The audiobook uncanny valley, upcoming talks, collapse computing, and a pine marten alarm clock | The Pinnacle

A few thoughts about how weird it is to hear the audiobook version of a book you've written, plus information about talks in November and the usual links of interest.

Like many people, I love listening to audiobooks – I find them the best way to enjoy books when I’m backpacking. However, it’s only recently occurred to me that there’s potentially a big difference between listening to just any audiobook and the audiobook version of a book that you have written yourself.

My publisher, Vertebrate Publishing, is in the process of turning my book The Farthest Shore into an audiobook edition. They recently shared a clip on Twitter, and of course I hurried to press play and listen to the preview, only to stop playing it after only a few seconds.

This has nothing to do with the quality of the narration, which is superb; it’s simply that I have a strong mental image of what the book sounds like already as its author, and listening to someone else narrate it was quite simply weird. A big proportion of the book takes place within my own mind: my thoughts, feelings, reactions. To hear all that articulated by someone else felt alien, almost intrusive. It was a strange moment, to be honest – I can’t remember ever feeling quite that way before about anything else.

Is this an instinctive response that most first-time audiobook authors experience? Will the uncanny valley close with time? Or perhaps it has more to do with the question of what happens to our ideas when they leave the confines of our own heads and flutter out there into the world, to influence the views of others and to become part of the flow of their ideas. A book is about far more than its author – it belongs to its readers (or listeners) just as much. Probably more. But still, even knowing and believing all this, it felt weird.

Either way, I’m tremendously excited that my book will be available on Audible! As soon as I have a publication date I’ll let you all know.

Upcoming talks

I have two talks in November 2021:

  1. Walking Writers Salon: In search of solitude on the Cape Wrath Trail, 16 November, 1900 GMT (online talk) Tickets €3–5. I’ll be discussing The Farthest Shore and my approach to writing.

  2. Kendal Mountain Festival: Wanderlust Alps, 21 November, 1300 GMT (note time change since I first mentioned this talk), Buff Basecamp Stage, Kendal Mountain Festival. Tickets free. I’ll be talking about Wanderlust Alps and trekking in the Alps.

Links of interest

Adventurous Ink – this online book club run by Tim Frenneaux recently caught my eye, but it’s much more than just a book club! Adventurous Ink actually featured Sidetracked earlier in the year. Worth a look.

How outdoor instructors have made ends meet during the pandemic – Anna Richards on the struggles faced by the this sector of the outdoor industry during the pandemic.

How to Fix Social Media – some interesting ideas here from Nicholas Carr, who has written extensively about this subject elsewhere.

Country diary: A tidy forest floor betrays a lack of imagination – ‘In looking at empty forest floors like this, perhaps we shouldn’t see a tree species that “doesn’t belong”, but more a failure of our own imagination.’

Saving copies of everything is like low-budget p2p – it’s oddly reassuring to see that other people still think in this way. I’ve often wondered if I’m odd to do this – to save everything offline, and to be fastidious about file size, backups, data longevity and integrity. To always be thinking about fallback modes and what might happen if the Wi-Fi or the power might go down for a day or five. I guess I’ve been practising a sort of low-key collapse computing for my entire life. Where does that deep-seated mistrust of the cloud come from, I wonder? And how will I feel if the day comes when my eccentric approach is ever vindicated?

Book Review: Wanderlust Alps by Alex Roddie – many thanks to Chris Townsend for this great review of my most recent new book.

Autumn colours and a pine marten alarm clock: a camp in Glen Feshie – one more from Chris!

Vote in The Great Outdoor Reader Awards 2021 – I am once again helping to organise this year’s TGO Reader Awards. Please do take the time to vote. Out of interest, one of the books shortlisted in Outdoor Book of the Year is The Farthest Shore

Recently published

A look at Sidetracked Volume 22 – a few photos of and thoughts about this very special issue.

Until next time,


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