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!

Advertisements

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.

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?

YODA-ESQUE

Now I’m not going to explain swathes of nonsense about the little green character this week, rather I want to have a look at the role in storytelling of the teacher.

Yoda is far from the only master of sage wisdom in the Star Wars saga and indeed, even the bad guys have their entries in the faculty register clearly defined and the position of teacher is one that is regularly used to explore all kinds of relationships.

The position of the teacher is a vitally important role for all of us. Through our lives, we have to learn all manner of new things and all of the steps along the way, we rely on the input of others. We learn to drive, and we learn new languages, but before all that, we learn to speak, we learn to walk, we learn how to feed ourselves. We have to learn so much along the way, it’s no wonder that we have to rely on the input of others. The teacher, the aged master, the font of all knowledge, is a vital part of all of our lives and isn’t something that should be dismissed as trivial.

We all know a good teacher.

I’m married to one. My mum’s one. My school and college life gave me many others.

A great teacher can take any subject and breath life into it in ways that others may not even consider. Dry and dusty topics erupt in colour and sounds and draw everyone to them, filling all with a wild urgency to discover all that the subject could possibly have to offer.

But leaving behind school or college, the need for a strong teacher is still there. How many businesses have a dedicated Learning and Development department? In each job, you have to be shown what to do and we’ve all been forced to endure death by power point at the hands of someone who really isn’t built for the task.

In my career, I’ve been lucky enough to have filled this role myself and make sure that people are given the right tools to be able to do what they need to. And therein for me, lies the core of what the teacher is there to do.

Yoda did it. So did Mr. Miyagi. The teacher is the one who gives the protagonist all of the tools they need to be able to succeed. They explain things in such a way as to let the discoveries of proficiency be something that the student earns rather than just having them spoon-fed. The student is allowed to explore the materials they’ve been presented with and then apply them. Errors are used to highlight the correct outcome rather than just admonish and should the student think things are too free and easy, their teacher will be on hand to very quickly show them the error of their ways as they demonstrate just how strong they are and just how much further the student has to go. Ultimately, the student can be allowed to then achieve their own successes but also take responsibility for their failures.

A strong teacher is someone who is able to encourage and impart wisdom all the while keeping the student engaged with what they’re doing. I love the feeling of working with people in this field and watching on as they go on to successes fills me with a deep warm glow. I see everyone as being a part of my ‘team’ and I feel protective of my team. I’ll defend my team should they need defence but when it’s warranted rather than every time.

The teacher figure is the one who helps guide. A good teacher doesn’t dictate, rather they enthuse. Seemed to work out pretty well for Luke Skywalker and Daniel LaRusso.

SOON

Who looks out there at certain things, certain events, and just can’t wait?

When I write, I very often get caught up in the story I’m working on and can’t wait to reach the next part of the narrative, excited to finally get there and explore that next area of the story. I know that what I write is something that I’d enjoy reading and having that story bubbling along in my head all of the time, I just can’t wait to arrive at the next stage.

I won’t deny it. I’m very often like a small child at Christmas on the run up to a convention. I get myself wound up with all of the thoughts of what’s going to happen on the given weekend. The people I’m going to speak to, the talks I’m going to hear, the total of the shopping, the films, the acts, all of  it, drives my mind along like you wouldn’t believe all of the time leading up to an event and that’s a chunk of the fun for these events.

Excitement for the upcoming anything in our lives is great. If we don’t have anything to look forward to, life can get pretty boring so looking forwards allows you to set goals and do all you can to reach them.

In readiness for this weekends extravaganza at the Sci-Fi Weekender, I threw a focused effort into completing the short story collection, Answers from the Darkness, in enough time to get the copies delivered. I’ve been counting and re-counting the books I have in readiness for the off, packing and re-packing everything, checking and re-checking the clothes I’m going to be wearing as I watch the clock count down.

I love conventions. I love the chance to see all the associated things and the chance to interact with all of the people who attend. We all share some ideas, and we have disagreements but they’re always a great source of enjoyment as we get together.

Having that ‘whatever’ to look forward to is a powerful thing. Kids at Christmas and birthdays show it clearly, so much so you’d swear they were going to explode. And why do we stop doing it? As we age we get told not to wish our lives away and as the years pass by, it could be easy to be spending all the time looking backwards wanting to keep hold of a time when there was more ahead of us than behind.

But we never know when it’s our ‘time’. With nothing to look forward to, you’re left with a very bleak landscape ahead. Having a wonderful thing, whatever it could be, to be aiming for, to look forward to, to be waiting for, gives you that bundle of butterfly’s in the stomach and let’s you appreciate that little bit more of life.

And if you’re going to the Sci-Fi Weekender, I’ll see you there. Come and say hello. I’ll be looking forward to it.

17626536_10154330339336921_5828863512144234897_n

ANSWERS FROM THE DARKNESS

Today I release my latest collection of short stories ‘Answers from the Darkness‘.

Last year was a swirling horror show for my family and off the back of that, my work on the third novel in The Circle series slowed to a near crawl. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I tried to force the words onto the page, nothing could release the grip on what was stopping them.

So instead I had to work through my issues in another way.

My short stories have helped me to explore ideas and work through the images in my mind following my Dad’s death.

I’ve played with some things, worked on some stuff for the world of The Circle, and tried to move into outer space with a few stories. And I enjoyed giving it a go as I climbed out of my own darkness.

The stories are looking at some uncomfortable topics and are quite gruesome in places so I’d suggest, not for kids. Everyone come and download a copy, the print copy’s coming soon.

The answers are in there……………..

51-uqcxaZpL

IT’S HISTORY

Relaxing Sunday afternoon spent in front of the TV unwinding and enjoying doing nothing. Watched two films, Percy Jackson : Sea of Monsters and Night at the Museum : Secret of the Tomb. Classic Sunday afternoon fare really, fantasy action, thrills and spills.

Good times.

Now the relative merits of these films could be debated for an age, as all films could be, but they both start with a similar ideas. Taking characters from history and playing about with them.

Greek Gods or magically re-animated dinosaurs, the pages of the history of planet Earth can lend all kinds of new fuel for writing.

Now a couple of weeks ago, I spoke about the power of putting things together that wouldn’t normally interact and figures and events from history can be a good way to do this but it’s so very much more than that.

All kinds of characters and locations are there to be explored in ways of understanding and deciphering the human condition. Having modern day characters have to try and relate to ones from centuries ago can make it easier to hold ourselves up to the light.

But just by using the characters from history or mythology, we can see that maybe, humanity has always had to deal with the same issues. Talking dinosaurs can allow us to discuss painful ideas without the risk of being too real. We can examine ideas and work through problems which can be too uncomfortable but for talking animals.

Now the fun doesn’t stop there.

What could happen if we start to look at people or events from any and all points in the past from the opposite standpoint from what we all know?

The classic of ‘What if the Nazi’s had won WW2?’ is a well known place to start. What if the USSR had won the race to the moon? What if the extinction level event which did for the dinosaurs had never happened? Dr. Horrible is the classic villain yet he’s the focus of the story.

By shuffling the deck, we story tellers get the chance to re-write history in whatever way we can dream up and that can mean we can hold up to the light any and all possibilities that cross our minds.

Everyone strap in and enjoy the ride.