Today I have the privilege of interviewing my old friend and fellow blogger, Ben Trube. Ben likes fractals even more than I do, and he’s turned himself into quite the expert lately. His new book Fractals: A Programmer’s Approach is available right here for just $4.99.
Come along with me as we venture into his brain. Tread lightly, don’t touch anything, and don’t step in the cerebellum. He, uh, needs that to live.
A sales pitch for your book in six words or less. GO!
“Fractals for a new generation!” or “Fractal fun for everyone!”
You obviously have a deep love for fractals. What is it about them, exactly, that you find so appealing?
My mom’s a painter, and I’ve always had a bit of an artistic streak. Fractals allow me to express that streak in a medium that I’m very comfortable with. I’m also fascinated how the chaotic process of some fractals can give rise to order, and vice versa. And constructing certain fractals provides an interesting programming challenge, and I’m always looking for new challenges.
A lot of your past work has been fictional. How was the process different for writing long-form nonfiction? How was it the same?
Non-fiction work requires a lot more time doing things that are not writing. The fractal book in particular required research, design of programs, creation of figures, and of course generating the hundreds of included fractal images. There were fewer changes in structure than some of my fiction projects, which also allowed for longer drafting sessions. The main constant between both kinds of writing is music, which always helps my mood and the tone of my work.
How much does your beard weigh?
My beard is an unbounded infinite set. Thus it cannot be precisely defined.
As you well know, there’s no shortage of fractal books in the world already. What makes your book different than the rest?
Rather than do a broad overview of dozens of fractal topics, this book takes a deep look at six. I try to “show my work” both in the way the programs are constructed, and in the way the math is explained. The fractal books that have been the most helpful to me have emphasized the math less, and the logic of programming more, and that’s the legacy I try to continue.
The book also places a heavy emphasis on the artistic aspects of fractals, with both practical methods for creating image files, and coloring fractals, but also with an extensive gallery of images. And this book is one of the few available electronically, and you won’t find one as useful for this price (unless you speak Spanish).
What’s something interesting that you learned about fractals from writing this book?
I learned a lot more about affine transformations (Chapter 2) than I understood previously. Basically this is determining equations to simulate objects like trees and leaves, or more imaginative objects like seashells and fireworks. The trick to these seems to be lots of little adjustments and even more luck. After 80 attempts I got something that passably looked like a leaf from my backyard.
What is your wife’s pet nickname for your beard?
That does not happen to be one of the parts of my body she’s named.
What advice would you give to other authors thinking about self-publishing an eBook?
Self-publish a book because you want to, not because you’re afraid a publisher won’t pick you up. And don’t give anybody a reason to think that publisher would reject you. Edit the book well, and format it better. Avoid the self-published look. It will NEVER be perfect, but it can be professional.
What aspect of this book are you most proud of?
Well for starters finishing and publishing it. I am also quite pleased that a number of the fractal coordinates and images portrayed are unique to this book. Chapters 2 and 4 are probably my favorites, but it was also nice to explore all of the different ways to draw the Julia Set in Chapter 6, and revisit the Chaos Game in Chapter 1.
Now that the fractal book is done, what’s next for Ben Trube?
My next project is a noir/technological mystery called Surreality. We’re going to be working on it for the next few months with a planned release sometime at the end of 2013 or early 2014. I imagine there will also be some work on redrafting my latest novel Dark Matter as well, and of course a lot of interesting things are going on over at [BTW] Ben Trube, Writer including another short story serial.
Your name is an anagram of “Jabber In Me Nut.” How does that make you feel?
I’m not sure, but for some reason I believe the proper way to say that is with a cockney accent.
Thank you, Mr. Trube, for enduring this humiliation with good grace. Hypothetical readers: the book is available here. You can also read Ben’s
incoherent ramblings thoughtful insights every day on his blog, 100% free.
Oh, and if you want to suggest nicknames for his beard, you can do that in the comments! Personally I suggest “Chewbaccimus Maximus,” but that’s just me?