The Anomaly Volume Three: Into the Unknowable

The Anomaly Vol. 3: Into the Unknowable

The Anomaly Vol. 3: Into the Unknowable

This post is simply to announce that I’ve started posting chapters of the third and final volume of the Anomaly Trilogy: Into the Unknowable.

It is both a continuation and a culmination of the previous two volumes of the Anomaly. Consequently, it resolves all the outstanding questions raised in The Battle for the Known Unknown and The Schemes of the Unknown Unknown, as well as bringing the narrative to a satisfactory conclusion.

As in the previous two volumes, it is set in the 38th Century, but does not jump around in time and space quite as much (at least not after the first few chapters). We find out more about Vashti and how she got to be the way she is. We discover more about the Anomaly. And on the way, we find out about the fates of Paul, Beatrice and Captain Kerensky.

As before, there is plenty of sex and violence, but also a great deal of hard science and satirical fiction.

I hope you enjoy reading it.


No Future: Smashwords Review Riposte

No Future

No Future

You may have noticed the kind comments by Wynn Parks in which he defended my novel No Future from the negative review given for it by Jim Bade in Smashwords.

Wynn’s defence is based on the view that readers in America expect their fiction to ‘always teach an uplifting little lesson reinforcing “the American myth”. For those people the only acceptable stance for writers is to reinforce the aesthetics of sweetness and light; to reinforce current notions of morality, provide us with protégés with whom we can identify, and always foster the delusion of the inevitable triumph of good over evil.’ He believes, as I do, that fiction should be more than a means to reinforce a conventional uncritical view of the world.

However, in defence of Jim Bade, I’ll say that I am grateful for any review that is an honest and intelligent account of my fiction however much I disagree with it.

And I shall also add that I don’t believe that America has a monopoly of the view that fiction should always be fluffy and affirmative. A great deal of American fiction, as also film, theatre and television, has a much more interesting view of the world than that, but just as in the UK and every other country I know at all well, the predominant fiction celebrates only a narrow set of values and is expected to be ultimately life-affirming and perhaps somewhat bland.


Miss Venezuela

Miss Venezuela 2013

Miss Venezuela 2013

Last night I watched a fascinating documentary on BBC 3 about the Miss Venezuela competition. What I found most interesting, as well as the opportunity to see a host of beautiful women and an insight into modern Venezuela, was the significance to modern Venezuelans of what to the British appears a fairly odd and old-fashioned contest.

It seems that wherever you go in the world, there is a local television phenomenon that grips the population. This was highlighted in the film Slumdog Millionaire where the television event was the local version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire (although a million rupees is rather less than a million pounds or a million dollars). In the UK at the moment, the top such media event is Strictly Come Dancing, although as in America and Europe the Simon Cowell format programs like Pop Idol are very popular.

So, what does this tell us?

The first thing that crosses my mind as someone who has never followed any of these shows is how formulaic all these shows are, the ridiculous extent that contestants will go to (as in the Miss Venezuela contest to expensive rhinoplasty, breast augmentation and dental treatment), and the grotesqueness of the judges and organisers.

But as Billie JD Porter, the presenter, showed these contests in all their ridiculousness provide fantasy and a means of escape for people (many very poor) and more than anything they provide a sense of shared culture. For whatever reason, beauty contests are the primary focus in Venezuela, whereas in America it is performing bland pop music, in the UK theatrical stomping to bland pop music, and in India to asking a whole load of difficult questions in a quiz.

And really the main significance is that these are forms of entertainment that complement national sports like Cricket (in India), Baseball (in America) and Football (everywhere else). Whereas sports are primarily of interest to men, these talent, beauty and quiz shows are primarily of interest to women.

There is a tendency amongst people like me who in a sense don’t get it, to dismiss all these things as tawdry and, in the case of beauty contests, demeaning, but I think this is misplaced. In what sort of world do we want to live where people cannot express themselves in the way permitted by these shows? And can we deny people the pleasure of a shared topic of conversation?

Although on one level, the Miss Venezuela contest is a way of objectifying a woman for the pleasure of a mixed audience, on another it provides a sense of belonging to a shared community with shared concerns. And whether it manifests itself in one way or another, it is a valid and important part of every culture,