Oppression, Addiction, Depression and Death (22/7/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures

This is one of those thoughtful posts. Sorry.

Right: in the last few years I’ve seen various arguments go back and forth about the “new” fantasy, grim and gritty and dirty and a bit nasty. Or possibly a lot nasty. I’ve seen the argument, presented in many different guises, of “but that’s how it was,” and I’ve seen the argument back of “how WHAT was, exactly” and “but isn’t that the point of fantasy – to NOT be how it was?” and I have sympathy for all three points. I’ve seen what I reckon is my favourite: “but that’s how it IS,” which I take to be an allusion to the world being an uncaring and fundamentally hostile place. Well I’m not sure it is, but it does often seem that way. One argument in particular has lingered – that the message heroic fantasy sends is that if you try and try and try and try and work really really hard to do something, you will ultimately succeed, and that’s not how the world works and to be taught that heroic fantasy message simply leads to hopelessly unrealistic expectation. I largely buy that argument but not its conclusion. I’m not going to go into it here because I’ve covered it before.


I’ve also changed my work patterns lately. This is just one of those things – every few months I take to working in a different way. It’s not even a conscious choice, more a fitting work around the rest of life in a different way as the rest of life constantly warps and mutates and changes (and it does, if you have children, by the way, because what they’re like no isn’t what they’ll be like in six months, not will it ever be that way again. It’s a constant adaptation to their constant adaptation, and it would terribly nice if I ever in any way saw the next change coming with more clarity that it’s simple probability. But that’s by the by). The long and the short is that I now work out now and then, often enough to make a “workout” playlist of stuff to listen to. Thumping stuff to get the blood moving, that sort of thing. And even if I then go and listen to Berlioz or podcasts, it’s the contents of that playlist that got me thinking. There’s some newer music in it, a few tracks that I’ve grown to like in my middle years but most of it turned out to be stuff I used to listen to decades ago and it’s all angry angry stuff (good for workouts) with a subtext of addiction and depression and powerlessness and death and you knew I was a goth, right? Oh and also quite a lot of Motorhead, which doesn’t really fit at all but then maybe I was more of an awkwardly angry hippy than a goth and…

Oh never mind. Because the world may be fundamentally hostile or uncaring but it’s also fundamentally ridiculous and sometimes you have to revel in the simple sensation of being alive by listening to Killed By Death very very loudly several times.

And it got me thinking, that playlist, of who I used to be a long time ago before I knew who I was, and also that the message of heroic fantasy, of which I read a lot at the time) – try and try and try, try long and try hard and don’t give up and in the end you’ll get a cookie, well it might not really work for our exterior struggles, but for most people who have much opportunity to read for pleasure in the first place (and I say most knowing there are people for whom this generalisation will be starkly false), perhaps the struggles that matter most aren’t the ones we have with the outside world but the ones we have with ourselves, with our own inner contradictions. In those battles, we are our own champions, like it or not, and everyone else is the plucky sidekick. Maybe that’s where stories of heroes have their worth. I can try and try and try all I want to be the best son/dad/husband/wife/writer/singer/poet/lover/ninja/muse/pigeon-whispering particle physicist/whatever in the world and with seven billion other people out there there’s a good chance I’ll never get good enough to be worthy of remark. But in my head it’s just me and my demons, no billions of other people. And maybe I can try and try and try to be happy with merely being quite good at some of those things, and maybe it’s because of all those stories of bloody-minded heroes who never give up despite the odds that I can believe that one day those might converge.

So I’ll still keep my heroes, thanks, and I might even write some when I’m done with dragons.

On Burning Bankers (1/7/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures

Once upon a time there were a bunch of bankers who had made themselves very, very rich. Granted special privileges by the highest authorities in their sphere of influence, they were frequently exempt from local laws and taxes. Over time they developed a goodly number of tricks to avoid even the laws to which they were expected to comply, mostly by doing exactly the thing they weren’t supposed to and calling it something else. Distrusted by the population at large for their mysterious and secretive ways, they made themselves indispensable to the rulers of their time, though the states they ruled were destitute with population taxed to the point of open revolt.

As a result of Barclays’s admission of its misconduct, its extraordinary cooperation, its remediation efforts and certain mitigating and other factors, the department agreed not to prosecute Barclays for providing false LIBOR and EURIBOR contributions, provided that Barclays satisfies its ongoing obligations under the agreement for a period of two years. The non-prosecution agreement applies only to Barclays and not to any employees or officers of Barclays or any other individuals.

In the case of the Templars, when Philip IV turned on them, a lot of bankers were burned at the stake. Just quietly noting that interesting fact. Not that Philip IV was any better, all things considered. The “great treasure” of the Templars was supposedly shipped in secret to Nova Scotia. This is obviously a daft notion – clearly they took it to the Cayman Islands.

Sponsorship (29/6/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures


Very quietly, very gently, this has been getting on my tits for a very long time and I think I’m not alone, in fact I’m sure I’m not alone, but so far I’ve met a lot of people who are in my situation but almost no one brave enough to talk about it.

So look, here it is: I really don’t like sponsoring anyone to do anything that I consider to be fun and pretending it has anything much to do with raising money for charity. I don’t even like being asked. If  someone wants to raise money for charity, they can come round with a collection cup. If someone wants me to subsidise their ascent of K2, they can come round with a very good reason why I should pay for them to go instead of them paying for me, because that actually sounds like a fine way to spend a month or so of my time. Nor will I subsidisesponsor anyone for any of the following:

  • Walking, running, cycling, swimming etc. Because I like walking, cycling and swimming. Unless you’re going to be tied to an angry tree or doused in honey by random spectators and then attacked by bees or chased by tigers. OK, fine, fine, if it’s just walking round a field for some local good cause, but no, definitely not if  the proposed route happens be the Silk Road or the Milford Track or the length of the Great Wall of China. No no no no. Indeed…
  • Going anywhere abroad for almost any reason whatsoever[1].
  • Climbing any sort of mountain for any reason unless it’s in the Himalayas and I can sponsor you by how many hours you wear a yeti costume.
  • Jumping out a plane with a perfectly good working parachute unless I can sponsor you according to the number of bones you break [2].
  • Pub crawls. I mean, really? Why do people even think that works?

I’m a small man, sometimes a petty one, and if I’m going to give money to charity only to have some of it siphoned off to subsidise someone’s fun, I need to see a reason. Pain and humiliation are a good start. I might sponsorsubsidise a friend to take a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they can’t afford any other way. That’s what friends do, but let’s not pretend it’s for some good cause beyond that friendship.

I will, however, consider sponsoring people to eat marmite because marmite is so utterly disgusting.


Just ask for money for what it’s really for.

[1] Unless it’s to the US and you’re being sponsored by how many hours you can be held by immigration because of what you wrote on your immigration form and yet still get allowed in.

[2] Your own bones, Smithy. You know who you are.

Avengers Assemble – Director’s Cut (18/5/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures

Iron Man: Right, this bit goes here and this clearly goes there.

Thor: I-Kee-A? What is this demonic pantheon?

Iron Man: And then this here . . .

Captain America: Hey, Iron man, this bit of paper you screwed up and threw in the bin, are these the instructions?

Iron Man; Yeah, yeah . . .

Black Widow: Flat-pack furniture? I’m out of here.

Hulk: Hulk too. Flat-pack furniture bad for hulk’s self-control.

Iron man: Hey, wait a minute there big guy, this needs more than one person with a brain.

Thor: Hey!

Captain America: They are the instructions!

Hulk: Hulk not think this bit fit right.

Iron Man: Trust me, it fits. And if it doesn’t fit, make it fit.

Thor (picking up Allen key): What’s this?

Arrow shooty guy: An Allen key.

Hulk (peering over Captain America’s shoulder): But Hulk not find screw A13? Why nut B26 too big for bolt D3?

Thor (picks up hammer): In Asgard we have hammers. And nails. Hammers and nails. This is how wardrobes are made.

Iron Man: And this bit here and we’re done . . . Not. It’s a penguin. We made a penguin.

Captain America: I really think you should have read this first.

Arrow shooty guy: (Shoots penguin) I’ll be with Black Widow (leaves).


Iron Man: I think it’s the penguin’s beak.


Thor: Loki! Only Loki  could be behind something so fiendish.

Iron Man: Behind the penguin? Because I don’t think he is. I think if you look you’ll find that’s Hulk.


Iron Man (after a long pause): Well I still think it was a penguin.

(exeunt to pub)

Try Try Try (28/4/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures

Here’s an out-of-context part-of-a-comment take off the web.

“Depicting strong women, ‘magic exemptions,’ simply fuels the boot-strapping illusion that is strangling contemporary feminism: the assumption that the individual can overcome their social circumstances if they try-try-try and believe-believe-believe, and thus the tendency to hold the individual responsible for their exploitation.”

The author is R Scott Bakker. I don’t intend to link to the thread directly because it’s a very specific discussion and in a way quite personal to the author’s books, which appear to have provoked some rather, ah, strong views. I can’t comment on that because I haven’t read any of his books. There is a lot of context to this quote which I haven’t presented here. For all you know, without reading the entire source material, the author might be arguing the exact opposite of this. He isn’t, but he might be. You only have my word for that, after all. I don’t intend to comment on his specific views except to say that I have sympathy for a great deal of his analysis yet differ in my ultimate conclusion.

I found this statement very thought-provoking for both the truth inherent in most of it and for the way there seemed  to me to be something very poisonous lurking at its heart. Again, I consider the statement on its own, without thought to the author’s intentions or motives. The sense of truth and poison are both my own sentiments. Whether they were meant or not, I have no idea.

For the purposes of dissection, I’m going to reword this statement into something that I think has exactly the same sense and meaning:

Depicting strong women, ‘magic exemptions,’ simply fuels the assumption that the individual can overcome their social circumstances if they try-try-try and believe-believe-believe, and thus the tendency to hold the individual responsible for their exploitation. This assumption fuels the boot-strapping illusion that is strangling contemporary feminism.

I’m going to ditch the last sentence – it was relevant to the source discussion but not particularly to my own thoughts and I’m in no way sufficiently informed to say what is or isn’t strangling contemporary feminism or whether the first sentence describes something that fits said description. This assumption is a bad thing will do for my purposes. I assume the original author considered it to be a bad thing, at least. While we’re at it, I’ll generalise further and replace Depicting strong women, ‘magic exemptions,’ with Depicting exceptional people, since I don’t see why either my own thoughts on the subject (or the original for that matter) are specifically and only applicable to strong women. Could be any exceptions to the prevailing social environment.

Depicting exceptional people simply fuels the assumption that the individual can overcome their social circumstances if they try-try-try and believe-believe-believe, and thus the tendency to hold the individual responsible for their exploitation. This is a bad thing.

Does this change the meaning of the original statement aside from generalising it from the specific issue of the portrayal of women in fantasy to the depiction of any exceptional person in any fictional setting? I don’t think it does but you’re welcome to disagree. And I do believe there’s a lot of truth to this statement. The effort and belief of one individual, no matter how vigorously and relentlessly applied, will often fail. We are all single individuals in a vast multitude, and that simply can’t be discounted. And yes, I do think there is a tendency for people to blame the failures of others on they didn’t try hard enough. They didn’t believe in themselves enough. I am certainly very guilty of that sort of thinking. It has a sense to it. A self-empowerment is implied – it wouldn’t have been like that for me. If that’s what I’d wanted, I would have tried harder and succeeded. Ultimately, if I really want to be, unlike you I am in control of my destiny. Because it’s a pretty frightening thing to have to confront the reality that actually no, you’re not.

A somewhat trite but nevertheless relevant example: My six-year old wants to play football for Barcelona in the Champions’ League one day. Maybe, if he were to dedicate his entire life to achieving that end, maybe he could achieve that.  However, there is a clear (if a little fuzzy) limit on the number of six-year olds who can one day achieve that ambition no matter how hard they try. Other things will come into play over which they have no control. Luck. Who they know. Where they live. Their parents wealth and support. Many other things. Ultimately, simple genetics. I can see that in my own family. None of the rest of us  could, no matter what we did. I won’t. I could never have the necessary speed and stamina ever again. Failure is inevitable. I’m fairly sure that no one single person, no matter how hard they try and how much they believe, can single-handedly end bigotry, racism, sexism, any kind of -ism you like.

So I’ll buy a couple of things as being truth here: the tendency to hold the individual responsible for their exploitation is a bad thing. Yes. Yes it is when you can try as hard as you like to get out of a situation and still fail through circumstances over which you have no whit of control. That can happen. I think it happens a lot. And even if they haven’t tried as hard as they possibly could, I will argue that it’s still a bad thing. I would suggest, as a general rule that is might be better to aim any assumption of responsibility at the exploiters than at the exploited until evidence to the contrary is received. It can be, I accept, surprisingly difficult sometimes.

And finally the poison. the assumption that the individual can overcome their social circumstances if they try-try-try and believe-believe-believe is a bad thing. Yes. I’ll accept that as a truth. The assumption is a bad thing, because endless trying will often still fail and no amount of simple believing in anything will achieve very much. Huge applications of effort and belief will still mostly fail to change the world and there’s nothing we can do about it because that world is big and there’s a great deal over which we simply have no influence or control. But the poison is the never-stated implication that try-try-try and believe-believe-believe are bad things in themselves. No. The assumption that success is inevitable with enough effort, that it is likely or even possible, that’s bad. Blaming people for their own circumstances because they didn’t try hard enough? Also bad. But the trying and the believing themselves are not, and for two reasons I can think of. Allow me to cast this statement another way by inverting it:

the possibility that the individual can overcome their social circumstances if they try-try-try and believe-believe-believe is a good thing

Surely! If we can acknowledge and accept that mostly we will fail through no lack of our own effort, surely it’s still better for even a mere handful to succeed? Shall we all meekly take our lot in life as given to us at birth and none of us strive for something better? I choose not. And the second thing this sentiment fails to acknowledge is the power of numbers. There are many things that one person alone simply cannot change, but if everyone tried at once then it would be easy. Yet if no one tries, what then? Nothing changes.

If I have a personal philosophy of life, it’s been to shoot for the moon as often as I can and to accept that I will miss every single time and to shoot anyway and be pleased by how far my arrows actually reach.It’s worked out well enough up to now. And this could be about feminism, as the original source was, or it could be about sitting down and writing that book that you can’t quite settle to. It could be about changing the world or changing yourself. Either way, the point remains the same.

Accept that there are many things you probably can’t change no matter how hard you try. Seriously get your head around that immutable probability because that’s what the world is like. Then try anyway.

New Three-Book Fantasy Series Announced (1/4/2012)

Posted in News

Following lengthy negotiations with various publishers on both sides of the Atlantic, I can now announce that I will be writing a new three-book fantasy series to be published by Gollancz in 2013.

The series of heroic/epig fantasy will centre around a the character Porqloyne, a former butcher, now a vegetarian, who is forced out of his retirement when his entire family and home village are gored to death by wild boar. As a prophecy known to every man woman and child unexpectedly starts to come true, as extremely unlikely events begin to unfold throughout the generic northern european medieval kingdom, he is forced on a journey to collect ancient cleaver Sorz-Egde. But this will be just the beginning of what promises to be an epig confrontation between good and evil.

“Following the success of Deas’ dragon-based fantasy series, we felt the market was ready for other fantastical creatures. After dragons, flying pigs were an obvious choice, with a recognisable day-to-day appeal that will transcend the usual genre readership and reach out well to the mass market,” said one industry insider, who has begged to remain anonymous.

Much of the story is inspired by my long-held misunderstanding, only recently disabused, that the Bay of Pigs really was a bay full of pigs, and also a slightly unexpected debate in a role-playing game a while back in which it was observed by one party member that the river we were currently unable to cross would be a lot easier if it was made of pigs instead of water. Or possibly I dreamed that last bit.

Work begins after the Easter holidays.

Dear Activist (10/8/2010)

Posted in Critical Failures

Twice in the last few weeks I’ve come across the phrase “This is the fault of governments” while browsing otherwise interesting and thought-provoking articles on the internet. There is a risk, if I see it again, that I may poke myself in the eye with something sharp just to relieve the pain. What made it particularly painful was that, in both cases, the point being made was otherwise lucid, well-researched, references were given to source material to back up its assertions and one with which I happened to strongly agree. Hurrah! Fill the internet with intelligent, well-reasoned SOLUTIONS to the problems of the world. More please!

But “This is the fault of governments.” makes me want to rant and shout. Aside from the obvious retort (if it’s the fault of governments then quick, let’s get rid of them. Replace them with, er…some anarchy, yeah, that’ll work. Phew, the environment sure dodged a bullet there), what, exactly, makes up a government? People, that’s what. And who votes for a government? That would be people again. Who chooses to run for office? Yep, people. Who implements their decisions? Who abides by the rule they set down? Who enforces them? Er, that would be some more people again. That would be us. So when I get to “It’s the government’s fault,” or “the government is responsible,” or some such, I’m left with this powerless feeling. Y’know, that I can’t do anything, even if I want to. Which is bollocks.

The injustices, the short-sightednesses, the selfish evils, they are the fault of people[1]. But when we have a point to make, we don’t say that. We blame the government, or some other remote body (also made up of people). It’s the first rule of propaganda to reduce all data to a simple confrontation between ‘Good and Bad’, ‘Friend and Foe’, ‘Them’ and ‘Us’. Them (the government) bad, us (you and me) good and it really ticks me off whenever I see it. WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT, or at least that’s the principle that’s supposed to underlie a democracy, isn’t it? So STOP TRYING TO MAKE OUT THAT I’M NOT.

By following the first rule of propaganda, we are telling people that they aren’t in charge of their destiny. We blame distant politicians and bureaucrats, whose choices may well have little to do with what ‘we’ think or want, but they are still our responsibility. Blaming ‘the government’ over and over is convenient and easy and hardly likely to start a pub fight, but it has a hidden message: Repeat after me: It’s the government’s fault. Not your fault. Them, not us. We are not them. They are not us. No wonder everyone feels so disenfranchised. The subtext of almost every piece of political propaganda from whatever part of the spectrum you care to examine is that ‘the people’ and ‘the government’ are different things. And they’re not [2]. Blaming the government seems to me to be a license for general apathy and aimless discontent. ‘They’ are in charge, ‘we’ have no say in what happens, life’s not too bad (for most of us), so what’s the point in rocking the boat? Lo and behold and look around. Is it simply that you know that you’re only preaching to the converted? Because if it is, that’s pretty sad, and not just for you.

I guess this outcome happens to suit some people. But you, dear activists out there, I don’t think you’d count yourself as part of that happy clique. So why do you keep doing it?

End of rant.

[1] So are a lot of good things, but for some reason we don’t seem to hear nearly so much about those. Which is a shame.

[2] In any country with a reasonably honest democratic process for electing one, anyway.

[3] Although if it was down to me they would be and the Dalai Lama would become dictator-for-life with supreme and unchallenged power across the globe. However, that’s a rant for another day. For now, just make sure you never vote me any kind of worthwhile power. I don’t want it and you wouldn’t like what I did with it.

Prince Jehal Interviews the Dragon Silence (4/5/2010)

Posted in News

The regular author of this site continues to be otherwise engaged. This week, I, Prince Jehal, in the last of my interviews with characters from The Adamantine Palace, bring you Silence. I had wanted to talk to the dragon Snow, but needs must as the devil drives, and frankly it’s a lot easier to manage a day-old hatchling than it is a nearly full-grown adult. Oh, and be ready for Silence to talk directly into you head, since if there’s anyone out there who didn’t already know, dragons are telepathic.

Silence: Indeed.

Jehal: Now, as I’m beginning to understand, dragons are more complicated than I thought. There’s a lot of things that most people don’t know. For example, what I just told everyone, that you’re telepathic. Most of us don’t know that. The alchemists are rather too fond of keeping their secrets to themselves.

Silence: Alchemists. Yes. They will all burn.

Jehal: Er… right. Anyway, before we burn anyone, perhaps you could… Hang on, you’re dead. Your burning days are over, surely.

Silence: Dead? I am here before you, little one.

Jehal: Yes… but… Isn’t this a big meta-thing. I mean, I could talk to anyone who died in the first book like they were the actor acting out the part of their character. I think. We’re not actually going to carry any of this back into the story. Are we?

Silence: I do not wish to eat you. Your future of suffering is far too delicious to me.

Jehal: Er…

Silence: In the flesh, the lifespan of a dragon is short. Our spirits, however, are immortal. We die and are reborn again. We are eternal, little one, while you are ephemeral.

Jehal: Care to share why that is?

Silence: Those who created us were in part of this nature. They perfected their own regeneration and this immortality in us. We are, in many ways, reflections of the Silver Kings.

Jehal: Ah. Wasn’t he the one that tamed you and made you all into our slaves.

Silence: One of their kind, yes. We do not remember him fondly.

Jehal: After all the years of being drugged to your eyeballs, I’m surprised you remember him at all.

Silence: We remember all our past lives, little one. It takes a time for you potions to wear away, but as the layers of fog are stripped from our memories and our thoughts, every moment will sooner or later return. I remember his face. I remember the taste of his thoughts. I remember his name. If he returns, I will hunt him and send him to his Final Death, and I will not be alone.

Jehal: Oh, he died hundred of years ago. I think we killed him, actually. Us little ones.

Silence: You may keep your stories, but I was there and my memories are as fresh as the day they were made. Your kind, little one? Your kind have done nothing but pick scraps from both our tables. You are nothing. Irrelevant. You were once naught but food. Enjoy your fleeting years of grandeur, little one, for food is all you shall be again.

Jehal: O-kaaay. Well now I’d better go get on with that fleeting years of fun thing. And you know how we’ll start? You. The Night Watchman. Cage match in Forbidden Planet, London, May 13th. 6-7pm. Bring a friend. 

Prince Jehal Interviews the Night Watchman (27/4/2010)

Posted in News

The regular author of this site is still railing and ranting about geology so I, Prince Jehal, continue my questioning of characters from The Adamantine Palace and King of the Crags. After the unexpectedly prickly Queen Zafir last week, I have with me today the doubtless equally prickly commander of the Adamantine Men, Night Watchman of the realms, Vale Tassan.

Jehal: Um, you don’t really appear in The Adamantine Palace at all, so our readers aren’t going to have a clue who you are. Could you begin by explaining who you are and the purpose of the Adamantine Men?

Vale: The first Adamantine Men followed Narammed the Magnificent during his travels across the realms. They were holy soldiers ready to fight and die in the name of the Order of the Dragon at a moment’s notice. When Narammed became the first Speaker of the Realms, he took these men to become the nucleus of his holy guard – the Adamantine Men – who would serve and guard the office of speaker. Over the years that followed, the legions of the Adamantine Men have grown. We began as the hundred and one. There are twenty legions of us now. Over time, our purpose has changed. We are no longer the Speaker’s bodyguard, but the defenders of the realms against any danger.

Jehal (raising an eyebrow): Including dragons?

Vale: Yes.

Jehal: Is that how you get your other name, the Scorpion King?

Vale (with slightly wistful air): We have over a thousand scorpions with which to defend the City of Dragons. Almost half of them can be placed on the walls of the Adamantine Palace itself. It is said in Prince Lai’s Principles that the legions of the Adamantine Guard could face more than two hundred dragons. Given the way things are going, perhaps we shall find out. Although doubtless we will have another book of your tedious posturing to endure before we finally reach the real meat of the matter, in which man faces dragon and the snakes shall be sorted from the lions.

Jehal: I beg your pardon!

Vale: My pardon is not yours to beg. I am a servant, Prince Jehal. I will serve the Speaker of the Realms, whatever she commands and her alone.

Jehal: No, no, I just meant there were far too many animals in that last metaphor for me to follow. Are we starting another menagerie? We had one of those once, up at the banqueting house and then in the city. Didn’t Speaker Ayzalmir feed all the Taiytakei he rounded up to the snappers and the desert cats?

Vale: I am called what I am called for a reason, Prince. When night comes it falls to the Adamantine Men to keep watch over the nine realms. Those were Narammed’s words and I trust you will not deny that the times are dangerously dark.

Jehal: Dark? My fine fellow, they are positively luminous. We have a new speaker, one with strength and vigour and powerful allies, while all those who opposed her have been scattered. Dark? What’s dark about that? Or have you been reading ahead? “…the tension that made The Adamantine Palace so addictive runs throughout this sequel…” does make it sound exciting; but secretly, Alice and I both know it was me that made TAP so addictive. So tell me, Vale, what exactly do you bring to this little tale of ours?

Vale: I watch as you strut and smile and slowly poison us all. Do not think you fool me, Jehal. I have faced dragons. To me, you are nothing, any of you. You will not beguile me and I doubt I am alone. There will be a war and I will have my time. You must see this too. Ancestors!

Jehal: Hmm. “The dragon war that rages through out the final stages of the book is simply superb.” Should have seen that one coming really. Hmmm. Epic fantasy with dragons in – chances that they won’t be allowed to show their teeth before the end?

Vale: (sotto voce) Also, it is thus far sorely missing a significant character with any manner of moral backbone. It is a void I will eagerly fill.

Jehal: Oh but that must make you so immensely dull. Ah well. Speaking of voids eagerly filled, I had an interesting conversation with Queen Zafir about the role of women in epic fantasy last week. Any views you’d care to share, as Night Watchman of the Adamantine Men.

Vale: The Adamantine Men are swords who sate themselves in flesh. That is our purpose. There is no place for the softness of women within our ranks. Otherwise I have no opinion to offer. A speaker may be a king or a queen, but to me, they are simply the Speaker.

Jehal: Well thanks, Vale. Do you think you could be even more terse about covers?

Vale: Covers?

Jehal: Book covers. You know, awesome-looking dragons flapping about the place. Hooded men. Wizards clutching balls of glowing light and looking like they’re have a really bad attack of constipation. Backlit women with swords that they probably couldn’t actually lift and certainly couldn’t pull out of a scabbard without a lot of huffing and jiggling. You know, the picture that goes on the front.

Vale: Ah. You mean like the façade you wear to cover your frail and shallow cowardice?

Jehal (through gritted teeth): If you must put it that way.

Vale: They are as nothing to me. A pretty picture is a pretty picture. I will admire it for a time and then it is forgotten. The deeds of men are what matter. The deeds of men and dragons.

Jehal (checking his hourglass and miming being sick when Vale isn’t looking). Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for Vale you-are-all-as-nothing-to-me Tassan, Night Watchman.

Prince Jehal Interviews Queen Zafir (20/4/2010)

Posted in News

STOP (word)PRESS: Gollancz Signing Event: Forbidden Planet London, May 13th. John Meaney, Sarah Pinsborough, MD Lachlan, Stephen Deas, possibly others.

Despite the volcanic ash-cloud, the regular author of this site, in a transparent sulk / attempt to avoid any bad reviews has gone off for a few weeks, apparently to write some inconsequential story that has nothing to do with me at all. During this time, therefore, I, Prince Jehal, having found a taste for interviews, will be questioning a few of the other regular characters from The Adamantine Palace and King of the Crags. This week I thought I’d start with someone easy in more ways than one: My dear friend Queen Zafir. But before we start, a word to our dear friends in Sci Fi Now. Now my absent author is perfectly happy with your Must Read Now four star review, but let me offer you a deal of my own. You get the title of the book right and I’ll share my deepest darkest secrets. Deal? Good. Now, on. Zafir.

Jehal: So, lover, what’s it like sleeping your way to the top?

Zafir (languidly): You’re the last person who should need that explained.

Jehal: Well I do try my best, but I suspect, if push came to thrust and grunt came to groan, I might find myself conceding that, in this one thing, I am in the presence of a greater master. Or mistress.

Zafir (with a shrug): We all have our advantages, do we not? I’m no expert with poisons, for example, so I make do with what I have.

Jehal: Anyway. I was going to talk about cover art, but since neither of us got to be on the cover to The Adamantine Palace for any edition (Hey! Poles! Hello! Does it have to be a dragon all the time? How about the people who ride them for a change?), I thought we’d talk about something else. Since you’re here, let’s talk about women in fantasy. Some people seem to view you as a thoroughly two-dimensional cardboard cut-out. My shag-puppet, basically. Discuss.

Zafir: You mean because you get more page-time than me, I have to be your shag-puppet rather than you being mine? Typical. Yes, let’s all just jump to that conclusion. You do remember how The Adamantine Palace ends right? (shaking her head). What do you think?

Jehal: Well…

Zafir: Consider your answer carefully, my sweet. We have two more books to go yet. I would hate for us to have a falling out.

Jehal: Of course. A partnership of equals. Do women have to work harder than men, do you think, to get anywhere in our world? It seems you have many natural disadvantages.

Zafir: Pardon?

Jehal: Well no offence, but on the whole we’re stronger and faster. And then there’s the whole matter of babies. It’s pretty inconvenient, don’t you think, to be basically laid out for nine months unable to do anything, and then after that there’s the whole looking after the brats after they’ve been born. I mean come on, that alone pretty much rules women out of doing anything all that significant doesn’t it?

Zafir (icily): If we lived in some barbarous world where strength of arm was all that mattered then perhaps. But we do not. I am a dragon-queen, Jehal. I will carry a sword and use it if I have to, but let me ask, how exactly have you charted your rise to power? Do we see a trail of your enemies slaughtered in single combat? No, we don’t. I dare say that neither you nor I would care to take on the Night Watchmen in single combat, and yet here we are, a prince and a queen, chasing our ambitions with words and strategies. I see no reason why I should consider myself at any disadvantage in such matters at all. Indeed, I consider that I have one considerable advantage, as men, even you my sweet, are so easily manipulated. In war we ride on the backs of dragons, and where will a strong arm help you there? An old man too weak to walk or Vishmir himself, it makes no difference who you are on the back of one of our monsters. I’ve heard it said that women bond better with the beasts, and I will say that that, too, is false. Dragons simply do not care. So where, Jehal, is your advantage? The only distinction between us is that men are somewhat more prone to forget to think with their heads and use an entirely different organ, and even in that they are not unique. Jehal, let me put a question to you instead: do you consider yourself somehow superior for being a man?

Jehal: Well I ah… I suppose I could have a thousand sons if I wanted. I don’t know how many children you think you could bear, but not quite so many, I suspect.

Zafir (archly): At least I would be sure they were mine. But of course, that’s why you try to have us locked away where no one else can get to us. While you’re all out sowing your seed on a whim, eh? The more this conversation goes on, the more I understand why that niggling thorn Jaslyn is the way she is. Perhaps I should make her my friend, if it’s not too late for that.

Jehal: Er… have I touched a nerve?

Zafir: You put us into gilded cages wherever you can. Your own queen, Jehal, we both know exactly what you wanted from her before you ever even met her. To sit in some pretty little tower making heirs. Perhaps you chose well and she’ll oblige you. Try that with me and I’ll cut your throat while you sleep. Or take you to war so you can see just why our differences come to nothing on the back of a dragon. Yes, perhaps there is no place for women in the Adamantine Guard. Yes, perhaps that is a place for men. After all, the guard serve. (With a smile) why, I might even think you’re afraid of us. Is that why you can’t keep your clothes on? Does it threaten you when someone says no?

Jehal (waggling his tongue): It makes me think I’m losing my touch.

Zafir (dismissive): A talented tongue is a very pleasant thing to have around, but it doesn’t make you god, Jehal. You’ll have to do better than that. Of course, if you were a woman, and I were a man, then that tongue of yours would more than likely be enough…

Jehal: Fascinating, fascinating theory you have there and you know, however bizarre, I’d love to discuss it more…

Zafir: You can be a right dick sometimes.

Jehal (rising): You destroy me, my love, you truly do…

Zafir (under her breath): Yes, well I’ve read book two and you haven’t…

Jehal: …but I do believe I sense a plot thickening somewhere nearby and if I don’t stir it swiftly, I fear it may go all lumpy. Care to join me?

Zafir (also rising): Don’t think this is over, my sweet.

A Brief Interview with Prince Jehal (13/4/2010)

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With the King of the Crags about to hit the shops (first reviews accumulating here) and the last significant rewrite of the final installment finished, today we interview the man who thinks he is the star of The Adamantine Palace, Prince Jehal.

So, Jehal, let’s start with something simple. You’re the crown-prince of Furymouth, one of the richest cities in the dragon-realms. Tell us a little about your home.

Jehal: Ah, Furymouth. The finest, riches city in all the nine realms. It’s hard to know where to start, but we have the possibly the finest palace in the realms, we have…

Finer than The Adamantine Palace?

Jehal: Well that’s a point we could debate if you like. The Adamantine Palace is, perhaps, better known and I suppose it’s bigger and has it’s Dragon Gate and yes, the Tower of Air is taller than any of the towers of the Veid Palace, but let’s not forget, my home is Vishmir’s home, the greatest dragon-king and speaker the world has ever known and the Veid palace was built by him. The Adamantine Palace has, what, half a dozen great towers? Eight maybe? Our towers may be smaller, but we have hundreds…

I’m not sure that size and number of towers is particularly a measure of anything…

Jehal: It’s a measure of wealth! I think you can assume that, for all the gaudy immensity of The Adamantine Palace, the Veid palace is far more refined and cultured. The art, the sculptures, the hangings, everything about my home is exquisite. You should come and visit; and if you did, let’s not forget the Field of Gorgutinnin outside, the chariot races, the most famous in all the realms. And the great Bronze Dragon of Furymouth, Vishmir’s Column…

Fine, fine. So where does all this wealth come from?

Jehal: From the fine stewardship of our realm by my fore-fathers, of course. From Vishmir onwards, we have been at he helm of the nine realms, even if we were never Speaker…

And the Taiytakei?

Jehal (smirking): It does help that we are the only sea-port in the realms and thus the only point of access for the Taiytakei traders, yes.

Some would argue that The Pinnacles were the heart of the realms, but let’s put that aside for a moment. Tell me about…

Jehal: Some would argue, but only because of history. The Pinnacles, home to my dear friend Queen Zafir, were perhaps the heart of the realms a hundred years ago, but times change. The War of Thorns brought their dominance to an end. By all rights, Furymouth should be the capital of the nine realms now. The Veid Palace should be the new Speaker’s Palace.

Something you seem to be working quite hard to achieve. Why exactly is that?

Jehal: Well as I’ve said, Furymouth is the richest and most significant city in the realms in these times, and yet since Vishmir, there hasn’t been a single Speaker from my family. Vishmir conquered the world, let’s not forget. No, the other realms are jealous of our wealth, that’s what it is. We may not have the raw dragon power of, say, the Queen of Sand or the King of the Crags, but we are the ones driving the realms forwards. Every innovation starts in our city. The realms would be better off guided by our enlightened progressive thinking, and the only thing that stands in the way is this cartel of the northern lords who think they can juggle the throne of the Speaker from one to another to the exclusion of those of us in south. Why? Because we are rich, that’s why! Because the only means they have to wealth is to suck the riches of the City of Dragons away into their deserts. Because they envy and fear us, that’s why! My father should have been speaker, and his father before them. I see no reason why I should meekly tolerate their conspiracies without hatching a few of my own. (With a wink): It seems only fair.

Conspiracies that involve murdering your fellow kings and queens?

Jehal: Oh please, does it always come back to that? I only ever murdered the one, after all. It’s not like I burned down town after town of little people, which is what routinely happens when dragon-lords fight. Isn’t it fairer that we keep our disputes amongst ourselves? Why force everyone to suffer just so that we can claim to have fought with ‘honour’? Is it ‘honourable’ to burn thousands of hard-working men, women and children just so that we can say we never slew another lord outside of some farcical idea of ‘noble combat?’ I may be alone, but I think not.

You, uh, claim to care a jot about the ‘little people’ as you call them?

Whatever I think of them has little bearing on whether they deserve to have some dragon burn their lives to nothing in a blink, or do you disagree?

But still. You start your quest for power by seducing a dragon-queen and then throwing her off her own dragon. Was that necessary? Wasn’t there some other way?

Jehal: No, to be blunt. The northern kings and queens act together. We in the south must do the same. Zafir and I see things in the same way. Her mother, I’m afraid, did not. Regrettable, but necessary. And as you will see, I have no objection to sharing power. I’m not in it for myself. I’m after a fair representation, that’s all.

As well as murdering Queen Aliphera, what about your own father…?

Jehal (angry): Oh I see. You think I’m poisoning him. Everyone else assumes that I must be. Does it not occur to you that sometimes people simply fall ill?

Convenient, though, for you.

Jehal: Because it makes me crown prince of the most powerful of the nine realms? Yes, I suppose it must seem that way. Given the choice, though, you know, I think I’d rather have back my father and my brother and my sister and my mother. Given the choice. Can you do that for me? No, I rather thought not.

Well, right or wrong, you seem to be well on your way towards getting what you want. What do you put that down to?

Jehal: Being smarter than the rest of them. Planning. A bit of luck. The usual things that make a man great. Look at Vishmir, look at Narramed, look at Prince Lai. And then look where they all came from.

Narramed came from The Pinnacles, and you could look at the first Valmeyan while you’re at it. But I take your point. What do you say to your critics?

Jehal: I have critics? Should I murder them? Apparently that’s what I do, after all.

People have looked at your rise and called you many things. Shallow. “Personality-free,” in particular sticks in my mind.

Jehal (with a shrug): And yet cunning, addictive (I imagine that one came from one of my legion of lady admirers). Nicely fleshed out (he leers). Everyone has their detractors. I put it down to envy.

And more commonly: villainous, vicious, nasty, ruthless, greedy, treacherous. Your nemesis, Hyram, calls you The Viper, and the name seems to stick. These are hardly the words used to describe the great leader you seem to aspire to be.

Jehal: (after a pause). I am a prince of dragons. My father is sick, my brother murdered my sister and my mother and was tortured to death for his crimes. Do I seem so different to them? Look at the kings and queens of the other realms. The noble Shezira who sells her daughters so she can claw her own way towards power – no one seems to mind that. The mighty Hyram. Take a good look at him and his pot-boys. Am I so different to them? Look around you at the lords who fly upon our mighty beasts and show me one who is clean. Show me one, just one, and I will throw away my palace and my finery and become a monk. Show me just one. But you can’t. Do you know why? It’s because of what we are. Because of the life we lead. Because we are born with dragons around us, because we live our lives among monsters who routinely smash men to a pulp through a careless flick of the tail. Who hurl their handlers through the air with an idle flap of their wings. Who crush men to death simply because they didn’t look where they were going. Who kill not with malice, but with indifference, and those, I remind you, are the tame ones. That is the life that surrounds a dragon-prince. Death comes and calls at random. Picks you up and plucks you out of your life. No, only two kinds of men live among dragons and survive. The brash and the bold and the cautious nervous ones who call them alchemists. If we dragon-lords are ruthless, it is because we have no space for second thoughts. If we are greedy, it is because we know every moment could be our last. If we are vicious, it is because we have learned that indecision is death. If we are villainous, it is because we know our own kind too well, and I am not an alchemist but a dragon-prince.

Interviews (2/3/2010)

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This week, as work on their final rewrite approaches completion, we interview Syannis and Berren, leading characters in the forth-coming Thief-Taker’s Apprentice. So, guys, tell us a little about yourselves…

Berren: Ok, so I’m learning to be this really cool dude who springs about the place, whacking down bad guys and I’m totally the star of the story and everything…

Syannis: What my idiot apprentice means to say is that he’s learning the trade of thief-taking. What he has still failed to grasp is that this largely consists of talking to people. As you’ll see from his story, he used to cut purses and, literally, shovel shit for a living. I’ve taken pity on him and…

Berren: You mean you were too embarrassed that I stole your purse!

Syannis: …and taken him to teach him the ways of taking thieves. Which mostly consists of trying to batter a few manners into his head and teaching him to read and write.

Berren: And swords! You’re going to teach me swords, right. One day.

Syannis <rolls eyes>: If you ever learn your letters, yes.

Berren: That’s why I want to be a thief-taker. The first time I saw Master Sy, he killed three men who tried to jump him. It was awesome. I want to be like that.

Syannis: It was an unusual day.

(To Syannis) Are the rumours true that you only took Berren on because he’s the spitting image of someone you used to know?

Syannis: I don’t know where you heard that. I fancied an apprentice, that’s all.

Berren: No, he was just mad because I took his purse.

So, Berren, you used to be a thief and now you’re a thief-taker? How did that come about? What’s wrong with a bit of honest work in the first place?

Berren: Look, after the war and the siege and everything, there were a lot of boys and girls born without any fathers. Khrozus’ boys they call us. What happens if there’s no one to look after you in a place like Deephaven, is that you get put into a city orphanage until you’re old enough so they can sell you to someone who wants a young pair of hands. I was lucky to not  wind up on a Taiytakei slave ship. So I got sold to Master Hatchet, who sends his boys out to clean the dung up off the streets and he expects us to pay for our food while we’re at it. How? It’s not as though anyone else is giving us any money. Cleaning up the streets pays off our debt, he says. So we have to start picking pockets and cutting purses to eat. And then he has us running all sorts of other errands. Not like we had much of a choice.

Syannis: This city breeds thieves. That’s what happens when money falls out of the sky.

What about you, Syannis, what’s your story. How did you end up a thief-taker?

Syannis: I came to Deephaven about eight years ago. It seemed to suit my skills. I hate thieves.

Is there a particular reason for that?

Syannis: Yes.

Care to share?

Syannis: Not really, no. It has nothing to do with what I do now.

Berren: That’s not quite… <bites lip>

Well what did you do before?

Syannis: Nothing of any consequence.

Berren: Well where did you learn to fight like that, eh? And what about Kasmin – he called you…

Syannis: He calls me all sorts of things. I had another life before I came to Deephaven. That life is finished. There’s nothing more to say.

Berren: He called you a…

Syannis: Nothing. To. Say.

So this story, why don’t you tell us about what happens?

Berren: Like I said, we’re these really cool dudes who spring about the place, whacking down bad guys and there’s this gang of pirates we’re after and then there are the snuffers and there’s this girl, Lilissa, who’s really sweet and she gets into trouble and then there’s Jerrin who used to be one of Master Hatchet’s boys who’s got it in for me for some reason and he’s doing all this stuff and…

Syannis: Mostly it’s about how hard it is to teach Berren anything that he actually ought to learn. Like how to read and write.

Berren: And I stow away on this boat and there’s this big fight and…

Syannis: And how to keep out of fights.

Berren: Oh, and then there’s this time when I caught out in The Maze and I have to hide…

Syannis: And how to stay out of trouble.

Berren: And then there’s this time when Master Sy fights four men at once! (Looking at Syannis) and the time when I saved your life and you cut that bloke’s hand off. And then there’s that weird scary warlock down at the House of Cats and Gulls that Master Sy knows, and there’s this knife…

Syannis: (pointedly) And how to keep his mouth shut.

Berren: And then there’s this really big fire…

Syannis: And that thief-taking is mostly about talking to the right people and a little bit of detective work and that once you finally know who it is you’re after, you send in a big posse of militiamen while you wait at the back… Fire? What fire? I don’t remember a fire.

One final question. You’ve seen the cover art for your story now. What do you think.

Berren: I think we look cool.

Syannis: Wait, that’s supposed to be us?

Berren: Can I have a big black cloak like that? With a hood? That looks so sweet. I bet it billows out behind you like a great black cloud when you run, too.

Syannis: I bet you’d trip over it.

Berren: Have you actually got a cloak like that? Does that mean I’m going to get one too? And a sword! I have a sword! When do I get my sword?

Syannis: When you learn your letters.

Berren: Yeah, I think the picture’s really great. That’s exactly how I want to be in a couple of years. It’s really us. We’re going to be the most feared thief-taking team in the whole of Deephaven.

Syannis: With a hood? So that all that being feared is completely wasted when no one can recognise you?

Berren: Yeah. All dark and mysterious. Girls go weak for a tall dark mysterious stranger.

Syannis: Firstly you’re a short-arse, and secondly, no generally they don’t.

Berren: Especially with a really cool sword. I think it’s great. As soon as I can, that’s the way I want to look. I’m going to get some clothes like that right now.

Syannis: I think it makes us look like a pair of virgin wannabe snuffers.

Berren: Well you look like an old shopkeeper in your stupid old coat. Those new cloaks are great! When do we get them?

Syannis: And clumsy old cavalry swords left over from the war? I don’t think so. Try using one of those in a narrow alley. You probably couldn’t even hold it properly…

The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice is published in August 2010

Screaming in Fear of Success (8/12/09)

Posted in News

Today is publication day for Der Drachenthron[1], The Adamantine Palace auf Deutsch. The mad fools at Heyne who bought the rights before I’d even finished chapter 7 (from memory, and bear in mind the book has 70 chapters) are about to find out whether they’ve bought a piece of the next Wunderkind or the next Wunder-turkey. I fully expect a room full of long faces, shaking heads and a general demeanour of never again

But maybe they weren’t so mad after all. The Adamantine Palace is doing rather well, it seems. Not awesome, but well enough. I find it hard to believe, but slowly, this possibility is being bludgeoned into me as a fact. Being in a list of someone’s ten most anticipated books of 2010 boggles my mind; at least, given that the list wasn’t written by my publicist or my mum. Most of me assumes that it was some sort of freak accident, a moment of insanity brought on by the fact that there’s no new Pat Rothfuss, no new Scott Lynch or Joe Abercrombie coming out in 2010. I mean good grief – on the same list as KJ Parker? As the mighty Al Reynolds? Hoy! I feel so not worthy.

Still, this is all thing, right? Of course it is.

It’s also terrifying. Grand vistas of uncertainty and possibility threaten to open up before me. And they’re all good, but WHAT IF THEY GO WRONG? Eh? What if I embrace the dream and it all turns sour, eh? EH? What if I quit my well-paying stable and secure job to hop onto some wild roller-coaster ride to oblivion and ecstasy only for it to crash? What if I end up watching my family starve, living in rags, eh?[2] What if they all end up hating me?

Don’t be fooled – in the occasional moment when I’m not chain-smoking and quivering with fear, I’m stricken with delight. Fortunately, King of the Crags is done, edited, re-written, ARCs printed, finished all bar the proof-reading. King of the Crags is all good. If you liked The Adamantine Palace, I reckon you’ll like King of the Crags. If pressure-paralysis is going to set in, it’ll be the third book that suffers, but I don’t think it will. Writing stories is an escape from all that.

There’s a diem out there, just out of reach[3] but tantalisingly close. If the chance comes to carpe it, it will be a quivering unsteady hand that reaches out, but seize it I will. Because that’s what you have to do.

Thank you, all of you who bought TAP. Thank-you very much indeed. Now please excuse me; I have to go binge-eat on Ben and Jerrys.

[1] Complete with a map (Entschuldigung – Landkarte).

[2] Yes, I know, realistically the worst that will happen is probably that they’ll have to put up with not having access to the latest console games technology, but kids can be harsh, man.

[3] That’s right Mr day-job, we’re not done yet. Not yet.

Names revisited (4/11/09)

Posted in News

OK, I give up. You win (you know who you are). Competition over.

If I’m ever short of inspiration, I’ll do this again. Almost every name suggested has had so much character that large tracts of story have sprung up fully formed around them, demanding to be written. Powers Radishfoot, hobbit PI: Noir fantasy with tea and biscuits. Cornelius Carbuncle: Debonair Moorcockian time-travelling scholar. Duckface Wokwok: Er… All right, maybe not that one.

I am quite confident, however, that nothing anyone else comes up with is going to make me spill more tea over myself than Fanny Proudfuck did.

Dear Rafa (3/11/09)

Posted in Critical Failures

OK, I was going to write something snarky about how wonderful it was that Liverpool have finally managed to sort out the problem that’s been holding them back for the last few seasons (namely getting far too many draws). Yeah, phew, good to be throwing that monkey off our backs. Perfect record so far this season too – not a single one…

Yes. I was going to do that, and then I read this and hey, we’re all armchair football managers right, what do we know <biting back the urge to seethe about Alonso going to Real Madrid. Biting. It. Back>?


So I’ll just sit here in bed, eating Chinese takeway, writing aimlesslessly amid a big pile of kittens, taking a break from the re-write-athon, thinking that yes, sometimes writing sucks like any other job. But not today.

Back to the un-real world next week with our silly name competition winner (still open, but the current number one is going to be hard to beat), news on the gazetteer and maybe one or two other things.

Save the World, Buy a Book (7/10/09)

Posted in Critical Failures

For some reason it’s been a long strange week full of stuff that has made me reel in more bemusement than usual; certainly enough material for several entries to Critical Failures. However, time is pressing so I shall be brief. Besides, I have a Ramen pot-noodle thing awaiting my attention, I’ve done the pour-in-boiling-water thing and have already moved on to stir-with-care and ensuing allow-to-stew stages.

Today is kind of special because my first ever royalties arrived today. At least, the first ever royalties based on the the actual selling of some actual physical books as opposed to the idea of maybe writing a book. So that was nice and we’ll be buying a bottle of something to celebrate and life goes on. Day job, you may sleep easy, content in the knowledge that we’ll not be going our separate ways for some time to come. One or two comments I’ve seen recently, however, lead me to understand that others might have a vastly, well, shall we say uniformed view of life.

On a similar monetary vein, if a slightly different scale, it’s impossible to listen to the news without someone bleating on about government borrowing and national debt. Even those who think authors get paid in bars of hidden nazi gold must surely suffer some occasional breakthrough of interference from the real world? And am I the only one to whom it all makes absolutely no sense at all? It’s as though the whole thing is managed by some cabal of Illuminati who rule the monetary world simply by talking in every increasing spirals of gibberish whose the sole purpose is to ensure that absolutely no one truly fully understand exactly how everything works; presumably if they did, they’d be the accountancy equivalent of the antichrist and trigger some sort of global financial meltdown.

Oh. Wait. Oh well, whoever it was has doubtless since been neutralised by a special-tactics branch of the FSA by now.

Or maybe it’s not that. Maybe it’s all quantum now. Isn’t that the whole point of credit? Hey, you’ll never know whether I’ve got a pound in my pocket or not until we look, but if we don’t look then I we can just assume that I have and then I can lend it to you at a small percentage and you can lend it on and so on and so on until it eventually makes its way back with a load of interest and, for some reason, a stale saveloy. But this only works if I don’t look in my pocket. So maybe our current difficulties were caused by some banker actually sticking his hand in his pocket to see what was in there for once and being sorely disappointed. Erwin Schroedinger, hang your head in shame. Look what you did.

In order to prevent future crises, all bankers are forthwith denied pockets. End of problem. Surely a simpler solution than bankrupting the entire world.

Just one little puzzlement, though, if every single developed country in the world is borrowing massive amounts of money (an allegedly conservative off-the-cuff estimate for global state borrowing for next year is, in royalty terms, about ten trillion copies of The Adamantine Palace[1]). From whom? If the entire world has a huge overdraft[2], from whom exactly are we borrowing this? The wizards or Middle Earth? The Gnomes of Zurich? The Royal Bank of Satan and His Little Minions?

No. It’s aliens. Aliens are lending us money. It’s the only explanation left. When the skies fill up with flying saucers, it won’t be an invasion, they’ll be here to foreclose. See. It’s all Science Fiction (or possibly Fantasy) really, just dressed up in different acronyms and words that no one understands. Which could all be fixed by re-aligning the phase-correlators on the FTL hub.

And people wonder why Science Fiction gets no literary respect.

Still on the stir-with-care stage on my noodles here. I really feel I’ve been caring quite a lot for some time now and that the instruction stir-with-fork might have been more appropriate.

Or maybe now, since apparently you can get buy a training machine and get some one-on-one recorded tuition from Master Yoda and learn the secrets of Jedi Mind Powers. I’d marvel at the audacity of selling such a product rather than just making it up for a joke, but since it’s going to cost me more than half as much merely to get the family to the cinema to see Up next weekend, I’m not so sure (what are they doing? Have they raised old Walt from the dead to serve popcorn in the foyer? At the very least I expect the seven dwarves to serve me ice cream). You have to wonder what part of the brain, exactly, is being activated here. I suppose if nothing else it’ll grow us up a whole new generation of wannabe-Jedis like me, except these ones will be really good at frowning.

Anyway, long story short since noodles are calling. Buy a book, save the world: Here’s the math:

  • 1 alien financed global budget deficit equals
  • 100,000 Virgin Galactic customers trying to spot them through the windows (just thought I’d throw that in) equals
  • 100,000,000 Jedi training kits so that the next generation can telekinetically haul their green asses out of the sky and kick them back to the Funny-Potato-Shaped Nebula from which they came equals
  • A mere 10,000,000,000 more copies of The Adamantine Palace that need to be bought before I can buy your collective debt off our sinister alien overlords.

For those people who think all authors are immediately made of gold, shit precious gemstones and have wanton nublies fawning at their feet, hopefully this will provide some perspective. I solemnly promise to donate half the royalties after the first trillion sales to bailing out a bank of your choice, so best get cracking, right.

Oh and there’s some real news. About books and shit.

[1] Sourced from a really reliable internet source(TM).

[2] The logical error is about here, right? So come on then accountancy types, explain it in words that make sense and can be understood. You can’t, can you.