Jonathon Dean

Writer. Human. Nerd.

Tag: Fantasy (page 1 of 3)

Well, this is embarrassing…

So my plan to post an update every Sunday didn’t exactly go to, um, plan.

Alright, so I’m only a day out, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t too bad, but still. Two weeks in and already I managed to forget to blog? Doesn’t exactly bode well for the future, right?

I’ll make my excuses now; I’ve had a busy week. I’ve been doing some subcontracting work lately, looking at survey responses from Iraqi refugee camps for Save the Children, and it’s left me a little bit drained.

There’s really only so many times you can read statements from parents talking about their children drowning in unsupervised areas of the refugee camp, or from children talking about how their family members have been killed or kidnapped by terrorist organisations, and still want to come and type out some light observations about spaceships.

It’s easy to just drop into a funk about all this – after all, it is pretty depressing that these camps not only have to exist in the first place, but the fact that so many of these personal horror stories go largely ignored makes it so much worse. Of course, we all know that these things go on, in a largely abstract sense, but to see them written up in such a clinical, emotionless way that auto-translation software delivers is an entirely different experience.

I guess the thing about fiction is that we can choose to use it as an escape from the harsh realities of life, like the refugee camps, the hunger and misery, the abuse of human life and the future and livelihoods denied to so many, or we can use it to bring these abstract horrors into sharp relief, putting characters we get to know and love into the same situations we have in real life. Ordinarily, I’d take the second route every time. This week, though? I need an escape.

What Do?

I’m torn at the moment.

I don’t seem to have any particular writing projects ongoing any more. Which means I’m antsing for a new one, which means I have to pick and develop one from the big long list in my brain, which means that actually being able to sit down with characters I know and put them on the page is kinda not really possible.

I’m also wanting to write more short fiction, since it’s been a while since I had one of those published, and I wouldn’t mind being able to have a few more pieces of my actual fiction online for you guys to read (and maybe add a new page to the site to list off my published fiction and where you can find it) – but for the moment that is quite a small amount, and I think having a tiny amount listed would probably look worse than having none listed at all.

Which means I can pretend to have had loads published, when really there’s not been a huge amount as I’ve tended to neglect the short fiction aspect of writing in recent years.

This was a cunning plan up until the point where I told you about it. Whoops.

Now, I’m not really one for reading authors’ websites. Most of my reading materials tend to come from the charity shop, as I’m not fond of reading ebooks and commercial book prices tend to get very expensive very quickly if you read quite as much as I do.

I know, I know, I’m hoping to make a living out of reading, and Kant’s Categorical Imperative would suggest that buying books almost exclusively from a charity shop isn’t great (honestly guys,  stop waving your degrees in political theory at me, mine’s already giving me dirty looks), but then there can be no ethical consumption under capitalism anyway, so this is a systemic problem and Kant can have an ethical ghostfight with Marx over it if he wants.

(Before you write in, yes I know that’s not a Marx quote, and apparently comes from the Tumblr hivemind – but I reckon Marx would have agreed with it anyway, and some ghost or other has to fight ghost-Kant, otherwise he’ll start trying to organise ectoplasm for maximum utility.)

So, as I was saying before that particular tangent, I don’t tend to read author webpages, particularly not of ones like myself who haven’t managed to attract a publisher’s eye with shiny things (agents, publishers, if you’re looking, I have some shiny things for you to look at), but it seems to me that there’s little point with no actual fiction on display. Who wants to read the blog of a writer who, as far as you can tell, hasn’t done much and isn’t very good in any case?

So short stories should be my current goal, but I can’t say I’m as fond of writing them as I am longer projects.

In any case, blog posts where I write about ghost-Kant and my own lack of committing to a new project for 500 words don’t get a new project committed to. But then, very little seems to these days.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a blank word document to stare at.

Genre Tax

With taxes being big news on both sides of the Atlantic, from the Tories’ major u-turn on their proposed raise in NI contributions for self-employed people, to the continued questions over Donald Trump’s refusal to release  his tax returns, we should take a look at taxes.

Tax forms a major part of the proper functioning of a modern society. As the saying goes, nothing is certain but death and taxes, and the same is true in your fictional world. As we’ve already looked at death (twice), it’s time to take a look at tax. Continue reading

The Afterlife

With even more celebrity deaths in the news since I wrote my last piece claiming that 2016 was the year of death, the year seems determined to prove me right with the deaths of Muhammad Ali, Kenny Baker, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Ron Glass, Andrew Sachs, John Glenn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael and sanity. That being the case, it’s time to look at another aspect of death that has a profound effect on the fictional society that you’re creating: the afterlife.

Every society has some view of  what happens after death – whether that includes some kind of afterlife, or simply a nothingness – and that belief can have a profound effect on how people behave. A well-defined belief in an afterlife can add depth to your world, and define the shape that your society takes. Continue reading

Political Opposition

In the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, increasingly extreme views have appeared in the UK’s mainstream political sphere. From increased racist attacks on migrants, to more and more openly xenophobic policies being put forward by the Conservative government under Theresa May. This week, one Conservative councillor has even gone so far as to start a petition demanding that continued support of the UK’s membership of the EU be considered an act of treason.

This raises an interesting question for your fictional world: How are the people who openly oppose the majority’s beliefs or the government’s policies treated within your society? We have looked at violent dissent before, but not everyone in your society must think the same way, or agree with the same things, without it being an issue of extremism. Real-life societies tend to comprise a broad spectrum of views and opinions which may not necessarily be compatible with one another. So how does your society deal with these differing views? Continue reading

Pollution

This week brings news that China and the USA have both formally joined the Paris climate agreement, committing themselves to a drastic reduction in emissions in order to keep the global average rise in temperatures under 2°C. Between them, the two nations are responsible for around 40% of global CO2 emissions, and their ratifying of this agreement is a significant step forward for the agreement and its goals.

Pollution and environmental effects can have a profound effect on the way that people live their lives, and the shape that a society takes. How might pollution affect your society, and what steps might your society have taken to deal with it? Continue reading

Strangers in Strange Lands

With the Olympic Games comes travel. A lot of travel. Athletes and spectators from all over the world descending on a country to which they otherwise would never have gone – and in many cases, to one which they know nothing about. Foreign customs and conventions, strange foods and diseases, and many opportunities for misunderstandings and misadventure.

The Olympics is often also an interesting time for authoritarian regimes like Eritrea, with a number of athletes and officials taking the opportunity to defect (and in related news, this week sees the defection of North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the UK). With travel and exploration such a big part of much genre fiction, this is a great opportunity to examine what happens when people from one culture go to visit another. Continue reading

Ceremony and Tradition

With the beginning of the Rio Olympics dominating the news around the world, the sports themselves can often take a back seat to the pomp and circumstance. Each host nation uses the beginning of the Olympics to proudly display something about themselves to the world, in a celebration of culture and history, full of symbolism which can sometimes be arcane and opaque to outsiders (who can forget US viewers utter confusion at the NHS tribute and mistaking Isambard Kingdom Brunel for Abraham Lincoln back in 2012?). The traditions of the Olympics themselves are just as prominent, from the Parade of Nations and the Olympic Flame to the Olympic Torch relay (which we’ll all conveniently forget was devised by the Nazis for the 1936 Berlin games).

These kinds of ceremonies and traditions can add colour and culture to your fictional setting, imbuing a civilisation with a sense of history, belief and custom, and avoiding a dry, functional portrayal. What do your people celebrate, and what do their traditions say about them? Continue reading

Dissent and Violence

In the last few weeks, the world has seen a number of high profile attacks on civilians, many of them claiming to be (or having been claimed by) the fundamentalist militant group Daesh (also known as Islamic State). While these attacks are despicable, they are hardly unique. Similar attacks on civilians have been conducted throughout history by pockets of individuals unhappy with some aspect of the governing status quo, be that religious, ideological or political. Disagreements exist in all societies, and extremist groups draw upon them the world over to increase their influence and accomplish their aims – from the Ku Klux Klan, to the IRA, to ETA.

Might your fictional world have similar extremist groups, and what effect might that have on the rest of society? Continue reading

Generational Divides

Since I’ve already written about political unions in the past, the inescapable news that the UK has narrowly voted for “Brexit”, the UK’s exit from the European Union, would seem to have me stuck retreading ground and discussing the same thing all over again, only with a slightly gloomier outlook.

However, one of the interesting things to emerge post-referendum is the demographics of those who voted; broadly speaking, the young were most likely to vote remain, and the old were most likely to vote to leave. This shows a huge divide between the generations in our society – might your fictional society have a similar divide? Continue reading

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