Writing

Patterns – featured on Cast of Wonders

Patterns is a short story that arose as part of a group writing exercise. The writing prompt was ‘and she looked at me again.’ The phrase conjured an image of a teenage boy watching his girlfriend walking away from him. As she reached the exit of the school hall she turned to look back at him.  There was such a strong connection between these two characters that I had to discover who they were and what had brought them together. Thus, Kate and Mikey walked into my head and onto the page.

As it turned out, the bond between Kate and Mikey could not be broken by the mystery lurking at the bottom of the archaeological dig at the bottom of the school playing field: the place all the kids have nicknamed ‘The Pit’.

You can listen to this story on the Cast of Wonders website (a YA audio magazine).

Enjoy!

NeXus—mankind gets an upgrade

Ramez Naam – Angry Robot

Nexus-144dpiThis book is set in the near future and looks at the impact of nanotechnology, specifically its ability to engender a form of telepathy in humans—the ability to link minds. As with all step-ups in technology, the impact of the drug Nexus has a multiplicity of possible benefits and opportunities for misuse—implications that the author brings to the fore through the struggles of Kaden Lane, the main protagonist.

Kaden is a young researcher who has redesigned Nexus—an illegal drug—to allow the drug’s nanostructures to be pre-programmed. The book opens with Kaden carrying out a field trial of the ‘Don Juan’ protocol. The ‘Don Juan’ protocol analyses his interactions with a young woman and controls his responses, changing a shy and diffident young man into a confident, smooth operator.

‘The Chemistry Between Us—love, sex, and the science of attraction’ Larry Young, PhD and Brian Alexander

ImageThis is an engaging book that addresses questions such as:

  • How does love begin?
  • What drives mothers to care for their babies?
  • What accounts for the gender of the people at whom we aim our affection?
  • What does it mean to say one is male or female?

The book is based on rigorous research using data from both animal and human subjects. It has been written to be accessible to a non-scientific reader. In order to build and develop the theoretical arguments to address the above questions, Young and Alexander describe and explain the significance of the experiments carried out—some readers may find this aspect of the book disturbing.

Young and Alexander manage to convey complex theory in a clear and concise manner. Effective use is made of wry humour to lighten what could be quite dense material. Diagrams are occasionally used to help clarify particular issues, though on a personal note I have to admit that I did occasionally skip over some of the more technical terms.

‘Mindstar Rising’ by Peter F. Hamilton

The cover of the 17th November 2012 edition of New Scientist headlined:

CLIMATE CHANGE

Five years ago we feared the worst. But it’s looking even worse than that.

It seems that the climate models were wrong. The rate-of-loss of arctic ice, the increase in rainfall intensity, and the searing heat waves have already reached the levels that were predicted for the end of this century. As I read the dire warnings of more extreme weather in the northern hemisphere, the current and expected fall in crop yields in the UK due to heavy rainfall, the need to develop heat-tolerant crop varieties, and the likely flooding of many low-lying cities—the world created by Peter F. Hamilton in the Greg Mandel trilogy came to mind.

ImageHamilton’s first novel, Mindstar Rising, is set in England, where global warming has reshaped the physical, social and economic state of the country. Note that I said England; political chaos and industrial collapse have resulted in Wales and Scotland existing as separate political and economic entities. In the novel, massive flooding created a huge refugee problem, necessitating the requisition of buildings (shops, hotels etc.) under the government’s ‘one home policy’ to provide emergency housing. This re-imagined England has spent the past twelve years sweltering under bright hot skies, with high humidity and an annual rainy season. Most of the familiar plants and trees are gone, replaced by more tropical varieties. Low lying areas used for farming have been reduced to mud-clogged marshlands and bogs, and every available green space has been appropriated for raising crops.

Peterborough is the new industrial capital—referred to in the book as the new Hong Kong. ‘If you can’t get it in Peterborough, you can’t get it anywhere.’

Photos added to writing pieces

Just a quick note to highlight the photos added to illustrate my flash fiction, short story and book excerpt.

Writing in Galleries

In September 2011 I went along to the Royal Academy of Arts as part of a ‘Stories at an Exhibition’ writing group led by Shaun Levin. I spent a couple of hours wandering around an exhibition of street photography by André Kertész, and writing to images that inspired me. The first exercise invited me to stop at ten random photographs and write the story that I saw in the image—one minute of writing per photograph. Looking back over my notebook, I’m surprised at the immediacy and energy in the few scribbled lines per image—each one could blossom into so much more.

Liars’ League

I had my first experience of the Liars’ League on Tuesday 13th November at The Phoenix. The Liars’ League advertises its events as a place where: Writers Write; Actors Act; Audience Listens; Everyone Wins. The venue itself was a rather plush affair, with red velvet seating, a well appointed small stage, a bar and excellent food.

November’s theme was ‘Treason and Plot’ and featured five stories covering ‘lucky terrorists, taciturn cult-leaders, Nordic fishermen, Jewish princesses and an ankle-obsessed Jacobean in a ginger wig’. I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed all five stories, there’s something about having your story read by a talented actor that really brings it to life.

Writing and Photography

Exhibitions of street photography can offer a rich variety of inspiration for writers. A visit to the Tate Modern and the William Klein/Daido Moriyama exhibition on 1st December certainly provided me unexpected insights into one of my characters.

Klein has a distinctive approach to street photography, using a wide-angled lens to cram as much as he can into each shot. He wants to create the sense that the viewer is jammed in amongst the crowds. It was the faces that jumped out at me, one or maybe two in a crowd, often looking lost. Loneliness spotlighted. Writing in the cafe, it was this sense of being lost that emerged in the internal voice of a character who is, on the outside at least, a strong and confident man.

%d bloggers like this: