SPIN ME ROUND

Something I’m playing about with at the moment while writing the next book in the Circle series is being completely honest with everything I say but telling lies with that honesty.

The way words are used on any given day can hide the truth despite there not being anything false being said. We all know that politicians the world over are amazingly adept at moulding all manner of sentences which don’t lie at all, yet also can’t be trusted fully, just in case.

A good example of how the truth can be covered up would be that all those thousands of years ago when I was still a fresh faced young thing and still in full time education, I collected, after much hard work and studying, all manner of qualifications. GCSE’s, A-Levels and then off to college. In fact, I studied ten GCSE’s, six A-Levels and then graduated with a qualification in Sports Science from Nottingham Trent University.

Impressive. Ish.

None of that is a lie but it’s also just fuzzy enough to lure people in the direction I want.

If I were to ask how many A-Levels I passed, what would you say? Six? Nope.

What city did I live in when studying Sports Science? Nottingham? Wrong.

When I’ve used this example in the past, I can paint a picture which people can then extrapolate their own ideas. You hear ‘Six A-Levels’ so go with that, overlooking the ‘studied’ rather than passed. You hear Nottingham Trent University so assume Nottingham but associate colleges are beyond just there.

Now none of this is there as any kind of confession to wildly misleading people or that I’ve been making up huge aspects of my life, rather that depending on how you spin the details, you can allow the information to point the way and just let the road unfurl before people.

As an author, I need to try to paint a clear picture of what’s happening but that doesn’t always mean that every aspect of every narrative is saying the exact thing you’d expect. Making the reader travel happily off in one direction for that to lead them to a different destination makes all things so much tougher, but so much more fun.

Honest.

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FORM AN ORDERLY ……….

This weekend, Jo and I were in Germany at FedCon, soaking in all things Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica with a little sprinkling of Spaceballs, Gremlins and Stargate.

A great many topics were brought up during the talks, anecdotes from the various sets and even a presence from the European Space Agency, including a talk from a real life astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti, about her time on the International Space Station.

All in all, it was an awesome convention which was really well organised and allowed for all manner of good things to be experienced. There had even been some attempt to lessen the horror that is inevitable at all events of this kind, the queue.

Being from the UK, we all love a good queue. It’s one of those national clichés, like our love of tea, which somehow sticks with us. The convention was a great example of one ‘expected’ trait of Germans, amazing organization.

So are we just the expected bits of our nations when we go abroad?

When Brits are in other countries, do we imagine that locals view us as being the stereotype? Tea drinkers or lager louts? Do the French get tired of the questions about berets and onions? The Spanish and their maracas?

We all have similar traits to each other no matter the country we come from. You can find all kinds of examples of videos on YouTube of people from all over the globe doing exactly the same stupid things. Shaky footage filmed on a phone of activities in a desert, in snow, in cities and in countryside, all giving examples of the same things, but done by all different peoples.

Why just look at the differences and poke fun at the things that others do which we may not? Why not just recognise that we all do so very many things the same?

So very much of the science fiction which we all know and love explores so much of what the human race is as a whole and how we all need to work together to achieve the great wonders we’re capable of as a species. By just holding tightly to the differences, so very many doors are closed to all of us.

Shared success is the goal.

So Say We All!

CARROT OR STICK?

We’ve all heard the phrase or variations of it, “You catch more flies with honey”, about the importance of methods to get results.

No doubt we’ve all, at some point, been on the receiving end of the wild stick treatment and you want to reach out and crush the one dishing it out. We may fully understand the problem but that stick seems intent on striking away until the end of time, making us acutely aware of the depths of our ineptitude and doing everything in it’s power to crush us beneath the righteous ire.

But that delightful carrot is so much better.

Being given the chance to receive a reward for completing a task is great. You know that when you reach the finish line you’re going to be basking in the knowledge of a job well done as well as accepting the carrot you were promised. Everyone wins.

So why would anyone use the stick over the carrot?

The carrot rewards good performance yet the stick punishes poor performance. If the only thing available is the reward when you do well, the worst you can expect is not doing what you should. The stick gives it balance.

The stick on it’s own just becomes a landscape of dour, crushing bleakness where you end up looking over your shoulder all of the time, waiting for the inevitable explosion. In this situation, the carrot becomes that blazing beacon that means that life could be so much more. Balance again.

We see it in life, and I’m trying to stitch it into the books I’m writing, where people become stuck on one or the other rather than keeping that balance. The carrot becomes the way the hero does things, the stick, the baddies. Big Brother of 1984 existed as the ultimate stick whereas Julia is the carrot, the gleaming hope of a better world for Winston Smith.

Stories mirror life in so many ways and making sure that there’s balance in the way people interact and how systems function create the reality that make the world believable.

We all need to have both aspects of motivation. Being treated with too much saccharine or with too much salt isn’t good for us so we all need to make sure we give the same consideration to everyone else.

Onwards to the best results.

PLAYING FAVOURITES

Conventioned this weekend and had a blast at Em-Con. Met up with people I’d met last year and it was great to get myself immersed in the experience of being an author at a convention. And as with all conventions, there are times when there are lulls in the activity so my mind started running around on all kind of things. I was in an ice rink so the scorching weather wasn’t affecting me but everyone else no doubt had a different day.

If I were to say the word MOIST to you, what do you feel? Is MOIST a word that you never really consider? Is it a real favourite of yours? Do you hate the very thought of the word and would rather never hear it ever again?

How is it that a single word could be able to elicit such a response on its own?

As an author, I recognise the power that words can have. An effective use of words can draw out any and all emotional responses you could care to consider but words are seemingly at their best when they play as a team rather than as singles.

“Love”. On it’s own, nice enough but add in the “I” and the “you” and the full effect is clear to see.

“Dream”. Again, a pretty decent word. Has some oomph. Now add “I” and “have” and “a” to the mix and the punch is enhanced.

So how could a single word have anything like that kind of effect? There’s no context to drive the feelings to a single word so that means that you need to look around at the surrounding players to try and glean what’s taking place, again proving the team idea. So we get back to MOIST.

Practically everyone I’ve asked about this has said that they hate the word MOIST. I can picture all of the turned up noses and hear all of the groans as I consider the word but why is it that so many of us find that one word so repulsive?

Maybe it’s actually the reality of what being MOIST means to each of us?

It’s been a blazing hot bank holiday weekend in the UK and I can just imagine the sensation a great many of us would have experienced in the sun. The many beads of perspiration that would be breaking out the second that feel the heat. The moisture seeping into the fabric of your clothes. Those clothes then sticking to you in ways that no-one would ever enjoy. That’s what it feels to be MOIST so could it be that the word just takes us to that most uncomfortable of times and we simply cringe.

Though that isn’t the only example of being MOIST so maybe not?

Whatever the reasoning, the word MOIST shows us that a single word, can have as devastating effect as a whole paragraph so we all need to make sure that we’re paying full attention to every word we say.

So are there any others I should be wary of?

A friend from work suggested that VALVE should be considered as well.

Any ideas?

NEW PAINT

It’s been a big week in the international political landscape this week with the leaders of North and South Korea meeting to discuss various steps to be taken towards peace. No-one could deny the fact that everything about the meeting had to perfect and that all those involved must have recognised the fact that the eyes of the world were on them. All of the walkways, the building, the grounds, everything, had been cleaned and buffed and trimmed and polished to make sure that the best possible image could be put forward.

Understandable.

Important events need to be shown as such.

When world leaders go anywhere, those places make sure they have their best foot forward. When the Queen goes to any and all locations, those businesses and establishments clean the entirety of what they have and make every effort to present the best they can.

I wonder if the Queen thinks that everywhere naturally smells of fresh paint?

So why is it that there’s always this mad rush to present a false image of reality when the so called ‘higher ups’ come to visit?

Through all of our lives, we’re doing our utmost to be the best we can possibly be. It doesn’t matter which aspect of our lives this falls within, the drive to show all we are as being as great as we can be seems to burn bright. ‘Look at me, I’m really like this all of the time’. Very often it takes the arrival of a head of state to get the various improvements that have been planned to actually materialise but deep down, there’s already the knowledge of not only what image you want to show but also what you recognise needs to be happening.

Intense revision the night before an exam can be driven by the knowledge that you should have been doing that all along. Your parents are coming to visit so you do the garden the night before, despite it having needed some work long before that. You finally paint all the walls before the Queen comes to visit for fear of her thinking that your business is a squalid mess or it really is that you’ve meant to do it for months but the visit was the kick in the pants.

So the question then comes, why is it we have to wait?

Why would you not do the tasks for the good of those around you without the need for an HRH to turn up? Possibly because each person’s higher up, too has a higher up. As do they. Ultimately, everyone is doing everything they can because they want the person above them in the hierarchy to see them as being the best they can be, and it becomes far too simple a task to forget about those people below us.

And isn’t that just the start of so very many of the problems we have?

NOT TALL

I wrote last week about the importance of being a role model and how there are always eyes on us.

And I took over a thousand words to get my point across.

Just throwing words at a problem doesn’t always mean it’s going to help get the point across.

Because sometimes, less is more.

So last week’s post could have looked like this.

‘You’re a role model, act like it and set a good example.’

Less is more.

That could work.

ALWAYS WATCHING

Do you feel as if there are always people watching you?

Not in a raging paranoia, tin foil hat wearing kind of way, but rather just everyday normal life. That from the second you set foot outside your front door, all the way through almost every single step along the way, that from somewhere, anywhere, there are eyes watching.

It has been suggested that the UK is the most watched country in the world, with enough cameras keeping tabs on everyone and everything for one per eleven members of the population. The more you think about it, the more chance there is for it to niggle at the back of your mind.

But we like to watch other people don’t we?

We all enjoy indulging in a little gossip from time to time but over the last twenty years or so, our watching of others has exploded.

The actions of the public are now a major element of our entertainment diet in the form of reality shows of any and all shapes. What would Christmas be without The X Factor? Hasn’t Big Brother gone well past it’s best before date? Isn’t Gogglebox a programme about watching people watching TV?

We know that we have to be aware of the eyes watching us. We know that speed cameras are out there to catch drivers going over the speed limit. We’re familiar with cameras watching over our streets in an attempt to minimise antisocial behaviour and as such, we behave accordingly.

Now the purpose of this post isn’t to pass comment on the relative rights and wrongs of such things, rather I’m looking at the behaviour we all adopt because of these eyes watching us.

How many times have you seen examples of drivers slamming the brakes on as they approach a speed camera, only to speed back up once they’re out of the eye line of the lens?

Every day there are examples where we all push the boundaries of what is allowed or acceptable. The problems that the cameras are there to reduce evolve and move in new directions. So what happens when you break the rules and win?

The rules mark out the field of play for us all. We all have to exist within this framework to allow the society as a whole to flourish, each of us doing our bit to make sure that the whole is preserved. In the most basic sense, the strong take on more burden and the weak are assisted, while everyone else in the middle does they’re fair share.

But we all know the darkness inherent in the system, in any number of stories we’re familiar with and out there in the real world. Corruption so outcomes no longer show equity. Where parts of a population are seen as special and others are not. The first person to nudge beyond and colour outside the lines without there being any negative outcomes, was the first person who understood that cheats do prosper.

If you cheat and get caught, you are a cheat or a criminal, viewed poorly for cheating. If you cheat and no one sees it, your success is seen as being the result of shrewd thinking, clever actions.

So you cheat again.

And again.

The protagonist in stories is readily seen as being the righteous one, the one who is honest and true, but the antagonist is so easily the moustache twirling, black hearted monster with nothing but the worst planned.

So why cheat if it dooms you to ‘the dark side’?

It’s too simple to just paint people as good or bad. Everyone who cheated and won saw this as showing that they were smart enough to get around the system. Captain Kirk had his Kobayashi Maru and was commended for it. We see on football / soccer pitches all over the world, examples of players feigning injury, or simulating fouls to gain advantage and very often, those who are commentating laud them for it.

“He was very clever there, allowing himself to be knocked off the ball like that.”

Gone are the full blooded contests where physical contact was part and parcel of the game only to leave behind players willing to roll on the floor as if they’d been hit by a sniper in the stands at the merest hint of a challenge for the ball. All those eyes watching on see this as being the way to advance, the way to succeed. If you do this when you play, you’ll get a positive outcome as well, the knowing wink says as the benefits are reaped.

In a round about way, I’m looking at the importance of the role model. That person we watch and admire for what they do. They become our heroes very easily and carry the mantle of example wherever they go. We’ve all had one in our lives. It may have been a parent, a sibling, a famous sports star, even a politician, but we all looked at that person with an almost reverential awe. They were the best. They were what we wanted to be like. We yearned to be just like them and we did what we could to reach that goal.

Worryingly, what would happen if the role model was a bad guy?

Would the effect be to create hoardes of little beasts?

I doubt it but it’s important that we all recognise that we could, in some way, represent the role model for another and make sure we’re doing the best we can. There will always be eyes watching and teaching a poor message could have long term consequences.

I watched a kids game of football / soccer yesterday while I sat in a café waiting for Jo. It looked like a bunch of under elevens. Ish. They were passing and dribbling for all they were worth and there were good challenges going in for the tackles, all in all, making me feel oddly encouraged.

And then it happened.

A player from one team dribbled forwards, a little way out from goal, and was surrounded by three players from the opposition. In a flash, his space was gone and he was out of passing options. He couldn’t shoot and there appeared to be no way out. Until the first foot from an opposing player approached the ball. The attacking player saw his chance and performed a reasonable attempt of the flourishing swan dive we see all too regularly on TV. The surrounding lads checked for a split second, not really sure of themselves, and the referee blew for the foul.

I didn’t really see any contact but it could only have been minimal, yet he’d been given the free kick, getting him out of trouble. He hadn’t been knocked to the ground, he’d just collapsed, yet he’d gained an advantage. He was also the one to score from the resulting free kick.

Cheats never prosper is a lie but we all have to do our part to stand up as the role models people may see us as to make sure that the idea of going outside the rules doesn’t come into play but if you do, you aren’t congratulated for it.