finished read some more Sherlock Holmes (or other detective or crime fiction), and see if it is enough to kick-start me.
Sure, if I want to be a masochist
, and throw loads of my Copious Free Time™ into a project I don't know if I can finish, and which will probably be unpublishable anyway (due to its unfashionable expected length, and how the narrative style will not be particularly easy to read for the length of a novel). :-(