Into the Unknowable

Into the Unknowable

Into the Unknowable

I suppose I ought to simply ignore bad reviews of my fiction and indeed this review of Into the Unknowable by Austin12345 is so unambiguously bad that perhaps that’s exactly what I should have done.

However, he is right. There is a great deal of what could be called pornographic in the novel as indeed there is in the whole of the Anomaly Trilogy. I can only accept the criticism as it stands, though I think the sexual element isn’t really much more prominent than in many other Science Fiction novels and is mostly there to justify the novel appearing in Sex Fiction sites (many of which are becoming increasingly queasy about the darker side of sex or indeed of life as a whole). Perhaps I should just eviscerate the sexual content. It wouldn’t make much difference to the length of the novel and would require only a few tweaks to maintain the narrative. By this I don’t mean that I’d remove the incidence of sexual activity, just the explicit depiction of it.

However, out of interest I looked at the rest of Austin12345‘s reviews, of which there are many. They are all reviews of Science Fiction novels, many of which promise similar Space flight adventures as in the Anomaly Trilogy, and most of which also earn the reviewer’s scorn.

I think I’d probably agree with Austin12345 in his assessment of much of what he’s reviewed (although I’ve not actually read any of the novels that he covers). His criticisms relate to poor editing, poor use of English, repetitive style and being derivative. None of the others, however, are criticised for being pornographic so, whereas Into the Unknowable is not criticised for the stylistic reasons most of the others are.

Where I might disagree with Austin12345 is his belief that the Science in Science Fiction has to be Scientific. Although that’s what I prefer and I really have problems with novels with faster-than-light space travel, unrealistic distances between bodies in space and countless misunderstandings of the physics, biology and chemistry of the universe, those Science Fiction stories are generally the ones I avoid. But if I reviewed a novel which contravened the Laws of Science, I’d generally let this pass rather than use this factor to be the reason for damning it outright. (Though with universal access to Wikipedia one would have thought it would be dead easy for a Science Fiction novelist to check the facts).

What these reviews tell me is why I don’t and wouldn’t post negative reviews on the internet. There are too many targets and there is too much opportunity to be critical. It’s great fun to read Austin12345‘s reviews and I have been tempted to write such fun reviews myself on the huge body of shoddy amateur fiction on the internet.

But, beyond being fun, what would the purpose of it be?

I’d just upset a lot of people (often in a very hurtful way) and nothing would be gained. The badly written novel would remain bad. And the only ones to get satisfaction are those like me who don’t mind a chuckle at someone else’s expense (and no doubt shouldn’t).

That’s why the only story reviews I shall ever post will be ones of stories where I believe there is considerable merit.



Teenage Jihad




It is difficult to know what to say after the horrendous attacks on the innocent citizens of Paris on Friday. The horror we all feel is not only because we feel sympathy for the victims but also the all too obvious reflection that if this could happen in Paris in the sorts of place where there isn’t normally an apparent need for security then it could happen to any of us anywhere in the world: not just Beirut, Baghdad and Kabul where we have become inured to such carnage, but also in Paris and no doubt London, New York, Berlin and Moscow.

However, little analysis has been done as to what type of person becomes attracted to commit these crimes. An article in the Guardian gives some insight as to what incites this Teenage Jihad, and what it reveals is that the stay-at-home terrorists who carry out such atrocities have rather more in common with fantasists like Anders Breivik and the bored American teenagers who at least once a week shoot up fellow students and cinema-goers.

You could say for Breivik and for the teenage followers of Islamic State that there might be an element of ideology underpinning their relish for massacre, but I would say that the tenets of Islam, just like those of the radical Right, are not necessarily a set of instructions to take AK47s into the street and shoot down strangers. In fact, I think the real motivator is the attraction of inflicting violence on other people and the means to do it. In all these cases, Anders Breivik, the American teenagers and the ISIS jihadists, there is a very similar pattern.

First there is the motivation, which as we know from the countless cases of American teenage mass-murderers, is often a very weak kind of excuse that becomes hardened over time more by a process of reinforced self-delusion than brainwashing or even ideology. Although many of the teenage jihadists may well think their reward lies in the afterlife, my guess is that it is rather more nihilistic and much more about going down in a blaze of glory. It is likely that it is more images of a Hollywood hero dying in the final few frames of a movie with a grim smile and suitable background music than images of an eternity worshipping Allah that motivated them towards what most of us would consider the ultimate sacrifice.

Secondly there is the means. In America, these are bought over the counter at Walmart and other reputable stores. It’s not that difficult to buy weapons in Sweden and Norway (although mostly as protection against bears and wolves). And Islamic State has the necessary stash of weaponry in Syria and Iraq and also has the means to distribute these lethal weapons to French, Belgian and other teenage militants should they show the willing to use them.

Thirdly, there is the planning which when stretched over a long time and conducted sufficiently dispassionately, will make the whole exercise into a kind of game that appeals to an aspect of human nature that we all share and that is the need for a kind of purpose and meaning to our daily lives. The problem with the planning involved here is that the end result isn’t to pass an exam, catch the right combination of trains and planes to get on holiday or organise a pension, but to be involved in action that will almost certainly end in the perpetrators’ death.

The preparation and cost ultimately leads to a sequence of events that for those engaged is probably more like a video game. It is exciting, it is deadly and, for the kind of people most attracted to it, the carnage and chaos is undoubtedly fun.

Which it most definitely wasn’t for those in the cafes, restaurants and concert theatre where the guns and bombs were used.

I don’t know what the right response to all this should be and I guess the security services and the elected governments have a duty to apprehend the criminals and secure the safety of ordinary citizens. And after so much provocation, I would be surprised if the conflict in the Middle East doesn’t lead to a more conventional kind of warfare. But this has all become very ugly, will become uglier still and there will be much injustice perpetrated on both sides before it’s resolved.

What I don’t expect to see is the same restraint practised by the National Rifle Association and the American Republican Party towards the continued sale of lethal weapons in the United States extended towards the rights and freedoms of Muslims whether in America or on the other side of the globe.


A Dick’s Life

A Dick's Life

A Dick’s Life

Recently I read an article in the London Review of Books about Creative Writing, and besides being a very interesting account of how much modern writing has been determined by the mechanical spirit of Creative Writing courses, it mentioned a type of fictional conceit I’ve not tried out before.

Heavens knows I’ve tried my hand at most fictional conceits including backwards stories (Peace Returns), dialogue only stories (Vagina Dialogue) and diaries (Cottage Life). But I haven’t really explored the “surprising point of view” trick, at least not insofar as I’ve used a non-human perspective such as that used in Joseph Addison’s ‘Adventures of a Shilling’ (1710), as mentioned in the article, or the more pertinent and more famous The Autobiography of a Flea.

So here is my modest contribution, the story of a penis’ life known evocatively as A Dick’s Life.

To be honest, there isn’t much to the story. It tells the life of the penis of a man who obviously enjoys using it (a lot), but is still studiously heterosexual (I didn’t want to write a “Penis Dialogue” to accompany Vagina Dialogue). I’ve promoted it as satire, but I’d say that the satirical elements are mostly well hidden unless readers believe that the “Dick” of the title happens to be someone called “Richard” or whether the character of a philandering male is the same as that of a dick (in the pejorative sense) which it may well be.

There is a limit to how much can be written from an entirely phallic perspective for the story to remain interesting to read. There isn’t much surprising character development, action remains mostly below the waist and I haven’t given Dick much of a distinct voice.

However, in some ways this story is similar to my I Remember Erewhon which is another attempt to show a person’s life from a novel perspective which tries to capture the scope and limitations of life, from birth through youth and middle-age to decrepitude and death (although I Remember Erewhon doesn’t go all the way).

However, I hope it’s a story that many will enjoy and perhaps even relate to.