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Details… details… (and a bit of AI)

The thing I find most interesting about the current debate on artificial intelligence is not how much of a threat it will be to our world but how people react to the potential threat. Most people sit on a spectrum of opinion between those who embrace technology and all its potential (despite misgivings from others) and the naysayers who spout doom and gloom as we all head merrily towards an unknown (but definitely in their minds) dystopian future.

I had cause to try out ChatGPT recently when I was short listing candidates for the day job and I came across one application that read like a perfect imitation of your ideal STAR scenario (situation, task, action, result – ask me later… this is my bread and butter.) So I asked ChatGPT to answer the application question for me and it came up with a nearly identical response. Hmm…

As a careers professional (the day job), I often explain to clients that the factor setting them apart from the crowd in a saturated jobs market lies in the detail. The detail of what you did and how you resolved the issue. Make it count. Make it personal. Suffice it to say that the applications that were successful, were the ones that gave me something no AI would be able to; personal context.

You may have read in recent news, that Clarksworld, one of the leading Sci-fi/Fantasy magazines stopped accepting submissions after receiving over 500 stories from contributors that were AI-generated. It is somewhat of a relief to authors that editors can spot these stories a mile off, albeit a nuisance for editors to contend with until they find an AI that can weed out AI-generated submissions!

Anyway, my point is that AI can replicate human creativity to quite an impressive degree, but perhaps we need to bear in mind that without human input, that intelligence will stall and creativity without input is about as interesting as television in a power cut. It is also worth remembering that the naysayers have popped up with dystopian predictions at every industrial revolution in history (beware Luddites). After all, they said the same about photography and then computer-aided design, but we still need and have the most wonderful artists amongst us.

Artists and fans alike, while I have your attention – if you would like to try some non AI-generated Sci-fi and Fantasy books for FREE, you have one week left to grab a deal on a bunch of fantastic new authors. Find your own dystopian or even utopian future right here.


Fantasy/Sci-Fi giveaway

I have teamed up with an amazing group of Fantasy/Sci-Fi authors to offer you the opportunity to sample our books for FREE.

There is something here for everyone, from spaceships to dragons, magic to androids and everything in between.

Click below to preview all the offers available and let us spirit you away to another realm of existence.

Hurry, though… the offer only lasts until 30th April.

Other Worlds Anthology Volume 1

What if… an anthropology graduate finds herself on a work placement in an off-world ‘glom’ trying to save her career? Find out in the short story In Space, No One Can Hear You Sing.

What if… on a distant planet in another solar system, a young girl finds herself the victim of a brutal justice system? The answer may lie in Soulbane.

Two fantastical futuristic stories from the pen of FG Laval and many more authors in one volume. Available now from Fiction4All

Surrey New Writers Festival 2019

Festival flyerLooking forward to attending Surrey New Writers Festival on Saturday 8thJune in Guildford. Fantastic programme of events for the day including; panel discussions, readings, masterclasses on pitching to an agent and building your career as a short story writer. There will be a wellbeing table, with the opportunity to chat about your work, a poetry stage, headline readings and an evening soiree. Phew! That’s a lot to pack into one day, but well worth the price of the ticket (with lunch included). Check out the link above to find out the finer detail.

What I’m really interested in is a panel that I will be chairing on the theme of ‘Female Futures’. We will be discussing the future of women’s writing, as well as women writing the future in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I will be exploring this theme with Kate Potts, whose second poetry collection, Feral, sets out to explore and trouble the boundary between ‘animal’ and ‘human’; Stephanie Saulter, who is the author of novels Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, a science fiction trilogy which uses the lens of an altered humanity to take a new look at the old issues of race, class, religious extremism and social conflict; and Kerry Drewery, the YA author of Cell 7, Day 7 and Final 7, a dystopian trilogy which takes a sinister look at the future of the justice system. Join us on the 8thJune for what promises to be a fascinating discussion.

During the day, we will also be launching our third print issue of the Stag Hill Literary Journal, carrying the same theme of Female Futures. My story, Shooting Stars, will appear in this issue; a time-travelling alt-history look at one hundred years since British women were given rights to vote. Copies of the issue will be available for purchase and we will also be doing readings during the day.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Surrey New Writers Festival

Slide from Surrey New Writers Festival
At the weekend, I joined a lively group of writers in Guildford at the Surrey New Writers Festival at G-Live, organised by the School of Literature and Languages at the University of Surrey. The mix of discussion panels and workshops made for some insightful debates, including; literary start-ups, creating and nurturing a support network, writing for TV and Film, a panel of agents, publishers and editors as well as a lunch time workshop delivered by writing coach and author, Melissa Addey. There was also a poetry stage going on throughout the day with readings from special guest poets.

It was a great opportunity to network with local writers and chat with students and staff from the University, who invited me along to do a reading at the evening launch of the Stag Hill Literary Journal. As a contributor to the inaugural issue, I was honoured to read an extract from my short story, Habitat, an near-future SciFi story, which appears in the journal. Stag Hill Literary JournalYou can follow the future of the journal on their facebook page here, where you can get a copy of Issue One, read the online version or send in your own submissions. Thank you to M.E. Rolle and the editorial team for the opportunity to network and share my work with a wider audience.




Is it coincidence or Quantum Entanglement?

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 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.




The Watchers

Steampunk shipI became interested in steampunk fiction when I used it as a theme to research London’s influence on the genre as part of my MA in Creative Writing.

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.

Getting Ahead

New AcceleratorI have always been fascinated with the world that lies beneath London. I guess that travelling through the underground system every day sets off my imagination and so, many of my stories link to underground stations and stops. Getting ahead takes us a little further, literally into the bowels of London.

Although we take it for granted, London Underground uses tunnels originally built by the Victorians and an interceptory sewage system that delivered London’s reprieve from the ‘Great Stink’ of 1858. When it comes to feats of engineering, the Victorians were never short of imagination. You only have to look at the legacy of their work in London to realise that it was an era of industrial revolution and innovation.

My initial approach to research is usually with the people. I love the stories behind people and I’m fascinated by human motivation and behaviour, so I try to link the human stories to a place, then link the stories to each other. I like to get out and write in different places; parks, cafés, libraries, museums, underground stations, benches or anywhere in London where I can soak up the atmosphere and let it spill over into my fiction.

Place is important to me, but my stories are driven by character. I have to say at this point, that I didn’t take my research to the logical conclusion and into the London sewage system, that would be… well, eww. I found this wonderful book called London under London: A subterranean guide, by Richard Trench and Ellis Hillman, which explores the labyrinth of the city beneath our feet. So I let my own imagination run loose and exploited the use of ‘what if…?’

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs… (Rudyard Kipling)



Re-Writing the Central Line

I saw this written on the board at the Liverpool Street Central Line on National Poetry Day:

Central Line Poem
“The red line bursts at its seams
with atoms from the city’s caverns
Rushing on to travel through the heart of London
And out at its busy limbs.”


Coincidentally, I wrote about my own journey on the Central Line for my MA Writing the City class. Here is my version:

Today, the central line turns inside out.

Anticipation of a bumpy ride home clings to every traveller as the tubes invert at Oxford Circus. The bleeping doors crash closed but instead of trapping us in, we are expelled into the blue skies, hovering above Tottenham Court Road, waiting to disappoint us with the clouds of tomorrow. The expression of boredom, a face worn by every daily passenger, is replaced by the curiosity of thousands, flying through the air, chased by the crescendo whine of the tube line as it picks up speed towards Holborn. At Chancery Lane, the suits of TM Lewin shoot down below the surface and the shoppers hang on with a confused desperation to the fabric coated seats, wondering where the train has gone. A melodic voice rings over the tannoy.

‘This is your driver speaking. The Central Line rocks this evening with a totally awesome service. We guarantee to fly you to your destination within an inch of your lives. May passengers be informed that we are not being held at a red light and take a dim view of such restrictions imposed by management. Please take your rubbish with you when leaving, as contrary to popular belief, the earth is not a big round green wheelie bin. Next stop, St Paul’s.’

At Bank, people laugh and throw their left-over sandwiches at city folk who stand beside their skyscrapers, wondering why the world has turned flat. Seats fly from the train as we race above Liverpool Street, where people and their bags, children and their sweets are systematically sucked into tubes running like veins through the bowels of the city.

East is east and Bethnal Green smells of talcum powder and old music hall routines, long forgotten beneath the tiles of the station. Mile End, world’s end; view from above with passengers dropping from on high without a care in world to where they might land. A white light shines on the horizon as we rocket on through to Stratford; land of our salvation, so the legacy tells us.

The rush of an air vent behind me distracts my attention from the muted voice on the opposite side of the platform, ‘Duh, duh da. Duh da da dah.’ Doors whoosh open. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen. This is Stratford. Alight for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Westfield Shopping Centre. Normal service has now resumed. Stand clear of the doors.’

The roar of the rails rumble beneath my feet.

Modern Faery Tale

Here is a modern take on a classic Faery tale.

Can you guess which one it is?

Bewildering Stories


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