Category Archives: Musings

Suspending Disbelief

While brainstorming an idea for a (currently) short story involving ghosts, spirits, demons and other such things, my friend posed an interesting question, somewhat out of the blue.

“Are you ok with writing about this stuff? It’s taking as read that things you don’t believe in actually exist.”

I had to stop and think about it – it’s something that hadn’t hitherto occurred to me.

Exploring interesting ideas by pretending they are true is really what fiction is about. I write about magic, time travel, parallel universes, alien visitations, and gods. All are as ridiculous as each other, but can make for damn good stories. Not necessarily mine, but their are many capable writers out there. I can suspend my disbelief, and even imagine belief in the absurd in order to write a story. It’s part of being creative.

We suspend our disbelief all the time as readers too. I love Lord of the Rings; the non-existence of elves presents no difficulty to me, I’m not about to throw the book down declaring it’s lack of realism.

The only thing that I may worry about is that something I write might be seen as an expression of belief in something ridiculous. And this is the reason I had to stop and ponder the question.

If i write about magic and wizards, no-one is going to assume I believe in the existence of immortal humanoids with supernatural abilities. (Insert jibe about the Catholic Church). Likewise, if i write a snippet on alien communication, no-one is going to ask me when i was abducted, and what the alien’s name was.

Why is it different with ghosts and gods?

Shows like Most Haunted are good entertainment, and well scripted shows. Why are they presented as if ghosts actually exist?

Why do psychics like Sally Morgan insist on lying to people, saying that they actually communicate with the dead, rather than be honest and say that they are performing a show where the skill is in reading people and educated guesswork.

By writing something in which the existence of ghosts is assumed, why do I wonder if I’m telling the reader “I believe in ghosts, wooOOoooo!” *waggly fingers* when it is obvious that they don’t and can’t exist?

ESP, telepathy, fate, luck, god(s), ghosts, demons, daemons, angels, djinn, spirits, homeopathy, afterlife, horoscopes, etc etc….. Some make good story tropes, some don’t (my first Homeopathy Avenger novel out soon, pre-order now, beat the rush), but I would be mortified if someone thought I believed in any of them.

I love my friends, I sometimes wonder if I’d think about anything interesting without them.

Oooh, kitten picture!


Musing on Sci-fi

Ok, I’ll hold my hand up here – I love science fiction.

Star Wars leaves me a bit cold. It is a ham-fisted teen pulp novel about space-wizards, where the acting ability and story telling is inversely proportional to the quality of the fight scene choreography. In the words of Yahzee Croshaw, George Lucas doesn’t write as much as vomit through a pen.

No, Star Wars isnt sci-fi, but can I class the other archetypal “sci-fi” franchise as science fiction?

Star Trek.

Disregarding the original series – as anyone sane will – we are left with not a bad set of shows.

The imperfect characters in DS9 are my favourite. Gone is the shiny (boring) utopian federation – here it’s all about an uneasy alliance of mistrustful people dealing with forced relocation, war crimes, the power vacuum left after the departure of an occupation force, and religious suppression of fact for myth. All hard hitting stuff, in a slightly camp (occasionally wooden) way. And this is just the first series, before the Dominion started breaking shit and we saw utopia involved in a total war. Compelling and fascinating TV.

Then we have Voyager – a show centred much more on the individual characters, and consequently better acted. Out in the middle of no-where, with only their own moral compasses a crew try to get home while trying not to slip into madness or depravity. Ok, there are plenty of over sentimental episodes, but Janeway is well acted character – troubled by guilt, prone to anger, stubborness and occasional pettiness, trying desperately to stay to the straight and narrow and act as she knows a captain should.

And then ofc their are the more recent movies.

First Contact is a great film, showing a traumatised Captain being brought face to face with his tormentors and his own demons, all with a nice sense of threat and building tension. Good stuff!

Insurrection was good too, if a bit silly – Jonathan Frakes obviously had a great time directing this one, and who can blame him. But the discussion about the younger galactic powers starting to question the Federations slightly stuffy, restrictive society was a great plot point, if slightly under-used.

So, (some) Star Trek follows sci-fi traditions of social commentary, satire and exploration of issues of humanity. I’m willing to let it into the club.

Likewise (the new) Battlestar Galactica. I liked this series for its drama, and tension. Druidic levels of sex, death and religion in a night-time telly kind of way. (If you got the Eddie Izzard reference, have a jazz chicken). The discussion of what makes us human, what makes us alive is a good old trope of sci-fi. The same can be said of the dilemma of Artificial Intelligence, and defining what makes something ‘alive’.

But I have a gooey spot for ‘realistic’ sci-fi. My favourite from television may be one you haven’t heard of – the anime series ‘Planetes‘. A very good manga originally, I stumbled across the anime first, and fell in love with it. It tells the story of an Earth of the near future, where space industrialisation has begun in earnest. Corporate espionage, anti-space terrorism, issues of sovereignty. All stuff we are starting to deal with, or will be dealing with in the coming century. It feels more terrifying for it; no humanoid aliens with funny noses here, just a backdrop of a breathless humanity trying to keep up with it’s own ambitions, and some of the best characters to come out of a japanese show that I have found. Dystopian elements that appeal to me, cynical misanthropic bastard that I can be.

Ok, I have to admit that I am not as knowledgable about TV shows as I might be. I watched Star Trek as a child, and occasionally stumble across new shows when they are recommended enough, but shows that friends like such as Lexx, The Fringe or Threshold didn’t gain enough traction on my mind to make me watch them. Maybe I missed some gems?

I could go on a whole lot longer on my favourite books, however. Maybe I will at some point, but this is already rambly enough!

Working on a short story

This is the first time I’ve planned a story from the outset. I know, I know, this is why I rarely finish anything! One thing I’ve found is that I find it sooo much harder working to a rough plan.

Normally I have a world in mind, and sketch out one or two characters in my head, followed by a situation, and just see where the characters motivations take it.

This time I have a definatly plan in mind. The way I’ve formed it is to have the protagonist and the antagonist both have definate plans in mind for the duration of the story – one’s is to steal something of value, and the other’s is to watch the first to see when they are going to attempt the heist, and try to stop them.

It’s really not as simple as I’d hoped!

Oh well, back to it.

Still Brewing

OK, I know I promised a story update tonight, but it has got to that stage where I can see that a paragraph doesnt work, but I can’t work out why. I think I need to put this in the cooler for a day or so, until I can make out the idea trees in the tangled word jungle.

In the meantime, distract with cats!

Update Drought

Sorry for the lack of updates this past week. Work has been unusually hectic, and I’ve been a bit too beat in the evenings to do much more than play a computer game for a bit and head to bed.

Not completely true, of course, I keep starting online conversations with friends late in the evening. They have a tendency to mutate a late night into an early morning using some sort of hocus pocus.

Ho hum.


New snippet up this afternoon (different story).


Snowboarding like a… crow.

I may be late to the party on this one, but had to share it. The beastie is obviously having fun – it does choose to repeat the slide more than once by carrying its ‘board’ back to the top of the slope, after all.

Not as amazing as Keas, but still pretty impressive. Intelligence is more common in animals than we sometimes like to pretend.

Friday 13th

Just noticed, it’s Friday the 13th!

Have a black cat to celebrate!

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