Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Heaven and Hell

My attitude towards life on Earth has undergone a few phases in my lifetime, from the usual childish conceptions, through my now defunct religious 'certainty', to a place where I think the line 'I was thinking to myself: this could be heaven or this could be hell' from the Eagles' Hotel California sums things up best. It's really all about one's own perceptions of life, and how they allow said person to behave, particularly in the context of their interactions with others. I recall an interesting story about Heaven and Hell: essentially in Hell there are a group of people sat round a table, with a pot of food in the middle. They are all starving, but the spoons they have are so long they cannot reach them to their mouths, and consequently cannot eat. In Heaven, the same scenario, but the people are feeding each other. Religious ideas of an afterlife aside, the point is an important one, and well made: if people were all to treat each other as well as we are capable of treating each other, then life on Earth would be like a Heaven of sorts. Instead, and of course because of our biology, and the practice and success of various behaviour types (e.g. promotion of self-interest over that of others in society), Earth is sometimes amazing, but many other times shitty and frustrating and downright cruel. And this just seems disappointing to me, is all.

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Every once in a while you get a rare glimpse of your city from a new or rare angle. Flying back in to London in the early hours of Thursday morning (thanks to a little unplanned flight alteration due to the Heathrow strikes), I had the, I want to say privilege, if that doesn't sound too wanky, of seeing my adopted home from above, lit up in all her glory. She was slowly waking up, stifled beneath her usual blanket of grey cloud, which had the effect of making the lighting which was draped over her all the more beautiful. The familiar places stood out with an unusual clarity, and others made themselves known. I cast my eye over parliament and the eye, westward across the parks and on to the arch of Wembley, thrust defiantly into the clouds as if to say, 'Please, clouds. I see this shit all the time. Bring it on. No mere weather will tame me. I am the heart of England.'
The aeroplane descended, and I gazed. My view continued over residences and five-aside courts, past slow-pulsing streams of traffic and over the familiar-if-only-from-TV-coverage turf of Craven Cottage, balanced precariously on the edge of the ubiquitous Thames. As we dropped further it occurred to me, seeing my home in this way was not only beautiful, but perhaps leads me to an appreciation both of the strength and weaknesses of London, in a way I've had inklings of before. She is at once dynamic and sluggish, a city, like many in Europe, weighed down by the weight of her own history, struggling to move forward and at the same time stay true to everything she has done and all the lives which have come and gone inside her borders. And she is strong, she has presence, she has the benefit of a thousand voices and cultures spread across a million lifetimes, propelling her forward, feeding her inspiration.
She is at once familiar and yet strange, a city in which I could live a hundred years and still not fully understand her entire workings. I think this is part of the reason why, as she slipped away from my sight, draped in her electric finery and her stone monuments, I said to myself, choosing her was the right decision.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Planet Earth

Planet Earth is so beautiful I can't stand it. This great big amazing cosmic joke, this fireball island in the middle of nothing. How ridiculous all of it. How fabulously beautiful. Even the ugly spots. How perfectly imperfect. How much diminished it would be if it were not sometimes ugly, sometimes crazy, sometimes frustrating and horrible and gorgeous all at once. This lonely life and this isolated paradise. Even stupid, ugly death adds to the beauty. And therefore sometimes I find it so hard to be angry.
But, it's not some perfect imperfect divine plan or game. It's because we evolved here. Just a beautiful accident, a fantastic fluke. All of it. All existence even. It's all a ridiculous joke, started by no one. Get it?

Monday, 21 November 2011


Motivation comes and goes, so I try and grab on to it when it does swing by. It has been a while since Laid Hold The Dragon was written, let alone published. It began as other pieces of my writing have, with an idea from another book, merged with a scene in my head. In my mind’s eye it plays out as a scene in a movie, vivid, colourful, but initially without context. The swirling mists of the story gradually coalesce and take solid form, and the thing comes together. For me, the process is often chaotic, which lends it a certain energy, but also means I have to write a lot of notes in order to ensure that the final product will make some kind of sense. It’s a balance between precision and emotion, or between patience and the desire to blurt out as much of the imagery in my head as possible before it fades away.
I have been thinking back to the original motivation for the book, besides being sick of thinking about writing one for some time and actually wanting to get on with it. I had been interested in (but not a believer of) Christian Apocalypse theory, or whatever it is called, and I remember thinking ‘what if the End of Days didn’t go according to plan?’ That was where it all started. Actually, thinking about it, that would make a fairly good movie tagline. Ok, maybe not. In any case, liked the idea of drawing on this warped vision of the future, and warping it even further, whilst being able to tell very human stories through my characters and through their visions. Incorporating the science fiction elements into the book was just another fun, though challenging, aspect of what I wanted to achieve.
The impetus for creation, as mentioned earlier, is often drawn from other works, or from the seeds of concepts expressed in these works, be they works of fiction or otherwise. I often find that my best ideas for science fiction (or the ones which seem so to me) have sprung from today’s science or ways of thinking. Translating the excitement and fascination of these concepts into something readable and equally as exciting is the challenge I have taken on; if I have not completely succeeded, perhaps it will not be too much excuse-making to say that it is a struggle to truly express these concepts; and indeed, the struggle itself has its own rewards.
It would seem the ultimate test is always how readers feel once they have finished reading (and, indeed, whether they do finish reading), and whether they come to the end with a sense of satisfaction and time well spent; if you are one of those who has been intrigued enough to pick up a copy, I hope I do not disappoint. If you would like to give me feedback, I’d love it, but please be gentle; it’s my first time.