Friday, 13 October 2017

2084

2084.  The world remains at war.

A chaotic city in the Eurasian desert.  Twenty-year old Adnan emerges from a coma with memories of a woman he loved in a strictly ordered world of steel and glass: The Dome.

Adnan learns what the Dome is, and what he was inside it.  He learns why everybody fears the Sickness more than the troopers.  And he learns why he is the only one who can stop the war.

Persuaded to re-enter The Dome to implant a virus that will bring the war machine to its knees, the resistance think that Adnan is returning to free the many - but really he wants to free the one.

2084, my dystopian science fiction novel, is now available from amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, or direct from Double Dragon for your enjoyment.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Nobel prize for economics? Me!! Me!! Me, please!

You may, or probably may not, know that most semi-professional (or, if you're HMRC, hobby) writers, like me, have other lives and proper jobs.  For my part, I work as a human resources consultant, words I type with, metaphorically, my hand in the air and eyes to the floor; hearing, but not quite believing, that it's okay, I'm amongst friends.

I actually like the fact that I have a second life; otherwise I fear ending up like the comic shop guy in the Simpsons, self-obsessed, overweight and balding... oh, hold on.

No, seriously, I've seen people like that: there are things about you that you wish could remain forever sixteen years old, but your sense of humour isn't one of them.  An external perspective gives you material that isn't in any way related to science fiction to inspire you.  You never know where this stuff will take you.  Sci-if is a broad church, just as your sources should be.

For example, take the productivity conundrum.  I could describe it, but a picture says a thousand words (except when you hand in an envelope of seaside postcards instead of a PhD thesis - bastards); just take it as read that what holds true for Blighty applies far wider:

Image result for productivity since 2007

Basically, productivity, our ability to add value in our daily working lives, which took off around the time I entered the labour market and steadily rose for a decade and a half, went into reverse about ten years ago.  A lot has been written about what's stopped that steady upward curve.  Which isn't going to stop me throwing in my penny's worth.

You see, to me, the answer is obvious.  Every generation gets to see a transition; my grandfather's was from horse to car, my father's was consumerism.  My privilege was to enter the world of work in an office with only primitive PCs that weren't joined to anything more significant than the mains.

And, boy, that probably explains the initial sky-rocketing of the thick blue line, although I like to think I helped.  Being in a paper-centric, desk-bound civil service job, I'm sure the ability to throw away the Dictaphone (old joke: ever used a Dictaphone? a finger's easier) and type the document out yourself impacted on us more than most, although there was a thick strata of dinosaurs who resisted for as long as possible.  Primitive e-commerce soon followed for proper organisations that actually contributed to GDP.

I worked through that period of arrow-straight growth when the internet took off and employers, on the one hand, heard the words about how connectivity could transform business and, on the other, busied themselves writing digital usage policies that denied their workers access, although they were holding back the tide.

What was their fear?  Distraction.  And it came with a vengeance in the form of social media.  Facebook was founded in early 2004, but didn't break out of universities until late 2006.  Less than a year later it had 100 million users, which doubled in eight months, and doubled again in another ten.

And, oh look, where does productivity hit the buffers?  Exactly in line with the Facebook explosion.  Case solved.  Facebook destroyed the world's productivity.  Or, rather, our primitive desire to share and like pictures of our lunch did.

But don't think this blog is about blaming Zuckerberg - I don't have the budget for lawyers.  He was just the biggest surfer with the loudest shorts riding the wave of technology.  The first YouTube video was posted in 2005, and its history mirrors Facebook, going from a niche for funny cat videos to uber-broadcaster of funny cat videos.  And then there's Google.  I could go on and on, but I think the point is pretty obvious.

But not to the commentators.

You see, the error is that people who write books on economic history have a surfeit of intrinsic motivation.  They like their jobs.  They'd want to write the books even if nobody was paying them.  They continue their college lecture to a different audience over merlot and turbot in the evening (see what I did there?).  They're not bored at work.

Two things happened.  Our employers gave us internet access in the belief that joined-up businesses made for bigger profits.  And we all signed up to Facebook so that we could continue pub conversations and YouTube so we could watch cats fall off worktops, or whatever they do.  And, yes, we could go hunting for new business leads, but, hey not until we've watched... hey, come here and see what this cat does...

I mean, what an I doing here?  I'm meant to be writing another chapter of a science-fiction thriller novel, but instead I'm researching this blog posting?  I'm my own employer and even I'm skiving... 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Praised with faint damning

Stumbled across this review by Eamonn Murphy of "Shooting the Messenger" within a generally upbeat write-up of "Best of British Science Fiction 2016":

Shooting The Messenger’ by Robert Bagnall features Dave Kite, an ambitious young journalist looking for a story in Pakistan, a war zone with the Taliban. I get the impression that Bagnall made this up as he went along, which you can do with a short story. It’s certainly unpredictable! I liked it. Authors having fun is something I’m glad to see in ‘the heavy industry that professional writing has become’ as Bernard Berenson wrote to Ray Bradbury.

Made it up as he went along?  Isn't that how fiction works?  Isn't that what I'm meant to do?  I'm having a bit of a 'small; far away' moment: are we saying that novels aren't made up?  I've checked the back of my wardrobe, and that's clearly made up.  What about the works of Philip K Dick - that was all real?  The Moomins are real, though - I've always known that...

(Seriously, though - much obliged)

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Up like a rocket, down like a stick

Remember my red email day?  Well, didn't take long for the Scientologists to decide that my story was good, but not good enough for the Writers of the Future Competition.  Bit of a black edge to that email.

JK Galbraith came up with the idea of the bezzel, the amount by which the world is in profit whilst an embezzler has your money but the embezzled doesn't know.  It's one of my favourite cod-scientific theories.  Subversive comedy genius.

I think I can add the idea of a bezzel hangover; the despondency resulting from having the possibility of a win snatched away.  Had I simply found out I'd been placed, I'd have been happy.  However, to have received a call telling me I was in the last eight, talked about what it may mean, what they do for the winners, only for it to come to naught...  You inevitably focus on what coulda been.

Maybe this is the anti-bezzel, the perceived negative that balances out the false positive of the bezzel itself, meaning the world is really left in balance after all.  Socio-eonomic karma.

On a more positive note, you may recall the gauntlet I threw down to anybody reading these postings to write a science fiction story on the Bard.  Well, I accepted my own challenge and here's the result, published by Daily Science Fiction.  My second success with them; nice to have repeat business.

Back to the keyboard, I guess.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Overheard at Griffith Observatory

At regular intervals at Griffith Observatory, in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, curators fire up the Tesla coil, that spark-emitting metal orb in a huge cage that featured in La La Land.  For a better film reference, think a cackling James Whale-era Frankenstein, Igor having just thrown the switch.

I was lucky enough to witness the 3.50pm showing a few days ago.  At the sight of hundreds of thousands of volts arcing a voice next to me said to his companion, "Is that real?"

I appreciate that this was more knee-jerk expression of awe than literal question, but it immediately got me thinking.  If he wasn't expressing some concern about his own ability to tell reality from fantasy, what could he mean?

You see, whilst there are many things that a Tesla coil can allude to - lightening in a bottle, the battles of the Norse gods, the formation of the stars themselves - there isn't really anything else that can suggest a Tesla coil itself.  It's its own special effect.  You can't fake it.  It's not like putting antelope horns on a hare to get a taxidermy jackalope.  Or getting an actor to play dead or play a zombie.  The easiest way to suggest a Tesla coil is, um, a Tesla coil.

Is it real?  The stranger answer would be 'no'.

So, if there's one thing more impressive than a Tesla coil going hell-for-leather, it's something that can imitate a Tesla coil going hell-for-leather.

Friday, 4 August 2017

I have seen the future and it looks like Wrexham Bus Station

Remember when your mother used to pull you across the road because somebody had a thousand yard stare and was talking to themselves?  If you grew up when the world was orange and brown, with endless summers, candy cigarettes, and ubiquitous casual racism, you'll know that talking to yourself could only mean 'nutter'.

Now it just means you're on the phone.  The world moves on, technology changes.

But we're only using one sense here.  What will the world look like, as it inevitably will, when we introduce corneal implant screens, or suchlike?

Well, the good burghers of Wrexham have given us a glimpse into what the future will look like when our sense of sight is distracted by the vastness of the digital universe rather than what we're about to bump into.

Image result for wrexham drug zombie photo

This guy?  Maybe free-fall parachuting or doing a really tough sudoko.

Image result for wrexham drug zombie photo

I think these two may be running a FTSE250 company as we watch.  I fancy the one in the planter to be head of audit.  What do you think?

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Red Email Day

Doesn't sound half as good as 'red letter day', does it?  And I thought the world was subject to the doctrine of marginal gains...  oh, hold on, it's Tour de France time again, I must be getting confused.

Buses.  There's another cliche.  All coming along at once.  Try this for size:

Yesterday - and I've kept my powder dry on this one, because I know how fickle you all are, and if I told you before you could lay your sticky mitts on it you'd just go back to YouTube or something - NewCon Press released their Best of British Science Fiction 2016 anthology.

And whose name do you see leading the pack?  Yes, mine.  Not Peter F Hamilton or Ian Whates, mine.  (Okay, so it's an exhaustive webpage list in alphabetical order, and I'm relegated on the cover to the 'and more...' category, but still...)  It's my story Shooting the Messenger, which orginally appeared in Geminid Press' Night Lights anthology.

I know you want to rush out and buy it.  Well, don't bother.  Stay in and click here instead.  Much quicker.

Buses.  Where do the buses come in?  Well, yesterday also, just before the postman handed me my copy of the NewCon anthology (as an item of mail, not in some bizarre prize-giving ceremony) I received an email form Joni Labaqui at the Writers of the Future Contest, and that afternoon, a call from her, to tell me I'm a finalist, shortlisted, last eight out of thousands.

The enormity of this is still sinking in.  I'm not sure the gravity of the first has fully registered.

Maybe nothing'll come of it; maybe I'll find myself in LA dressed as a penguin because of it, who knows?  But days like yesterday balance out the hundreds that bring rejection emails.

The moral?  Keep banging your head against the wall, because you never know how close to breaking out of the madhouse you are.  And, who knows, there may not be void and vacuum on the other side...