First line from this year's winner (Tor Freeman):
It's interesting to see what the competition organisers are looking for nowadays. Last year's winner was a milkman's desire to win his local Tall Milkman competition. This seems, I think, to show that Cape are currently after low-key, heartwarming stories about everyday life. Both stories are also illustrated in a style that's akin to a children's book illustration, making them accessible to a larger age group.
Sample line from last year's winner (Matthew Dooley):
Articles about this announcement have appeared in most of the newspapers and the BBC. The project organisers have also produced a very good video describing their work:
The Guardian has an extensive article describing what the teams found. Unfortunately, in the article one of the team members is quoted as saying:
“What we are sure about is that this big void is there, that it is impressive, and was not expected by any kind of theory,” said Tayoubi.
In fact, the French researcher Jean-Pierre Houdin developed a solid and well-grounded theory, years ago, that predicted that there had to be hidden chambers inside the Great Pyramid.
‘Luck’ by Adrian Ellis
Most people would like to be lucky; they’d wish that random events such as a lottery draw would swing their way and give them a windfall. They’d love to know that when they’d meet their future soulmate, they’d not - in the inimitable words of Alanis Morissette - then ‘meet his beautiful wife’. But everyone knows, at the end of the day, that the world is ruled by random chance. What happens is entirely beyond a person’s control and is simply pure chance.
Oddly enough, science can show us that the very opposite may be true. To explain this, we’ll need the help of a warmongering ex-Hungarian with a penchant for memorising telephone directories, a deeply uncertain cat and a man with a very large moustache. Read More...
“Nowadays, our scientific establishment makes out that they've pretty much understood all the important bits about reality, life, death, ourselves, the universe and well, everything. Unfortunately, this isn't true. In fact, many very important physicists in the last century pointed out that a fundamentally different view of the universe was needed to solve major paradoxes in science such as Schrödinger's Cat and the very nature of the Big Bang. This book describes what they discovered and more, thereby explaining the true nature of reality, life, death, God, ghosts, the brain, the Big Bang, evolution, aliens, pyramids, particles, Atlantis and, most especially, corn-on-the-cob. It also has lots of appealing illustrations and the odd joke, so you won't get bored half-way through.”
For more information on the book, check out its section on this website's home page.
Jim Hansen, the famous American climate change scientist, is highly critical of the Paris agreement. He said in a recent Guardian newspaper interview:
“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”
It's worth noting that the earlier commitment in the draft agreement to phase out fossil use between 2050 and 2100 was abandoned. In other words, even an agreement to stop burning fossil fuels long after the major negative feedback mechanisms will have kicked in was abandoned. This is in the face of concerted requests by major business figures to phase out fossil fuels by 2050.
In some ways, the naive and wishful reactions to the final agreement by major charities in the last hour is worrying in itself. To quote the live feed from half-an-hour ago:
Avaaz: “a turning point in history, paving the way for the shift to 100% clean energy that the world wants and the planet needs”
WWF UK: “We have a clear vision in the strong long term goal; mechanisms to address the gap between that aspiration and the countries’ current commitments; and the foundations for financing the transition to a low-carbon future.”
Greenpeace: “The wheel of climate action turns slowly, but in Paris it has turned. This deal puts the fossil fuel industry on the wrong side of history. There’s much in the text that has been diluted and polluted by the people who despoil our planet, but it contains a new imperative to limit temperature rises to 1.5C.”
Fortunately, some of the charities are a little less dewy-eyed and a little more practical:
ActionAid: “what we have been presented with doesn’t go far enough to improve the fragile existence of millions around the world”
350.org Co-founder Bill McKibben, said: “Every government seems now to recognize that the fossil fuel era must end and soon. But the power of the fossil fuel industry is reflected in the text, which drags out the transition so far that endless climate damage will be done. Since pace is the crucial question now, activists must redouble our efforts to weaken that industry. This didn’t save the planet but it may have saved the chance of saving the planet.”
But again, it's only the words of politicians. As I said in my earlier blog article, we can all make an effort ourselves to work towards a better planet. We can treat climate change as a personal challenge and do what we can to reduce the collective effect. It's not important how significant what we do is globally but how significant our effort is to us, so that we can be proud of ourselves, knowing we all made our own personal effort. The importance of this came home to me again this morning when I watched a short video on the BBC by the British astronaut Tim Peake, talking about the special perspective on Earth that he gained by going into orbit. I found it both emotional and meaningful. Enjoy.
philosophy season which are also available on YouTube. I'm a big fan of these videos (created by the team at Cognitive in Folkestone) and I'm keen to do one in a similar style that explains and promotes one of the theories present in the Great Secret graphic novel. Unfortunately, as this will take quite a few weeks, the science fiction comedy material and Chloë's Quantum Quest will have to sit on the shelf for a while. Juggle juggle juggle…
At the end of this month (Sunday May 30th), Simon Ings from the New Scientist magazine is hosting an afternoon of talks and short films on the subject of our ‘science fiction future’ and ‘why stories, games and falsehoods may be our best guide to tomorrow'. This event is part of the 'Sci-Fi-London' festival. The highly successful science fiction writer Alastair Reynolds will be giving the keynote talk and that’ll be followed by short films and panel discussions. The event is taking place on the South Bank in London at the British Film Institute.
The title and strap-line for the event has got me thinking; what is our science-fiction future? More broadly, since a lot of people think science-fiction is about the future, with special emphasis on techie stuff, the question really becomes: What is our future? (note: remember to talk about techie stuff).
For a long time now, wind power has been criticised as being an eyesore and an inefficient and hopeless method of power generation, but these criticisms are fast looking ridiculous. For example, wind power is Denmark is so successful that it is meeting their entire energy needs during periods of the year! They constantly monitor and display the output in the country and the net difference between energy produced and energy consumed (source: energinet.dk):
It's tempting to say that the worsening of the climate in recent decades has been less than expected and this indicates that perhaps the predictions are excessive and hysterical. Unfortunately, there's a very simply reason why they've been relatively mild; our oceans have been soaking up a lot of the CO2 we've been producing. According to recent measurements, they can't soak up much more, so in the next few decades, warming effects will be far worse than we've experienced up to now. If we collectively make a big effort only when we experience those effects, it will be too late. Tipping points will have already been passed (sea ice melt decreasing reflective albedo of arctic, permafrost melting causing methane release) that will produce more warming in a vicious cycle that we will not be able to stop.
In all honesty, I think climate change cannot be stopped. Fossil fuels have become the backbone of global civilisation, we have thirty-five time as many people as were living at the time of Christ and the majority of people on this planet are not change their lifestyles one iota to reduce their carbon footprint. Perhaps the best way to approach this tragic scenario is as individuals. If we individually decide to cut back our carbon footprint, by avoiding cruises and flights around the world (if possible), by having less children (a major carbon footprint decision!), buying gadgets second-hand, lowering the heating of our homes, cycling and walking more, living closer to work (if possible), sharing houses with others (if possible), repairing our clothes rather than buying new ones, then at least we'll feel at the end of our days that we personally made an effort and have nothing about which to feel ashamed. That's my hope.
This might a good moment to compare and contrast the new version with the old one. Here's my original version of the page, drawn in 2013:
I remember being very pleased with it. I felt I'd gone up a level. Now, eighteen months later, I'm trying to work why I honestly thought it was good. I seem to have drawn a child's toy tugboat and tried to pass it off as an ocean-going passenger liner. Also, the buildings on the right seem to be made out of Lego and half the passengers have clothing made from plasticene. The logo and the left-hand crate aren't bad, but that's about it. Ow!
There's definitely an embarrassing side to making progress as a writer or illustrator. In the early stages, you think you're doing great work and you can't understand why you're not being picked up for publication. 'What's wrong with those publishers, why aren't they interested!?' A year-or-so later, after several hundred more hours of practice, you look at the same work again and the reason is painfully clear. D'oh!
Greetings! It's cold here in Blighty but it's beautiful in the sunshine.
The beginning of February is only a week away. I was planning to bring out the second issue of 'Visiting Alien' magazine. Unfortunately, there haven't been enough downloads to justify putting out another issue at the moment; but that's okay, as putting the magazine together and working on its contents has already reaped creative dividends.
While assembling chapter 2 of 'Chloë solves the Universe', I delved a little deeper into the history of the Neumann-Wigner hypothesis. This is the idea, put forward by two brilliant scientists, that our minds must be outside of the physical system and influencing it, in order for ghostly quantum superpositions to turn into real objects like photons and electrons. I discovered that this viewpoint wasn't just the view of two mavericks. It was actually fully or partly supported by a host of famous quantum physicists, astrophysicists and mathematicians. Wolfgang Pauli, John Von Neumann, Max Planck, Arthur Eddington, Erwin Schrödinger, Eugene Wigner and Werner Heisenberg were all of the view that materialism was no longer valid. Quantum physics had effectively killed that belief. Instead, they concluded that reality had to be dependent on the mind, either being a creation of the mind or a separate construction to the mind that the mind actively influenced. They debated about this matter for decades. Like any long-running debate, the views of those involved shifted but for many of them, the mind-first idea became more valid over time, rather than less.
I think it's very surprising that this important debate has never been written about in a popular science book (as far as I know). That may be because popular science books are usually written by senior scientists who are still active in science. The problem with this approach is that it may lend weight to the scientist's views but nowadays, any scientist who espouses a view that isn't materialist is endangering his or her scientific career, whether or not the evidence supports such a view. In recent decades, many senior scientists, doctors, biochemists and neurologists have produced evidence strongly indicating that the materialist view is wrong but in most instances, they've been careful not to make any statements but simply present the evidence. This is a shame, and it's not scientific, but there you go. Eugene Wigner, who won a Nobel Prize in 1963, wrote of this problem in his article 'remarks on the mind-body question':
"In the words of Neils Bohr, 'the word consciousness, applied to ourselves as well as others, is indispensable when dealing with the human situation'. In view of all this, one may well wonder how materialism, the doctrine that 'life could only be explained by sophisticated combinations of physical and chemical laws' could so long be accepted by the majority of scientists. The reason is probably that it is an emotional necessity to exalt the problem to which one wants to devote a lifetime. If one admitted anything like the statement that the laws we study in physics and chemistry are limiting laws, similar to the laws of mechanics which exclude the consideration of electrical phenomena, or the laws of macroscopic physics which exclude the consideration of 'atoms', we could not devote ourselves to our study as wholeheartedly as we have in order to recognise any new regularity in nature. The regularity which we are trying to track down must appear the all-important regularity, if we are to pursue it with sufficient devotion to be successful."
I'm therefore rewriting 'Chloë solves the Universe' as 'Chloë's Quantum Quest'. Its central focus will be this historical debate between these Nobel Prize-winning physicists. Chloë will find out about quantum physics and then hear of the Big Argument between the physicists about the nature of reality. When she hears that the mind-first view has been abandoned by modern physicists, she is indignant and decides to do something about it.
That'll be my job for the next couple of months. Roll on Spring!
As it's the bleak midwinter here, but also the season of good cheer, I thought I'd post these two videos. I'm still amazed at what they show; that some years ago, a polar bear turned up at an arctic outpost and instead of attacking the chained-up sled dogs on the site, he (or she) played with the dogs instead. Not only that, but it's become a regular event!
"In her article exploring whether dolphins live up to their reputation for intelligence, Caroline Williams tells of being forcefully rebuffed by a dolphin after attempting to connect with it (27th September, p46). In this era of climate change, the possibility that dolphins don't want to be friends with humans makes them seem more intelligent and emotionally developed than ever."
The mention of climate change led me to think about its connection with another recent topic, Milgram's Experiment. For a long time, many psychologists have been deeply unhappy that Milgram's Experiment seems to show that most people would willingly cause pain and death to an unfortunate target if they were gradually coaxed into it by authority figures. Humanity isn't like that, they say, people aren't that bad!
But a form of Milgram's Experiment is going on as we speak. It started a while ago when some people were coaxed into hurting a living target in return for personal reward. The level of harm they inflicted was slowly ramped up. They willingly continued to harm the target, even though they could see how it was suffering. Now, the experiment has reached the stage where the people involved are inflicting lethal levels of harm on the living target. Yet, they are still continuing even though they profess to be concerned about the target's welfare. The experiment I'm talking about is climate change. The living target suffering is the Earth's biosphere and the people concerned are, well, nearly every affluent individual on the planet.
Perceptive creatures, dolphins.
There would have been more but I only had my creaky old mobile phone with me and its battery life is geriatric. I was planning to carry an inflatable globe (see earlier post) and was on the point of buying one in the excellent map shop near Covent Garden on Long Acre when I noticed that it was made in China. Hmm. Buying a lump of plastic carted half-way around the world to use as a symbolic prop in a climate change demonstration didn't seem quite right, so it stayed on the shelf.
Best quote of the day comes from the actress Emma Thompson whose advice on the threat of climate change and the urgent need for serious action was both accurate, succinct and charmingly direct:
“Unless we’re carbon-free by 2030 the world is buggered.”
This Sunday (21st September), there will be a climate change march in London and other cities to promote and highlight this huge and incredibly important issue. A lot of different organisations are taking part, including Friends of the Earth, Population Matters and the Campaign against Climate Change. The march is along the Embankment from Temple Place, starting at 12:30pm and will end up in Parliament Square. The whole event should wind up around 3pm. For more detailed info, check out the websites of the various charities etc that are involved or click on the picture above. I've heard talk of all sorts of fun activities during the march, including a samba band, so it might even be fun!
I'll be taking part. I'm hoping (if I can find one) to carry an inflatable Earth with me. It'll make a good symbol and if I get bored, I can bounce it up and down like a beach ball. ;-)
It'd be great if lots and lots of people come along. Although it might not end climate change overnight, or even possibly make any significant change, it's still worth doing. You could even help to reduce the effects of climate change for entirely selfish reasons, as I chatted about in this earlier blog, but you could also do it because you want to be a person who stood up and made an effort. Later on, when things get tough and people start asking questions, you'll know that you tried. That could be a really good feeling to have.
Here's a great article from Jarvis Cocker in today's Guardian newspaper, putting forward his thoughts on Sunday's march.
Here's a more general report from the Guardian, including comments from a host of celebrities.
For those of you who might be motivated by watching a programme about the forthcoming worldwide climate change march on Sunday, here's the official documentary:
For everyone else, please come. It really, really, really, really is important!
It was fun to do. I really enjoyed the challenge of creating a visual, iconic version of a organisation or endeavour (in this case, a voice-over company). It was also enjoyable laying out different versions and seeing how small changes can affect the impact of the design.
Fortunately, Alison was very pleased with the result and it is now her official logo. If you need some voice-over work done, you can contact her through her Facebook page and on her website (which is currently under construction).
Although I really enjoyed this graphic design project, I'm not sure I'd want to do it as a profession. I can imagine that some fee-paying clients might get very demanding and I can get tetchy even when helping my friends. I remember talking to a former graphic designer years ago and he did admit there was one pernickety client he'd have happily throttled. Luckily, I don't have to. Hooray! :-)
On Sunday 10th August, the Prudential Ride-London Surrey 100 mile charity event takes place on closed roads between Central London and the Surrey Hills. I'll be taking part, fundraising for the charity Population Matters, which works to educate, inform and support the aim of a smaller global population. Their mission, stated on their website is to:
'raise awareness of the cost to humanity and other species of unsustainable human numbers and promotes smaller families as part of a sustainable future'
I should be very visible on the day, as I'm planning to be wearing a big sign saying '100 miles without folding', along with the Population Matters logo. If you'd like to sponsor me, I have a JustGiving web page set up for donations. Wish me luck! :-)
February's been a quiet month for me. I've spent the time focussing on getting more of my graphic novel 'Prof Millpot and the Golden Web' done. It's ticking along nicely and the whole graphic novel should be finished in early May. It'll be great when the project is completed but, to be honest, it has been a slog to keep churning out the pages through this recent winter. I will be super-chuffed to have completed my first graphic novel, but that feeling seems a million miles away when you're sitting at the desk on a wet, rainy day, working on picture 745, knowing there's another 328 to go… But that's me just feeling sorry for myself, so I'll stop! Fortunately, the latest chapter of the story has involved a dark, foggy London so that's been pretty easy to render on the page:
That's all the news for now, apart from the fact that Spring is in the air in London and the daffodils are coming out. It's even stopped raining for a few days. Hooray! :-)
'The Lost Emotion' is about the discovery of a lost emotion by a corporate researcher. In a future world where corporations can patent emotions, a gifted employee decides to seek out emotions lost to humanity. After finding what he can amongst the primitive tribes remote from civilisation, he stumbles upon an obscure piece of research. The science paper states that stimulating the muscles of a person's face can trigger an associated emotion for that person. For example, if someone makes a smiling face, they will actually feel happier as a result [this is perfectly true!]. To take advantage of this strange phenomenon, the researcher constructs a device that can stimulate any combination of a person's facial muscles. By systematically testing every combination of muscles on a test subject's face, he hopes to discover a muscle combination that will trigger, in that subject, a hitherto lost emotion. The researcher tests it on a young man, the narrator of the story. After many days fruitless testing, they discover a new emotion, one that profoundly changes the young man's viewpoint. Initially, the young man is overwhelmed by what he feels but, like Pandora's Box, this new knowledge brings all sorts of problems.
As ever, any and all feedback is most appreciated (but please don't swear too much… :-).
I’m still working on the graphic novel. I’ll pop yesterday’s picture at the end of this post so you can see how I’m getting on.
On the science-fiction front, I was commissioned this month by the hope and glory PR company, on behalf of O2 mobile, to write a 1,000 word piece on the subject of the new 4G wireless technology. It’ll be part of half-a-dozen pieces on that topic, mostly written by experts in the field, that’ll be illustrated and turned into an ebook. If it does all come together, I’ll post a link to it in a later blog.
That’s all I can think of for now. For all those Northern Hemisphere people out there, have a great Summer holidays! :-)
The cold weather has finally eased off (Hooray!). Now that the studio is hospitable again and no longer decorated with icicles, I’ve been working on the graphic novel again. I haven’t posted the new work but I will post a new version of Chapter One when it’s done. I’ve also made some changes to the beginning of Simon’s Brain, my first science fiction novel. There’s more to do on that but it’s a lower priority than the graphic novel so I’ve no idea when it’ll happen. I’ve also updated Schrödinger’s Shed, an illustrated exploration of the fundamental questions of reality by a nine-year-old girl and her dad, in his shed. It isn’t finished yet but I’m pleased with where it’s going.
There’s also some more activity at Arc Science Fiction magazine. I’ve written a book review for them and an edited version is up on their site now. I will have some more Arc related news to announce soon. I’ll post the info as a blog entry once Arc have released their next issue.
Um, what else? I’ve written 10,000 words of what looks to be a new sci-fi novella called ‘The Tri’. In it, a group of astronauts return from Titan to find that the Earth has become a tough, harsh environment and humankind has adapted to survive in it in strange (and satirically humorous) ways.
That’s all I can think of. Enjoy the rest of April!
Update: I’ve been Mr Quiet on this, so that it doesn’t look like I’m stealing Arc magazine’s thunder, but they’ve now mentioned it, so I can. At the end of my book review on the Arc blog site, they say:
“Look out for Adrian Ellis’s competition-winning short story The Lost Emotion in the next issue of Arc, coming soon.”
So there you go, you have been warned!
December has been and gone and it’s now 2013. The world hasn’t ended (phew!) although, when you think about it, with the extensive and thorough scientific information that shows us that our climate is heading inexorably towards planetary Armageddon, the world as we know it has just ended; it’s just that the process will take a couple of centuries, rather than 24 hours. Civilization is officially kaput, there’s just a bit of reshuffling to be done in the next 200 years to get it all in place. Read More...
Here’s the announcement of the competition results from Simon Ings, the editor:
Today we are delighted to announce the results of the first Arc/Tomorrow Project short story competition. While we are a quarterly we have virtually no room in Arc for writing that comes at us from odd angles. The competition is the one chance we have at the moment of developing new talent. So how did it go? Pretty impressive, I'd say: we received around a hundred proper stories (none of your "flash fiction" here), representing thousands of hours of effort and struggle (and, I hope, at least some fleeting pleasure).
Was choosing the shortlist difficult? No. The first rule of judging and reading fiction (and saying this puts the fear of God into new writers - but it's true) is that you can tell within seconds if a story is alive. It's something to do with the way the prose and the ideas lock together. It's a rhythm, a cadence, something you only pick up by constant practice - and it's unmistakable. If the competition hadn't gone well, we'd have been wading through passable stories for days. As it is, our shortlist is made up entirely of stories that sing.
And while we were reading, half a world away in San Francisco, the Tomorrow Project was building our new website. Together, Arc and the Tomorrow Project will be generating conversations around our winning fiction, giving writers an exciting, inspirational platform and valuable feedback on their work. All Arc's shortlisted stories are here.
I thought that was a very encouraging comment from Simon. Insightful criticism is probably the most important feedback - so a writer can improve their work - but I never say no to a whopping big compliment.
The story is available to read as a pdf from their website. You can also read it on my webpage.
I’ll let everyone know about any more related news when it comes out.
Enjoy your day!
Until then, here's the emblem/logo I came up with for the collection: Read More...
Happy New Year everyone!
The updated manuscript for 'Faery Engines' is now complete and is wending its way to the literary agent. It's been fun to update it; I've learnt a few more things (I think!) about writing just from doing the update. This latest version of the fantasy comedy is now much more character driven than it was before. Previously, everything in the story was aimed at the fun ideas. Now, I've made the relationship between the main characters an important part of the book with the fun ideas as a backdrop to their interactions. Hopefully, these changes will improve readers' enjoyment of the story.
Now the fantasy comedy update has been completed, at least for now, my next tasks are getting 'The Golden Web' available for purchase and writing a new script for the television script agent. I'll post any important news regarding those projects as and when they occur.
Have a great 2012!
Just a squidgen of news to tell you that after months of other things taking priority like submissions, television comedies and other bits and bobs, I've finally got started on a graphic novel. After doing the excellent Arvon foundation graphic novel course last Autumn, I've been all fired up to write and illustrate a graphic novel. (I've blogged about the Arvon course here) and I'm still keen. The plan is to spend March to September doing the novel. It's a long time but it's a big undertaking. There'll be about one hundred and sixty pages to draw.
At the moment, I have a first draft of the script and I'm producing sample pages exploring the various different ways I can illustrate the graphic novel. There are many possible approaches. For example, I could paint each page with gouache or watercolour. That is the approach taken (I think) by the excellent graphic novel Blacksad, talked about here. Alternatively, I could pencil draw a page, ink it manually, scan it in and colour it on the computer. That's the approach used by Kazuo Ishiguro for his Copper series, explained here. A third approach is to do the pencil sketch, scan it in, create a vector art black line version of the illustration and then colour that on the computer. Which one is best? I've no idea. I think it'll almost certainly be a trade-off between quality vs time. Beautiful fine art on every page would be good, but not if each page takes a week. That would stretch the time spent on the graphic novel to three years! I need to aim at a page a day.
I'll soon be posting sample work on this site. Feedback is most appreciated!
Here's what I produced: Read More...
This is the new version of my web site. Unfortunately, the old version suffered a terminal crash when WordPress (the blogging engine software) suggested that I upgrade my version of the software. I dutifully agreed. The software upgrade occurred and promptly crashed my site. I tried to apply the fixes. I then tried to install a clean version. I then tried to install the previous version. All to no avail. As a result of this, I've decided to take the opportunity to use a different web creation system. Instead of using WordPress to run the blog and iWeb to create the static pages, I'm now going to use RapidWeaver to do everything. Fingers crossed, it'll produce a better, easier to maintain and more stable site than the previous setup.
This currently isn't the final layout of the site. It's simply a temporary, simple version until the final layout is completed.
All my old blog entries will be recreated on the new site. It'll make a mess of any sense of chronology for events, but most of the entries weren't specifically about particular dates, so I don't think it'll be too big a problem.
Let me know what you think! There'll be a contact page as in the past if you don't know my email address.