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!

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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.

A GOOD PAINT JOB

Have you heard the phrase ‘A picture paints a thousand words’?

As an author with zero ability with a paint brush, it could be really simple to think that I’m on the wrong side of that equation but as with so many things in life, there’s always layers to everything we consider.

How many of us have bought flat pack furniture from IKEA or the like and been confronted with the wonder that is the instruction booklet? A collection of pages that are meant to provide directions through the maze of construction to the promised land of a securely put together unit but at some point, we’ve all come across instructions which seemed to have been designed to do more harm than good.

Could you imagine trying to put together a bookcase you’ve never seen before with nothing but words in the ‘How to’ guide?

It wouldn’t take long before you’d have clumps of your hair in your fists and a selection of the bits you were working with scattered all over the room. Trying to paint that picture with just the words could be a bit of a toughie. But so could the reverse.

Words and pictures have their powers and both can be used to explain and entertain. A picture paints a thousand words but I can paint a picture with a thousand words. It’s just a matter of time.

I’ve taken inspiration from single pictures to add to the narrative I’m working on and when I look at all manner of images I try to imagine all of the back story that may come with them. The giant dragon image, the creature wrapped around the burning castle as it roars out at the night sky, looks great on its own but just think about all of the story that could be spilling out with the image.

Pictures of all kinds can make our minds fire. The right blend of words can do the same. The artist and the author have to plan and execute their work to create the piece they aim for but the person admiring that work could see the written word as being more work to unravel. A picture can paint the words more quickly but in both art forms, the more you look, the more you read, the more time you take, the meaning is spread out much more clearly, showing level after level of new detail.

Trouble is, I can’t draw for the life of me.

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.

VIOLENCE

Violent acts are all around us one way or another every single day. If you’ve indulged in a bit of road rage on your way to work or barged past someone who was walking too slowly, holding everyone up, that’s violence. Dragging someone into the street and giving them a damn good thrashing with a baseball bat is also violence. Threatening someone is also violence.

All in all, it’s everywhere.

I’m writing book three of The Circle series at the moment and like the others, there will be conflict between different people and creatures which means I’m going to have to include some violence. So why is it that violence, which can cause so very many negatives, is so popular in our fiction?

We see every day on the news, a seemingly unending supply of examples of brutality from all over the globe. Acts of terrorism, murders, wars, and any other act of violence that you could possibly care to dream up yet we all love stories which include just those very acts. Now it would be too easy just to say that as a people, we’re all becoming desensitized to violence because we see it so often that when it pops up in a book or on TV we just see it as being part and parcel of life, but for e that seems too simple.

Computer games and films are regularly blamed when a violent act is perpetrated as being what pushed a person over the edge. The music of Marilyn Manson has been pointed at as a driving force behind violent behaviour from someone who listened to it.

I can’t recall a time where a book was held up as an example of driving someone to violence.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned way back when amid a moral panic regarding it’s contents and we’re all no doubt familiar with the phenomenon that is 50 Shades. Books of an erotic nature like these immediately make people angry but all manner of depictions of violence are held in the pages of a library so anyone can dive in and swim around.

After the 50 Shades book was released, there was an increase in the number of injuries of a sexual nature which were reported to hospitals as people gave the practices in the pages a go without doing all of the research they needed to. Yet there seems to be no qualms about descriptions of violence in other books. Granted, we’re unlikely to see a Val McDermid book be released and than have thousands of people set off on macabre killing sprees but why is it that there’s never the clamour for the books with violence in them to be sanctioned?

Now I recognise that 50 Shades books are held up as examples of normalising violence against women and the dynamics of the relationship in the novels is far from healthy, but people found it a way to explore their own sexuality and decided to give some things a go, potentially unwisely, which resulted in the injuries.

We see books where serial killers conduct almost unspeakably brutal actions as the hero chases after them. I’ve read books which included people being tied up in the mouth of an underground tunnel like a spider at the centre of a web and left to be killed by the arrival of the train. Val McDermid and a description of a torture device involving a naked man, a chair with no seat and a razor and hook covered and electrified cone is not something that I would ever wish to see come to pass in the real world and the entire works of Clive Barker seem to speak for themselves yet that violence doesn’t appear everywhere after the release.

Violence is a great tool in story telling. Violence can provide a level of connection that the reader may not have without it. We recognise what it would feel like to experience the violence so can empathise. We can also see just how far a character may have been pushed if they are willing to commit an act of violence. We know that we would never do something like that but also, exactly just how bad things must be if they’d reached that point of striking out.

But violence is not a thing of it’s own. Violence doesn’t exist separate from anything else just randomly doing it’s thing for no reason. Violence is the tool of a stimulus. Control of people can be maintained by acts or threats of violence. Emotion bring violence to the fore. Anger spilling out, envy and also sadness. People are driven to violence because of their situations and we’ve got to remember that it isn’t always something which should be squashed. Violently breaking free of oppression, self defence. These things mean that we need to recognise that violence isn’t the end point.

The works of Shakespeare and so very many religious books all have examples of the kind of brutality that would make your toes curl yet we encourage our young people to explore these books when they’re young as positives.

I’ll continue to use violence in what I write when the story requires I do. Just throwing it in there because you’re feeling bored won’t add to the story and could just look sensationalist. When my characters are violent, they have to be because of the story I’m putting together. I won’t have them being sadistic just because. There’s always a cause to violence and very often, the journey that matters is finding out what that cause is.

NEW YEAR, NEW ………………..

What does 2018 have in store for us?

No-one knows for sure but we all have a super power in this regard. Buried inside all of us is a power which holds the possibility of moulding and shaping the world to our desires.

We don’t have to be bitten by a radioactive anything or be hit by a weird space ray to bring this power to the surface but it can often take some kind of external stimulus.

2017 was nuggets of good forced to orbit a brutal black core of despair but the new year has allowed me to take stock and recognise that my super power was being brought to the surface.

I see in myself, both the need but also the power, to shape my reality in the way I want. I’m going to grip this year and make changes so I can get to where I need to be. I’m still feeling the pain of 2017 and I’m sure that the after taste of what happened will last a great many years but I’m going to start punching back.

The world is coming for all of us in one way or another and the fact that the fight approaches is something none of us can avoid. What we can do though, is make sure that we reach into our own reservoir of superpower, draw together our defences and just meet the onslaught head on.

Let’s all become our very own superheroes in 2018 and become the fully active force that our lives deserve. It’s never a time to take a backward step so let’s all do all we can to be as good as we can be and never let the monster of life beat us down.

Onwards one and all.

FAME

Do you want to be famous?

It seems to be ‘the’ thing that everyone wants at the moment.

There have been studies done which show that the previous desires of astronaut and the like have been replaced with the hope of attaining fame.

It’s not that people didn’t want to be famous back in the day, rather they wanted to be a footballer or an actor first and the fame that came along was just something that was part and parcel of the original situation.

But the world is changed.

Now, rather than fame being a by-product of the hoped for role, it has moved ahead and has become the target. The desire seems to have morphed to become famous and then find a way to maintain it, doing anything and everything possible.

Now the reason I began thinking about fame came as I reviewed my position as an author.

When I started on my writing journey, all I ever had in mind was getting the story finished and releasing it into the world. I didn’t even consider what would happen after I had the book published and the idea of becoming famous never crossed my mind.

Not that I’m famous now, but my name is on something for sale on Amazon.

So does that mean that fame is something which only happens after a certain amount of name recognition? Will I have to have sold a particular number of books to be classed as famous? Have a set number of page likes on Facebook? (By the way, if you haven’t liked the page already, you’re missing out on all kinds of fun).

If I walk down the street and am recognised by people as the author of The Circle series, does that mean that fame is mine? Granted, author would never really be considered as the fast track to fame but you never know.

Fame is something that is so very odd. The desire to be recognised, to have people know who you are. To lay it out like that, it seems a pretty peculiar thing to be striving for as the main goal. Fame is a by product of doing something else, something which brings the attention to you rather than just having the attention and going from there. Could it just mean that there is a greater desire for people to feel that they’re surrounded by others who are interested in what they say or do?

Whatever the reasons, fame is something that has the chance to elevate or destroy and will always be something which comes along with an ever changing list of professions and situations. I don’t ever spend swathes of time thinking about fame. I just want to write books and go from there.