Monthly Archives: October 2014

Designing a World

A while ago I had a conversation with a friend about world building. We discussed whether the world should come first or the story. We basically deiced that both ways have merit.

Let’s start off with a premise: A group of extremists break in to a school and hold the teachers and students captive. The school is attended by the children of important people. All of the parents are: ambassadors, politicians, CEOs, news executives, Generals, Admirals, Air Marshals, and so on.

That premise could be used in a story set today. It could be set in the far future. It could be a world of magic. What the world is like would dictate how the situation is dealt with.

If we were in a science fiction setting what would be the solution? Just beam the hostages out? That would be a very short and boring book. So maybe transports don’t exist – or perhaps the terrorists have an anti-transporter device.

If the would is designed first then you have limiters built in. You know what the characters are prepared to do and you know what technology will allowed them to do. Are the terrorists really prepared to kill children to get what they want? Or is it a bluff? Will the negotiator (perhaps an FBI agent) decided to pump gas in to knock everyone out – risking everyone’s lives? Perhaps there is a completely safe anesthetic  and the story then is about how to get close enough to deploy it.

It can be interesting to write with limitations. You can start with the school. Its built on an island. It has a group of five attack helicopters and a contingent of Royal Marines. Then you have to decided how the terrorists overcame this. Was their an insider?

If the story is designed first all parts of the story can be decided – pretty much as you go along. You might deiced from the get go that two children will die but the others will be saved. This method might require a lot of reworking. It’s important to beware of logical hiccups.

I’ve already alluded to Star Trek and it is an example of the world being designed first. I.e the transporters were there from the beginning and so were a staple for every episode. However if you could just beam captured crew aboard at any time it wouldn’t be dramatic. Therefore the transport can’t work in certain conditions. Arguably it would have been better not to have transporters. It starts to look silly if they can’t be used too often.

In my own science fiction I’ve tried to develop the world first. I’ve hit a bit of brick wall. Looking at current technologies its possible that something akin to an Avatar might be possible. Not a blue skinned critter but a mechanical device. We already have the technology to control bionic arms across the room – requiring an implant. So give it 1000 years and you could send avatars, robot like devices, down to a planet. These would be controlled from the ship. If anything goes wrong you’ve only lost hardware and not people.

This could create a story problem as the crew are never actually at risk. It is tempting to change the world of the story. I could invent a reason why this technology doesn’t exist. However I feel it is somewhat more interesting to decided that the technology does exist. Doing that means I have to be more creative. I have to work to bring in tension. Also having these devices sets it apart from Star Trek. In Star Trek they go down to planets with nothing but a phaser and a tricorder.


Would consoles explode? No. Okay I can’t say that for sure. I’ve decided though that consoles won’t explode. I love Star Trek but that’s just silly. A few sparks maybe – so perhaps a few electrical burns – but not a toss you across the room explosion!

I understand why they do explode like that. It gives tension to the bridge scenes. In reality the bridge of a starship would be deep inside the ship. The ship would probably shake but not much more than that.

I’m a writer not a physicist.

Deciding that the consoles won’t explode does beg the question of how to make battles exciting. I guess that is my challenge.

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Not What it Seems

As you know I’m a member of a gym. The gym in question is about a 30 minute train journey away. It seemed like a logical choice. I already have a monthly train ticket, because of work, so the train fare wasn’t an issue. I figured I’d go on my days off and one day after work. However… my job involves standing up all the time… therefore I don’t usually feel like going after work. On my days off it feels like quite a rigmarole going all that way.

The solution is obvious – find a gym closer to home. I did my googgling and found one.  It was £3.20 for one session and only a 15 minute walk. The website looked most professional. They offer membership and have ‘superb facilities including locker rooms’

They do not…

Basically this gym was just a room with some equipment. I suppose technically that describes all gyms of this type. However I was expecting a lot more from what the website said. The equipment was a little on the dirty side, it needed dusting (so does my flat but that’s a separate issue), and there weren’t locker rooms. There were lockers on a landing with three showers.

Maybe I was expecting too much. That is certainly a possibility but the gym I go to in Cardiff is cheaper than this little place. Also the showers actually drain and you don’t end up standing in a good few inches of water.

I guess it just goes to show that anyone can make a good website.

So for now I’ll stick with the large gym in town. At least I can read on the train.

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Today was a nice day.

I allowed myself to do nothing. I then felt guilty about it.

Having worked the late shift on Saturday I got up rather late today.  I decided to go into town. Cardiff Farmer’s Market is on on Sundays. It was great to see so many people there and sample the lovely food. If you live in Cardiff its well worth a visit.

After the market I went to Starbucks, then the gym,  and then Starbucks again on account of missing my train.

So I’ve supported the little guy and a multinational corporation – swings and roundabouts.

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Fiction Within Fiction#2

Several weeks ago I talked about the lack of fiction within fictional works. Click here for the original. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that thinking of fiction within fiction is even more useful than I first thought. The reason: copyright.

I’ve tried to wrap my head around what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to copyright. There seems to be a disconnect between what is legal and what people have actually been cautioned for. Obviously uploading entire episodes of a series is illegal but reviews should be legal.

In my novel I want to reference various works of fiction. It seems so natural to me. If a character finds herself on a starship, or finds out magic exists, she is almost certainly going to talk about the fiction she knows. If someone told you that you have magical powers might you be tempted to say: “Hogwarts here I come!” or maybe refer to your mentor as “Gandalf” now and again.

These are the sorts of things I want to do. I thought of having the wizard say “You know its not too late. You can take the blue pill.” – meaning that my protagonist is given the option to forget she has magic and go back to her life.

I still can’t get my head round what is allowed. Does The Big Bang Theory, for instance, have to ask permission for every reference they make? Do they have to pay Sci-fi (I refuse to use their new spelling) whenever a character says ‘frak’?

I have no idea. This difficulty has lead to an interesting opportunity. I can use my novel as a proving ground for new ideas. Instead of the characters watching real shows they watch things I’ve made up. The particular favorite is a show called Guardians of Kronos.

Guardians of Kronos follows Sian Fry. Her job is to maintain the integrity of the space/time continuum as aliens attempt to disrupt history. Inventing concepts and characters is always fun. Its nice to be able to do it without having to work out all the ins and outs.

I did have one other idea which was to use Galaxy Quest; but to use it as a real show. I.e. In this universe. we have Galaxy Quest, Galaxy Quest: The Second Generation, Galaxy Quest: Babylon 9, Galaxy Quest: Valiant, and Galaxy Quest: Protector – and there was also a 1999 film spoof about this successful franchise….


A spoof called Star Trek….

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