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When I was a girl, my granda used to take me and my siblings for long walks in Ashridge Forest. We explored acres of glorious beech and oak woodlands, crunching through the bracken and collecting beechnuts and acorns to use as projectile weapons in the eternal sibling rivalry war. Trees have always fascinated me. The garden of my childhood was filled with hardy tree-climbing inspiration; Pines tall enough to see over the town and across the downs, Horse Chestnuts with perfect nooks and crannies for makeshift tree houses and stashing secret conker supplies. So, I guess it’s not surprising for me to link my love of trees and forests with my love of fantastic fiction.
The Gone Gods is one in a series of stories that feature dryads, nymphs, wood elves and other magical creatures. Writers have handled dryads in different forms for many years. Such stories are as old as the gods themselves. We find dryads represented throughout literature; Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Virginians by William Thackeray, and particularly as symbols of nature in; On the Difficulty of Conjuring up a Dryad and On the Plethora of Dryads by Sylvia Plath.
This short novelette, The Gone Gods, is three chapters, which explore the juxtaposition between modern urban life and ancient myth; how these wonderful and alien creatures rub up against the modern Londoner. Hope you enjoy it.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love a spooky story. I’ve written about ghosts, monsters, dimensions of time and space, aliens, mythical creatures and all manner of weird stuff. You could say that I peddle my wares on the weirder side of life. So why would I want to give you a rational explanation for the mystery behind the inexplicable? Sorry… did I say rational? Rational maybe, if you happen to be a quantum physicist.
In this engaging Ted talk, Jim Al-Khalili explains the strange world of quantum biology and uses quantum physics to answer some of life’s bigger questions like, ‘how does a robin know to fly south?’.
Quantum entanglement was famously described by Einstein as ‘Spooky action at a distance’. Entangled particles behave in such a way that when something happens to one, the other is affected, even when separated by distance. Entanglement happens when two particles meet and have some form of physical interaction. Quantum entanglement could even explain connections between mind and matter, connections between the minds of many people, the relationship between the conscious and the sub-conscious mind and the exercise of free will. It gives a scientific explanation to phenomena traditionally cast as supernatural; telepathy, remote sensing, psychokinesis and weirdness that skirts around the fringes of Sci-Fi; teleportation or faster than light travel, quantum computing.
Ever had an inexplicable sense of connection to another person and wanted to understand more about love and romance and the validity of unseen mystical connections? This article from Space.com describes quantum entanglement as ‘love on a subatomic scale’.
In the New Scientist this week, Stuart Clark considers ‘Universal (un)Truths’ and What if… quantum weirdness were weirder? Well, here’s the thing… it is. “There is nothing stopping the quantum world having different levels of underlying correlation – only a universe with exactly the right level of weirdness produces life.” So there you have it. Weird things happen because nature is ‘quantum mechanical’. And that really is the best answer the scientists can give us.
According to this article in Forbes, “quantum physics tells us that our fate is not written in the stars”. Well – I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe in physics. So now you have the scientific explanation behind weirdness – thinking back to that time when your phone rang and weirdly… you knew who it was before you even looked at the screen – was it coincidence, or quantum entanglement? I’ll let you figure that one out.
Many new writers are wary (and even scared) of forming friendships with other writers. Creativity comes from living life, ideas come from getting out of your comfort zone, exploring the world. But even the most introverted individual needs fellow writers to talk to, better yet a close-knit network of writer friends. Having wonderful, (but not writer) friends, family, and writing to keep you busy is fine, but having professional discussions with other writers is essential, und it would make the writing process a lot less fearful.
Working in isolation might over time suck the life out of the writing, and you might hit a plateau. Having people you can trust and who understand the crazyness because they had endured it, too. Often writers really want to open up with someone about their writing failures and successes, but never having anyone to talk to. We need someone to tell us when…
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As well as discovering a rich backdrop of inspiration, I uncovered untapped memories of my own. When I was a little girl, my grandfather used to take me and my siblings to traction engine fairs. I remember the green fields and muddy tracks, bold red and green painted engines with huge wheels and pumping pistons. Most of all, I remember the noise and smell; the sudden whoosh as steam was released that made me leap behind the safety of my grandfather and set my heart hammering against my ribs. The grimy, oily scent would stay in my nostrils for days and linger on the periphery of my senses. I was barely the height of those massive cast-iron wheels and the engines terrified me, deeply embedding a sense of awe. It is that same sense of awe that drew me towards speculative fiction with its big question of ‘what if?’ and then steampunk fiction, drawing on a nostalgia that has sat in the back of my mind for most of my life. If science fiction deals with the ‘what if?’ of pure invention, then perhaps steampunk deals with the ‘what then?’ – a reimagining of what has already been discovered.
My aim was to write a piece of fiction using the city as a backdrop, evoking a strong sense of place. Victorian London has always been a classic backdrop for steampunk and because I know the city well, I felt able to feed on its nostalgia. I chose Paris because it fascinates me and the similarities and differences between the two cities was interesting to explore. So with the background suitably steampunk, I managed to get in a bit of steam-powered tech alongside the retro-futuristic inventions. The protagonist’s story itself attempts to subvert the norms of the historical times, simply by the fact she is female attempting to enter a male dominated profession. And of course, there have to be aliens involved somewhere.
Hope you enjoy it – published this week in Electric Spec.
Two for three pound from the Duracell man;
grey, weathered and running on borrowed time,
sells a packet from his suitcase; living proof.
Musty smell of fabric boxed up for too long,
waiting for its glorious Sunday release.
Teddies, clothes for tots and handbags,
watches lined up in rows of boxes,
crates and crates of pants and soxes.
A mountain of shoes piled high
like a lost shoe emporium.
Lookie, lookie, look; three a tenner
for souvenir London bric-a-brac.
Sunglasses and pocket watches
and racks of cheap schoolgirl overcoats,
Christmas jumpers and gold lamé leggings.
Barbecue chicken wafts across the
‘everything for fifty pee’ opposite
sparkly mobile phone cases in pink, white
and blue sky blue with slippers and crocs
sharing the same spot side by side.
Turn around and see the Gerkin
poking its obscene nose into London’s skyline.
‘Cockney Touch Clothing’ that sells only saris.
Then the Tikka…
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You might have guessed by now, my curious reader, that I am ever so slightly obsessed by the London Underground and in particular, stops on the Northern Line. This is a little bit of a cheat and a play on words, as was my previous story, Angel. Another departure from my usual SF/Fantasy, but one that explores family, loss and the hidden fire inside us all. One of the scenes in Burnt Oak is taken from a real story told to me second hand and another is lifted from my past and re-told in all its fiery glory. I’m not going to tell you which scenes they are. After all, where would be the fun in that?
This one’s for my brothers; Happy Birthday, Martin – I miss you. x
Many thanks to the Writers’ Hub, an interactive web portal from the Writing Programme at Birkbeck, University of London, for publishing my story.
Described as “London’s most vibrant venue for new theatre, comedy and cabaret”, the Soho Theatre is a creative hive for new writers, supporting their development in an increasingly competitive arena. According to Rebecca Gould, Creative Producer at the Soho Theatre and guest speaker on the MA Creative Writing at Westminster, the London theatre scene encourages an entrepreneurial approach to playwriting and theatre. Playwrights can no longer just write in isolation, send off their scripts and expect to get snapped up by producers. They need to be proactive and get involved in readings, performances and projects. Take a look at their website, and you’ll start to get the point. People from all walks of life can get involved in the theatre’s projects; from community projects, to Soho Young Playwrights project, to Comedy in Schools and Connections with the National Theatre. Rebecca talked about The Writers’ Centre at Soho Theatre, which…
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When my boys were young they wanted to play with guns. Being a conscientious mother, I steered them away from those plastic battle toys and harnessed their interest in puzzle solving, bubble blowing and Duplo bricks. One afternoon, I left them building towers in their room and returned some time later to discover they had built a veritable weapons store out of the Duplo and were in the middle of a game of shoot-em-up. It was then I realised that I was fighting the very forces of nature itself. Read the rest of this entry
Shakespeare coined new words when he needed — or merely wanted — them. Can you guess which words were invented by the Bard?
English heading into the sixteenth century was a makeshift, cobbled-together thing. No fewer than eight conquering peoples had added to our vocabulary and shaped our syntax. But the Brits were doing more than just borrowing, swiping and outright stealing words from other languages. Versifiers like Chaucer let newfangled words from the street amble onto the literary stage – newfangled and amble being two of them.
By the time Elizabethan dramatists sought expression for ever-more sophisticated sentiments, crowds cheered their linguistic daring.
A short list of verbs invented by the Bard:
Shakespeare also minted new metaphors, many now cliches, but fresh in his time:
it’s Greek to me
played fast and loose
slept not one wink
seen better days
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