Writer Vs. Spammer ROUND 1

Once upon a time I received constant emails from a source that claimed to have some money for me.

Dear Comerford,

I am confirming if you received my previous email regarding you having the same Surname with my late client Mr. A Comerford leaving in your name the sum of ( 5.5M usd. ) Please email me for more information.

Regards,
Edwin.

'Money?' you may say, 'How exciting.'

But no my naive friend. The money didn't really exist! I was being spammed. 

How best to respond? Ignore them? Block them? Or reply...

Dear Edwin,

I'm so sorry for my slow reply. I was terribly shocked and saddened to learn of Adam's passing. We had been very close when we were younger but I had not seen him for years. The last time we spent any amount of time together was at a family reunion. It was a wonderful event, we danced together- I think it was to Michael Jackson. Do you like Michael Jackson? I am a moderate fan I'd say. I could do without 'Earthsong', but I'm sure a lot of people out there would agree. 'Thriller' is my particular favourite, although I don't see the point of the radio edit- go long or go home I always say. I remember the first time I met Adam. I was an awkward teenager, visiting America for the first time. He picked me up in his truck and drove me back to the ranch. The farm had several cows, good equipment considering the economy at the time, a horse called Dominic and another called Zeus. They did have a problem with bats in the roofs of their outbuildings, but we tempted them away with bits of taffy (because bats love taffy) and they relocated elsewhere. It's wonderful his farm has bought so much money in. I always wondered about their gold room, I never made my way into it as it was in the attic. I had thought that it was just a room they painted gold, but from the size of the inheritance I can only assume it was a room filled to the brim with actual gold. Perhaps they had made furniture out of it? A golden hammock, a golden hot tub, a golden sofa bed? Or perhaps he was living a life of crime and the family had no idea? There is a history of law breaking in the Comerford's family tree. My great great uncle Christopher P Comerford was a bootlegger during the prohibition. He made the strongest moonshine in the western territories and used to smuggle it into the Speakeasys using ornamental jugs with flowers in them. 'People always trust daisies' that's an old family saying passed down from the 1920s. Anyway please donate the inheritance to a charity, I know Adam was very interested in the welfare of bats, guinea pigs and old wicker furniture. If you could find a charity that encompasses all three of those things I'm sure you would make Adam very happy. Of course keep a sum for yourself for your services, however much you think is fair.

Many thanks,

Comerford

Surprisingly enough I stopped receiving emails from them after that. 

Writer 1 - Spammer nil

Looking forward to the next time someone rings me about the injury I received in the car accident that wasn't my fault... I'll let you know how that goes...

SARAH An Afterlife and #CreativeCommute short story

A #CreativeCommute short story.

Journey: Blackhorse Road to Shepherds Bush (London). Travel time: 40 minutes

SARAH

'You're definitely coming right?' David shouts at me across the courtyard. I give him a thumbs up, then I pull my hat down to hide my face. The man has the subtlety of a brick. 

Ben leans in to me 'Come on Sarah lets all do something illegal!' he pretends to shout in my ear, speaking no louder than a whisper. I grin.

'I'm going that way.' he says drifting to the left. 

'You sure you can't come tonight?' I ask him. 'Once in a lifetime chance. That's what David said- loudly.'

'I can't. I'm already late with this stupid thing. If I flunk out I'll have to flee to the woods and live off the land to escape the wrath of my mother.'

'Can I come?'

'Course.'

He pulls me into a kiss.

'See you tomorrow?' he asks breaking away.

'Sure.'

'Enjoy breaking the law!' he mock shouts into my ear.

'Away with you Lucas.' I say giving him a push. 'You're going to make me late.'

In my lecture I stare at the ceiling whilst the man on the screen demonstrates how to calculate the foundations for a bridge. This is very important if I ever want to make a bridge that doesn't collapse and kill people, but I can't concentrate. My stomach is full of butterflies. Tonight we're watching a film. Not just any film. Abigail was passed it by a friend who got it off the black market. We had to get something to play it on - a 'DVD player' which you actually plug into a monitor (what a faff). James then had to fix it, its old electronics had come lose whilst it was being passed from person to person, in the dead of night. A lot of effort for a film only five of us would watch. We couldn’t invite anyone we didn’t trust implicitly. Ben was invited of course. We knew we could trust anyone who'd been to one of the meetings.

The man on the screen is commentating footage of a bridge collapsing. He is one of the blandest people I’ve ever seen. There is nothing defining about his face, not even a hint of character. Maybe he’s computer generated. Apparently there used to be more Lecturers - there were academics everywhere before the Party came to power. But centralised, broadcasted education is cheaper and fairer. All the third year Architects in the country will be sitting in the same lecture as me right now. And academics are dangerous, people who sit and think all day are not generally approved of by a totalitarian state.

Case in point - Professor Poppy. He’d managed to hold onto a coveted academic post as the head of the university’s History Department. Although if the Party found out what he was really like he’d be gone in seconds. In one of the meetings he told us that he'd chosen to change his name from Levinson when they'd forced him to convert, and he'd chosen Poppy. He'd told the Party that as a History Professor he found the poppy to be one of the most compelling of the British symbols. He'd told us that the poppy was a symbol of people who had fought and died to keep Britain free. Personally I think he liked the alliteration. This was just one of the many dangerous things he would say behind closed doors. We'd sit in his office, inhaling the scent of books that had suffered decades of Prof Poppy's pipe, and we'd listen.

Tonight we would have a glimpse into the past - into Professor Poppy's past. Before state censorship when films like 'The Life of Brian' were still made and watched. I wonder what it will be like. I've never watched anything on 'the list' before. I can't begin to imagine how it will feel. 

I hiccup. The students sitting near me glance over amused. My butterflies have graduated to nervous hiccups, fantastic. I sit for the rest of the lecture trying to concentrate and hiccuping quietly. Tonight's the night. Tomorrow everything will look different.

 

Check out coded messages between Sarah and Ben

The Digital World of the Independent Author

My name is Helen and I am a writer. I have written a book. A young adult book, with people falling in love and falling off cliffs, with tension and action, with my entire heart and soul sewn throughout 68,000 words… And if not for the wonderful digital world, it would still be on my pc, gathering metaphorical dust whilst I wait for a literary agent to notice me and obsess over my punctuation.

Fun fact: The chance of your book being picked out of the slush pile, the mounds of manuscripts that publishers and agents trawl through, is 0.08%.

My maths is not great, but that means you have to send your manuscript out 1,250 times before you get anywhere.

I am not afraid of hard work but, I am averse to wasting my time so I decided to make things happen for myself. Whether this brings publishers and agents to me or not, my book is now out there for people to read.  I released my book as an ebook on Kindle Direct Publishing on 17th April and so far it’s doing alright! I’ve got some lovely reviews and managed to get into the Top 5 of my Amazon category.

After you’ve gone through the long process of writing, then drafting and redrafting, of getting friendly feedback and professional feedback, it’s very quick and very easy to make your book available. Kindle Direct Publishing is completely free but when you start selling books they take royalties, either 30% or 70% depending on what price you sell it at. Unfortunately you don’t have posters at train stations or your own stand at Waterstones. As an independent author you don’t just write your book, you then have to set out to find your audience.

The brand indie author is a double edged sword- whilst calling yourself a self-published author sounds slightly apologetic to my ears. Indie author suggests doc marten wearing, trailblazers going against the man (that’s literary agents and publishers in this instance). But it’s exactly the same as self publishing and ANYONE can do it. Yay! Anyone can do it! But aw! Anyone can do it- so there is no guarantee of quality. Penguin aren’t there with their flightless stamp of approval to assure readers this piece of literature is worth your time and your money. So you have to convince them yourself, you have to make yourself stand out.

Trailer.

The book trailer is an especially powerful tool. You can splash it all over your social media, display it on Amazon and feature it on youtube. You can check mine out on the homepage.

I’ll tell you a secret… it was shot entirely on an iphone! Sonia, a designer I’m lucky enough to know, used Adobe Premiere to make the trailer. The music is by an amazing musician called Izzy’s Daughter. If you need any haunting, atmospheric, filmic music drop her a line!

Designer.

Sonia, the designer from Pulp and Pith has basically been my very best friend through the process of setting myself up as an author and setting my ebook up for sale. Design is the one thing an Indie Author absolutely cannot skimp on. A bad cover makes you look like an amateur. Designers can be expensive but you might be able to do a skill swap or find someone prepared to work for a percentage of your profits. Sonia designed my branding for me, the logo which has also become the focal part of the cover and the banners for my social media pages. She also helped with my website ISN’T IT PRETTY???!!!!

Website.

I have grand plans for my website. I want it to be more than just a place where a link to my book lives. I want it to add value- create insights into characters that you can’t get anywhere else. The Afterlife Hub, is currently under construction and will be the place where readers can find games and secret titbits of Afterlife knowledge. So watch this space!

Blog.

The first thing every writer should do is set up a blog. EVERYONE from my mum to my marketing company told me this. And I didn’t really want to do it, because I didn’t think I’d have anything to say... How wrong I was! I now want to share all the things I’ve learnt and become a genuinely helpful resource for writers who want to go the indie route. As well as giving extra little peeks into the world of my novel. My most successful blog so far was on whether Trump, Brexit and Fortress Europe are making it easier for writers of dystopian fiction, the answer is yes by the way. It bought in my highest visitor figures after the launch day. A blog not only drives traffic to your site but can also help you join in current conversations and get attention that way. You can also do guest blogs on other relevant, but perhaps more popular sites and find a new audience that way. Basically my mum was right.

Social media.

If you can tap into something relevant on social media with your blogs all the better. Social media is the lifeblood of indie authors. Facebook is a good way to let your friends and family know what you’re up to. They will potentially share important posts for you and then you’re reaching new spheres of people. Twitter is trickier if you’re trying to build up a base of followers from nothing. Initial excitement over how many new followers you’re getting will quickly dissipate when you realise it’s predominantly people trying to sell you something.

But Twitter is a fantastic way to make friends with fellow writers, to swap tips and engage in a writing community which will support you as you support it. My current Twitter campaign is threefold. Make friends, figure out how to engage with my YA audience and obey the law of the tweets- don’t just spam your followers timelines with constant promos, be real, be entertaining, for every one tweet you do promoting yourself, like or retweet 6 or more other things.

My current campaign to engage with fellow artists- and also, maybe to make a few people’s days a little better is the #CreativeCommute Challenge. I actually wrote the first draft of my novel during my commute, on my phone, sending it to myself in emails. It was a wonderful way to spend travel time, I was always slightly disappointed when I had to get off my packed rush hour tube. The challenge is to write something during your commute- if you spend 5 minutes on a bus write a haiku, if you get the train from Brighton to London write a novella. You probably shouldn’t join in if you drive or cycle… although that’s great plotting time. The idea is that people host on their own blog and then tweet links under the tag or they can post it on the Facebook page.

Podiobook

This was my grand plan! Release my book as a podiobook in weekly instalments and build up some buzz in the lead up to my ebook release. Then I'd also have a ready-made audiobook ready to sell. This was a gigantic learning curve although I'd heartily recommend it if you've got a lot of time or a very short book...

I made mine using free audacity software which is very easy to use. I had to buy a condenser mic, to plug into my laptop, which cost about fifty quid. I made my own pop shield by bending a wire hanger into a circular shape and then stretching tights over it. I thought I was very clever, but next time I’m going to buy one so it doesn’t have to sit in a beer bottle or get held by the reader or get shoved into their top…

One thing I will say if you’re thinking of making a podiobook or audiobook yourself is that its very time consuming. A ten minute section can take about 40 minutes to record if you do a couple of takes, go back on sections where mistakes are made or a bus rolls past. When I had other people reading sections of mine so would also stop and give direction. Then editing it will take 20 minutes plus depending on how much you've got.

I’ve hosted my podcasts on Soundcloud and listed it on iTunes. iTunes is a weird one, you send your RSS feed through to it, so nothing is actually controlled on iTunes itself, but wherever you host your podcasts. They are also really slow- they can take up to two weeks to approve your RSS feed and your first podcast because they actually listen to everything submitted. And you need your listeners to subscribe, new podcasts can get lost in their cache and show up in the store for days at a time. I am now selling the complete podiobook through CD Baby as it seemed like a better, easier option than Audible which ties you in for seven years (seven years?!) and doesn’t let you set your own price.

If you want to know any more about the podiobook process here’s a blog I wrote about my experience creating a podiobook.

If you haven’t written your book yet don’t let me put you off. There’s so much advice online on writing, editing and even marketing. Launching yourself into the indie world can be daunting. But success can’t just be about who can shouts the loudest. If you can find a new way to present your book you can engage potential readers that way. One thing I’ve experimented with is VR (virtual reality) including creating images with Google Cardboard to share. I’d like to be able to offer virtual tours of some of the locations in my book- some would be impossible and I still want people to imagine places for themselves, but giving a snapshot of a few of the landscapes, the forest, the beach, the city would be a way to set myself apart… again watch this space…

If you’re an Indie author or looking to become one I hope that’s helped a little!  

Where are the BAME lead characters in YA fiction?

I LOVE Young Adult fiction. I’m obsessed with the ‘Hunger Games’ and I’m currently devouring Cassandra Clare’s ‘Lady Midnight’. It’s the pace and the imagination that makes these books so great. Authors push boundaries when they’re writing for this market and that’s why a lot of ‘Old Adults’, myself included, will drift over to the Teenage Fiction section of the Library. I didn’t realise that there was something missing until I sat down to write a blog…

In my novel Afterlife the first part of the book is from the perspective of Eve, who is mixed race (like me). So I thought I’d compile a list of the top five BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) lead characters in British YA fiction. I came up with a few characters, but there was a problem, they were all written by the same (admittedly awesome) author, Malorie Blackman. Whilst I would happily write a blog solely about my favourite Malorie Blackman characters, I thought I could only really give her one slot here- maybe two at a push…

So I cast my net again and came up with… Hermione Granger, who is now being played by a black actor in London’s West End. JK Rowling had said she never specified Hermione’s race, causing super-fans to trawl the books for proof. Can Hermione have a slot in my BAME countdown when she is synonymous with the lovely (very Caucasian) Emma Watson? No- the books aren’t called Hermione Granger and the blahdeblah are they? No matter how many times she saved Harry’s arse...

And that’s it.

That’s all I’ve got from British fiction.

So I widened my search to all YA fiction that I myself have read or watched…

And came up with nothing.

Zilch.

Sweet fanny adams.

So I looked online I tried to find some BAME characters that I could read up on and then use in my blog. Then I stopped, because it really shouldn’t be this difficult.

There must be BAME characters out there, but they’re not at the forefront of the genre. And they’re not in the Hollywood movies. I can easily rattle off my top five YA movie franchises- Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, Twilight, Harry Potter and the main characters are all white- very pale and sparkly in some cases.

So in this pioneering section of the literary world why is everyone white?

Authors often write characters that look like them. It makes sense, you can add in personal touches that helps to bring them to life. My character Eve has the same problems with her unruly afro as I do. So are there no BAME authors? I doubt it. Or are they under represented by agents and publishers? When you’re an indie publisher it’s much harder to get your characters out there.

In my trip around the internet I came across a very insightful article by Beth Kemp who says that her BAME students struggle to find characters who look like them in fiction and then produce fiction which has a white protagonist, regardless of their own ethnicity. Scary stuff, if work with white protagonists inspires work with white protagonists, the literary world could end up spiralling away from the real world instead of acting as a mirror.

But do not despair! Campaigns for greater diversity in books already exist with one of the strongest voices being the aforementioned Malorie Blackman. BitchMedia.org (great name) and A Mighty Girl are great resources for diverse books (Thanks for the recommendations Rifa!). There is also the We Need Diverse Books Campaign. I’ll be getting involved in whatever I can and not just to help promote my own work. I’ve genuinely shocked myself, on TV and in movies we can all see an effort being made to include characters of all backgrounds, but I never twigged that this was missing from the books I loved.

If anyone wants to send over recommendations of books with BAME lead characters I’d love to read them- and books with LGBT lead characters as well – and books with disabled lead characters -  and, actually, books with straight white leads too. Let’s read the rainbow! 

 

----

Afterlife is released on 17th April and is available to pre-order on Amazon

You can listen to the Afterlife Podiobook for free for a limited time

5 reasons Britian should invade France

There's loads of fascist chat being thrown around at present, so, I thought I'd join in with my '5 reasons why Britain should invade France.'

1. It'll solve the immigration "problem"

People want to come to the UK because it is safe, it has a strong economy and treats it's citizens fairly (comparatively- I don’t like our Tory government but it’s better than the Taliban). So let’s get rid of those things and no one will want to move here! If we went to war with France we'd need to re-introduce conscription and call up our citizens to fight. France are close enough to launch artillery barges and our southern towns and cities would be bombed- that'll put off the refugees trying to escape war in their own countries. And there's a good chance our economy will tank when the rest of the world imposes economic sanctions. Sorted.

2. Wine

Is brilliant in this country, general consensus is that we want it and we're prepared to invade to get it.

3. Cheese.

See above.

4. No more Brexit chat.

All the chat about whether the UK should leave the EU could stop as the EU would probably just throw us out. Think about all the time that would save! No party political broadcasts, no articles, no debates - the politicians can spend their time in the War Room instead. And we can all free up some tine on 23rd June because we don't have to go to the polls. Maybe we could have a BBQ... if we haven’t been conscripted.

5. It's Traditional

We love tradition in Britain! There are loads of traditions that still apply regardless of how little sense they make, like men being paid more than women, Estate Agents and not being allowed to eat swan. Being at war with France is nothing if not traditional! As a nation we’ve spent a lot of time at war with the French (Hundred Years War anyone?). In this time of upheaval there’s nothing better than falling back on an old comforting tradition- it would be like the military equivalent of a Yorkshire pudding. And, if we win, we could start rebuilding the empire again!  Brilliant!

Other points in favour of invading France

- It’s close enough to swim to

- They never give us the top points in Eurovision

-Most of us learnt French at school so would be able to ask for directions, although we'd have to set up our camps in libraries and swimming pools... Ou est le piscine? 

- Rationing would help sort out the obesity crisis

- Paris is nice, we should own that

- Nice is nice but we'd need to change its name to avoid confusion

-Champagne

- They've got a sunny bit at the bottom

 

Who's with me?!

 

Ps. In case you’re worried this blog is tongue in cheek, if we end up going to war with France I accept no responsibility at all – although if I am that influential there’s a few other changes I’d like to suggest,  like better trains and always being able to take your dog to work…

EVEY An Afterlife and #CreativeCommute short story

As part of the #CreativeCommute Challenge I wrote this story. It features a main character from Afterlife earlier in her life. 

Journey: St James Street to St Pauls (London) and back again

Time: 52 minutes

 

EVEY

Evey is in the front garden. She is chasing a butterfly. She is giggling as she totters down the path. The butterfly is blue. Evey likes blue. Evey likes all the colours. She likes to draw with her big sister. Mary is much better at staying in the lines, but Evey loves the colours more. She gets lost in them as she draws and forgets she's supposed to be colouring a house or pony or whatever it is that is placed in front of her. It's more fun to swirl and scribble and mix the colours into a beautiful storm. 

The butterfly flutters down the front path and Evey follows. It flies up above her head and she tries to keep watching as she runs. Evey falls landing on her hands and knees. She considers crying. Her hands hurt! Then she sees a pair of black shoes in front of her.

They are tall shoes with laces that wind round and round at the top. There are legs sticking out of the shoes wearing black trousers with lots of pockets. There’s a belt above the trousers where a blacky pointy thing, that Evey doesn’t recognise, is strapped. The body above the belt leans over.

'You alright?'

Evey looks up. The person doesn’t have a face! They have a round, black, shiny thing where their smile should be. Her small eyes widen in shock. The person reaches for their head and opens it! He lifts a bit up and Evey can see his eyes, they look nice.

'Did you hurt yourself?'

Evey shakes her head. 

'Okay. Well we need to talk to your neighbour so you should go inside.'

Evey stares at the man. He has something written on his black top. C for cat, O for orange, P for pink...

'Come on.'

Evey takes the gloved hand and allows herself to be led to her house.

The man turns to go.

'Bye bye.' he says, 'Be good.'

Evey nods, but, instead of going in, she stands behind the big pot on their front step and watches between the leaves of the plant.

The man goes down her path and beckons to a black van. A door opens and lots of people wearing black pour out. None of them have faces. They all carry pointy things.

Evey watches as they flow around the house across the road, some go around the back, some stay around the sides, some go to the front door. There is a pause, then someone pushes the doorbell.

It goes ding dong.

'Ding dong'  Evey says quietly. Ding dong is a song too but she can't remember the words. She tries to hum it. Then someone from the house across road answers the door. It's Jo's mummy. She's wearing a pink dressing gown.

The man in black say something to Jo's mummy and she shakes her head. She tries to shut the door but the man kicks it back open. The people in black surge into the house, pushing Jo's mummy backwards.

Evey shrinks down behind her plant as she hears Jo's mummy scream. Then Jo starts crying. There's banging and crashing. There's smashing as the people in black crack windows to pieces to get into the house.

Then the noise stops. The people in black come back out of the house. They're dragging things. A big thing with a pink dressing gown, a bigger thing wearing jogging bottoms. A thing the same size as Evey wearing yellow pyjamas. None of them have faces. There are black things on everyone’s head.

As the van drives away the blue butterfly lands on a leaf in front of Evey. She looks past it to the house across the road. The door hangs crooked, still swinging. The house across the road is broken and empty now.

Evey is sad. But she doesn’t know what to do, so after the butterfly has fluttered away and after the door has stopped swinging, she goes inside.

 

You can join in the #CreativeCommute Challenge by using your travel time to write. Find out more here

Want to join the #CreativeCommute Challenge?

Don’t let your commute be the worst part of your day. Take back your time!

I actually wrote the first draft of my novel during my commute, tapping away on my phone and sending it to myself in emails. It was a wonderful way to spend travel time, I was always slightly disappointed when I had to get off my packed rush hour tube.

So the #CreativeCommute Challenge…

Write something during your commute- if you spend 5 minutes on a bus write a haiku, if you get the train from Brighton to London write a novella. You probably shouldn’t join in if you drive or cycle… although that’s great plotting time.

List it under #CreativeCommute and tweet a link of your work. The official Twitter page is @_CreativeComm, but tweet me too @helenjoc. I’d love to have a read and a retweet! If you don't have your own blog then you can post your work on the #CreativeCommute Facebook page. I'd love to feature some on my blog too, as guest posts.

Make sure you list your journey and your travel time.

Anything goes, you could write a scene for a play or a poem! 

Yes. You are allowed to spell check and edit outside your commute time.

Go forth and be creative!

Helen x 

Here’s one I made earlier…

Journey: Along the Central line (London)

Travel time: 16 minutes

This is a little bit of silliness I wrote on the tube after a pigeon tried to take me out... You don't have to put it on a picture- I just had some spare time at home... and Photoshop.

***STRONG LANGUAGE WARNING*** There's a little bit of strong language below, but surely that's to be expected when writing about pigeons...

Trump, Brexit and Fortress Europe: Are they making it easy for writers of dystopian fiction?

There’s a lot about to inspire the dystopianly inclined…

Donald Trump is now the clear front runner to become the Republican candidate for the Presidency of the USA. The man who promised to build a wall to keep 'the Mexicans' out, who apparently routes for global warming (“It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!”) and who wants to ban all Muslims from entering the US, could soon be the most powerful man in the world. I am fighting the urge to run down the street, wearing nothing but a cardboard box, screaming 'It's the end of days!'

But then I have to fight that urge a lot- less the semi-naked shouting, more the feeling that so many changes going on around us herald 'The beginning of the end.' I can't lump myself in with the current dystopian superstars; the Suzanne Collins', the Veronica Roths and the James Dashners of the world (ONLY because my book's not out yet ;-p) but I'd imagine there is a certain type of mind that looks at a situation and immediately imagines the worst possible outcome. 

Like Brexit. 

In the UK we are currently in the grips of a ferocious debate on whether to leave the EU. This is chiefly a financial decision for a lot of people, is it going to better or worse for big businesses, for farmers, for the welfare of tax payers? However I can't help but see it as Britain closing its doors. Weirdly, in world of my novel, this could very well have happened, leading Britain down an insolated path, to the totalitarian dictatorship my story is set in. If we end up with a Christian dictatorship in fifty years’ time I will definitely be saying ‘I told you so’ (very quietly, whilst pretending to pray).

Then there’s targeting the grey gene. 

Scientists have found a way to stop people going grey prematurely. Great in theory. A friend once told me that I needed to be more of an optimist. He believes that the future will be brilliant, thanks to science, and I really hope he's right. However, when I read about scienctists defeating the grey gene, my mind starts whirring. Perhaps this is just the first step on the way to scientists stopping ageing completely. Humans will live forever. There will be inevitable wars between countries, or even generations. Life will become an epic struggle amongst immortals for dominance and space. It's the beginning of the end!

It will probably be far less sinister, we might just end up looking young for a bit longer, but who knows where science will take us? (The end of days?!)

Or Fortress Europe.

We are living through the worst humanitarian crisis in generations. It actually is the end of days for the poor people drowning as they try and reach Europe. There's no need to imagine the worse here, it's already happening. Millions of people are travelling to Europe in the search of a safe life. Countries are closing their borders and squabbling about how many people they take in, whilst their planes continue to bomb the places where these migrants used to live. It’s a reminder of exactly how bad things can get, of the depths of misery one section of humanity will allow to happen to another.

The other.

There are walls- or at least huge fences with barbed wire - being thrown up to protect territories. These walls are put up to protect the established norm from 'the other'. And as a lover of history, I know that emphasis on 'the other' never leads anywhere good. Remember Hitler? 'The other' was the Jews and a nation went along with it. So when Trump makes the Mexicans and the Muslims core campaign issues and a significant number of the American voting public lap it up, alarm bells start ringing.

Keeping it real.

But there’s no reason to panic (yet). Even if Trump becomes President he’d still have to get his laws through Congress. Before the EU, Britain was a relatively sensible democratic place so, assumedly, would go back to that if we did vote to leave. Science probably won’t cause a war between the generations, with grandparents, desperate to retain control, hunting down their offspring, outwitting them at every turn with their superior wisdom…

Our predecessors.

Dystopian fiction is by no means a new thing. Aldus Huxley’s ‘A Brave New World’ was written in 1932, during the Depression, and set in the chilling 26th century. George Orwell’s nightmarish vision of the future ‘1984’ was written in 1949, as the world recovered from the Second World War and adjusted to the Nuclear age. And in 1985, as the internet came into being, Margaret Atwood (who's still going strong) penned ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, set in a future America where a religious theocracy has reduced women to little more than child bearers.

These novels were written at times of scientific and political change. I say that with complete confidence because it is ALWAYS a time of scientific and political change. Progress marches on relentlessly, inspiring art and terror in equal measure.

Paranoid pessimists?

Trump, Brexit, Fortress Britain… I think they do make it easier for dystopian writers, because it creates a demand for our books. Readers can take a break from fearing the worst to visit a place where the worst has already happened, but where there are characters who still survive, fight and love. And perhaps that is the true power of dystopian fiction, it titillates the little part of us that loves to be scared, it provides warnings of where our actions might lead and it shows humanity’s ability to endure. In the dark fog of the future, dystopian fiction can provide a small ray of hope.

Now where did I put my box…?

 

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The first episode of Afterlife the podiobook is available free on iTunes

Afterlife the ebook is available to pre-order on Amazon