Monthly Archives: September 2014


If you’ve ever read reviews of, well anything, you’ll know it can be a futile experience. Sometimes there are equal numbers of positive reviews as negative reviews. By the end of it you’re as confused as when you started. This is frustrating but it can be great for a writer.

It’s great because whatever we write someone will like it. At the very least we hope someone will like it. In one of my creative writing classes we were given a list of story titles. We were asked to say which of them we’d most like to read. Everyone was interested in a different story. This might seem a rather trite thing but it was useful.

I remember picking out Memories of the Space Age as the one I was most interested in. Though I haven’t read it yet – which I suppose rather undermines my point. It sounded so interesting because it suggested a post apocalyptic world.

The point of all this is simple. Everything has an audience. It still has to follow the basic rules of a story but no matter where you set it, or when, you’ll find someone who likes it.

And if all else fails…

You can just pretend that the cuddly duck, that you’ve had since childhood, really really likes it.

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One Hundred

This is my one hundredth post on this site. So I’ve been bringing you poorly edited stuff for quite a while now! In all seriousness I do edit and proofread but something is always missed. Its a lot easier to notice mistakes made by others than it is ones you’ve made.

My novel, Rolling Shadows, is going well. This novel has been altered to within an inch of its life. If I was writing on paper I would have got through a small forest. Nothing has really been deleted in the processing of the novel but I am confused. I start to wonder if a particular fact was in the current draft or the previous draft.

The common wisdom is that on finishing a novel you should stick it in a draw for a few months. This enables you to forget all the story paths you didn’t take. You also need an editor who can point out all the story flaws. I try to be aware of these flaws because I like to nitpick. I try to think critically about what I’m writing. I want to find the flaws and fix them to deprive a review of saying how stupid I was.

One of the hardest potential flaws to detect is implication. This is when you give your character or star ship some ability and, without realising it, you imply another ability. An example of this would be Star Trek with its transporters and torpedoes. I assume you can see where I’m going with this. Yet it wasn’t until Dark Frontier that that was shown. Even then it didn’t become a standard tactic. It seems to me that that could, even should, be their standard tactic. Weaken the shields enough to beam a torpedo aboard and then boom.

This is even more difficult when dealing with magic. Where are the limits? In the Harry Potter series glasses can be fixed with a spell but not, apparently, eyes. Obviously eyes are far more complicated but couldn’t you conjure up something like contact lens?

There is no answer. My advice to anyone reading over their own work is to pretend its written by someone you don’t like. That way you might be more critical. I know that if Doctor Who does something stupid I’ll forgive it. Doctor Who is British, made in Cardiff no less, so I forgive its foibles. However if its a show I’m ambivalent towards, or even don’t like, I’ll use it as one more reason to hate it. I’m irrational that way.

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Scottish Independence

On Thursday the Scottish people vote on whether to become an independent state. Living in Wales, and to my shame never having visited Scotland, this will have little effect on me. Whichever way this goes I think the fact that the SNP is even calling for this referendum says a lot. Even if Scotland remains a part of the UK I think this may be the start of some big political changes. Like I said I don’t get a vote – if Wales had the option to be independent I would vote yes.

The political system in the UK is problematic. Often times, assuming we vote at all, we vote simply for the party we hate the least. I know who I’m voting for next election – its not exactly the party I want but I’m voting for them so the party I absolutely don’t want doesn’t get in. It feels like being a starving man and only having the choice of food that will kill you or food that will make you ill.

I have heard it suggested that England should have its own Parliament. This would be a very good idea. At the moment Welsh, Northern Irish, and Scottish MPs vote on devolved issues. In essence my local MP votes on legislation which won’t effect his constituents because its handled by the Welsh Assembly. An England Parliament would do much to make the countries in the UK seem more equal. Without a separate English Parliament England feels, paradoxically, both about and, arguably, below the rest of the UK.

Since the referendum was announced people have come out as ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Some elements of the ‘No’ campaign have seemed really silly. The government have offered more powers to the Scottish parliament if they stay – but if they go they get them anyway.  Also I saw that Barack Obama said that Scotland should remain, or words to that effect, which seems a bit rich for the President of a country that celebrates its independence every year. It makes me wonder what would have happen, back in the 1700s, if George III had offered the Americans representation in Parliament.

So in a few days we’ll know. As I said whichever way this goes I think big changes are afoot.

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My Imagination

Klingons have ridges and Cardassians have spoons. A lot of aliens don’t even have that. The Centauri only look alien because their entire population, at least the men, have had bad dreams. Unless you factor in their… high numerical value… there isn’t much difference. The reason for this is obvious, casting persons are limited to hiring humans. A trip out of the solar system is a little beyond the budget of most television programs.

Actors like Andreas Katsulas do a great job in presenting alien characters. CGI just wasn’t up to the task back then. Even today it struggles with presenting characters. I don’t need to say the name do I? The film, the infamous film, and its sequels? It will remain nameless, was released 15 years ago. 15 years ago! Goodness me I’m old! I’m old enough, or rather was young enough at the time, to actually think the film was good.

Real actors are therefore the way to go. Film makers though are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I apologise to my writing teachers for employing a cliche – but damn it it’s true. Film makes either have an actor in prosthetics or fake looking CGi.

Consider the Gorn. In Arena the Gorn was played by a man in a suit and in In a Mirror Darkly Part II it was CGI – it is arguable which is worse.

I’ve just been reading Doors into Chaos, the third book in the Gateways series, and featuring the Gorn. I found it hard to imagine them. I kept seeing the CGI blob of their Enterprise appearance and not the ‘real’ creature. Perhaps this is understandable as I’m dealing with a creature I know from TV. However this seems to happen to me even when it is an entirely original piece of work. Yes, I think my mind is defective. When I try to imagine an alien in a novel my mind seems to bring up what it would look like if it was having to be put together for a film – stupid brain.

Sometimes I wounder if having humanoid aliens isn’t the best choice – even in books. If you have an alien that is very different from humans it is difficult to keep track of. You might be left thinking ‘Are they the ones with twelve tentacles or the ones with eighteen fingers the size of cocktail sausages.’ Maybe I just have a short… squirrel.

I’ve used that joke before. I don’t think it was funny then either.

From a story perspective aliens have to have some connection to humans. If we are too different, biologically, culturally, technologically, then there would be little or no interaction. If the aliens require arsenic to live we’re probably not going to enter into a dispute over planet everything-here-can-kill-you. Unless arsenic is of use to us in someway I don’t know – I don’t know a lot of things.

I was going to end with a great quote. It’s late and this is not a university essay so I’m not going to worry too much about exactitude. I’m going to attribute the quote to Dyson, not the vacuum cleaner man, the physicists. The quote is this:  ‘Intelligent aliens may not only be stranger than we imagine; they may be stranger than we can imagine.’






I don’t know where you live so it could be any.

Good day.


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