Monday, 30 May 2016

Gulliver’s Travels, Science Fiction

How well do you know Gulliver’s Travels* by Jonathon Swift? If you haven’t read the book, but only seen the various films, you don’t know it as well as you think.


The story of the traveller who ended up in a land of tiny people is well known, but in the book, Gulliver goes to many other lands too. The full title of the book is Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships. The only production which showed all the parts was the 1996 TV miniseries starring Ted Danson. In that, the stories were shown in flashback as Gulliver told them from the insane asylum. It did have a happy ending, with Gulliver reconciled to his family.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Outlining (Adept)

There are many people who prefer to take an idea and just write and see where it goes, but even for those, there comes a time when you have to do some work on the structure of the story. Others like every detail planned out before they start writing, and most of us fall somewhere in between.


Monday, 23 May 2016

Cyrano de Bergerac, Science Fiction Writer

Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac is best known from the play about him by Edmond Rostand, which was a fictionalised account of his life. The true details of his life are not known, only fragments. What we do know is that he was an innovative dramatist and novelist who lived in France in the early 17th century.
What we also know is that he wrote science fiction. It seems he was inspired by True History by Lucian of Samosata, described last week.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

How to Reach the Moon

As long ago as 160 AD, Lucian of Samosata wrote a book in which a ship was taken up by a great wind and deposited on the moon.
Lucian of Samosata
Lucian was an Assyrian who wrote in Greek. Trained as a rhetorician (a kind of lawyer) he made his name as a satirist and lecturer. His book Vera Historia (True History) was clearly not true, but full of puns, innuendo, parody and satire, most of which modern readers wouldn’t understand.
True History is not only about travelling to the moon, but about a war between the people of the moon and the sun, and is full of strange beasts and strange people. It is thought of as the first science fiction novel, but once again, I would consider it fantasy. Still, it’s a remarkable feat of imagination so very long ago.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Creating My New Novel (Adept)

I’ve said elsewhere that the Flight of the Kestrel series started as plots for Star Trek. I didn’t want to write fan fiction so I created my own ship, the Kestrel. Once the Kestrel was created, however, the stories quickly moved away from Star Trek and took on a life of their own. The Kestrel only has a crew of eleven, and the crew members change quite often, for example.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Journeys to the Moon: The First Science Fiction

John Wilkins was born in 1614, educated at Oxford, and became an Anglican minister. But his real passion was science, particularly astronomy. In 1638 he published Discovery of a New World … in the Moon, in which he described the current extent of knowledge as he had studied it, from Copernicus and Galileo to his own observations.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Listening to Critiques (Adept)

I thought it was time I started blogging about writing on my author blog rather than my personal blog. A lot of what I’m saying at the moment arises out of my work on the second novel in the Flight of the Kestrel series, currently called Adept.

In the past I have written about how to give a critique, as it's definitely a skill to be learned. But it's also important to know how to receive criticism too.

Critiqued document

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Magna Charter Monologue

My interest in history is going to take a back seat for a while, as I concentrate on my science fiction novels. I try to make history fun, so sit back and enjoy Marriott Edgar’s comedy version of the Magna Carta story.

I'll tell of the Magna Charter
As were signed at the Barons' command
On Runningmead Island in t' middle of t' Thames
By King John, as were known as "Lack Land."

Some say it were wrong of the Barons
Their will on the King so to thrust,
But you'll see if you look at both sides of the case
That they had to do something, or bust.

For John, from the moment they crowned him,
Started acting so cunning and sly,
Being King, of course, he couldn't do wrong,
But, by gum, he'd a proper good try.

He squandered the ratepayers' money,
All their cattle and corn did he take,
'Til there wasn't a morsel of bread in the land,
And folk had to manage on cake.

The way he behaved to young Arthur
Went to show as his feelings was bad;
He tried to get Hubert to poke out his eyes,
Which is no way to treat a young lad.

It were all right him being a tyrant
To vassals and folks of that class,
But he tried on his tricks with the Barons an' all,
And that's where he made a 'faux pas'.

He started bombarding their castles,
And burning them over their head,
'Til there wasn't enough castles left to go round,
And they had to sleep six in a bed.

So they went to the King in a body,
And their spokesman, Fitzwalter by name,
He opened the 'ole in his 'elmet and said,
Conciliatory like, " What's the game?"

The King starts to shilly and shally,
He sits and he haws and he hums,
'Til the Barons in rage started gnashing their teeth,
And them with no teeth gnashed their gums

Said Fitz, through the 'ole in his 'elmet,
"It was you as put us in this plight."
And the King having nothing to say to this, murmured
"Leave your address and I'll write".

This angered the gallant Fitzwalter;
He stamped on the floor with his foot,
And were starting to give John a rare ticking off,
When the 'ole in his 'elmet fell shut.

"We'll get him a Magna Charter,"
Said Fitz when his face he had freed;
Said the Barons "That's right and if one's not enough,
Get a couple and happen they'll breed.''

So they set about making a Charter,
When at finish they'd got it drawn up,
It looked like a paper on cattle disease,
Or the entries for t' Waterloo Cup.

Next day, King John, all unsuspecting,
And having the afternoon free,
To Runningmead Island had taken a boat,
And were having some shrimps for his tea.

He'd just pulled the 'ead off a big 'un,
And were pinching its tail with his thumb,
When up came a barge load of Barons, who said,
"We thought you'd be here so we've come"

When they told him they'd brought Magna Charter,
The King seemed to go kind of limp,
But minding his manners he took off his hat
And said " Thanks very much, have a shrimp."

" You'd best sign at once," said Fitzwalter,
" If you don't, I'll tell thee for a start
The next coronation will happen quite soon,
And you won't be there to take part."

So they spread Charter out on t' tea table,
And John signed his name like a lamb,
His writing in places was sticky and thick
Through dipping his pen in the jam.

And it's through that there Magna Charter,
As were signed by the Barons of old,
That in England to-day we can do what we like,
So long as we do what we're told.

Marriott Edgar

If you would prefer to have it read to you, go here.