A lament to a past that might have been but never was

Conventional wisdom pins the invention of agriculture down to the ‘fertile crescent’ of the Middle East. Possibly starting in Chogha Golan some 11,700 years before the present. This was where humanity started on its journey to the current world of climate change, extinctions, pollution and over-consumption. However, new research suggests agriculture was also invented much earlier … More A lament to a past that might have been but never was

Guess which real-world place is most like Mordor…

Last week a British meteorologist at the University of Bristol published a weather analysis of Middle Earth. Tres cool. Here’s a link to the paper: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2013/10013-english.pdf According to the report, the weather in The Shire was much the same as that of Lincolnshire – which is pretty much what Tolkien was envisaging. It’s also like Belarus, … More Guess which real-world place is most like Mordor…

How to make your story timeless – part 1

Author and blogger Susan Keirnan-Lewis posted the other day about the current trend among agents and the publishing industry to view books as having a ‘shelf life’. Even a slightly old manuscript is seen as dated – ‘trunk fodder’ – and unsaleable. That idea, as Susan pointed out, is rubbish. The best stories are timeless. … More How to make your story timeless – part 1

Worldbuilding: Olympics ptooey, we’re all a bunch of wimps

 Last week’s Olympics left me thinking. We’re a bunch of wimps. I mean, not just those of us who sit at home watching ultra-fit twenty-something athletes shatter world records. All of us. Including the athletes. Humanity has been getting punier for millenia. Footprints discovered in dried Australian mud and dated around 26,000 years ago make … More Worldbuilding: Olympics ptooey, we’re all a bunch of wimps

Worldbuilding: are you going to watch the Avatar sequels?

News broke this week that two sequels for Avatar will be filmed in New Zealand. Unsurprising. James Cameron’s moved here – he’s bought a farm in the Wairarapa. I don’t know I’ll bother with the new Avatar films, though. I slept through the first movie. Twice. The main problem was the excruciating Vietnam war-meets-Pocahontas-meets-Dancing-With-Wolves  plotline. But I wasn’t inspired … More Worldbuilding: are you going to watch the Avatar sequels?

Worldbuilding: where’s my Star Trek transporter?

I always enjoy the original Star Trek, mainly because it was really funny – Kirk and McCoy especially. Spock was the straight man in the comedy trio. It was pretty futuristic with hand-held phones, transporters, warp drive, deflector shields. And a lot of it came true…er…a bit. So is this a good model (no pun intended) … More Worldbuilding: where’s my Star Trek transporter?

Worldbuilding: Britain’s cannibal captain

My book Convicts – New Zealand’s Hidden Criminal Past is being published tomorrow by Penguin, and today I thought I’d share one of the stories. It had to be assembled from dissonant pieces of documentary evidence – an example of how non-fiction is also world-building. This story is a good one. Betrayal, deceit, murder, treachery. And more. The … More Worldbuilding: Britain’s cannibal captain

Worldbuilding: what UFO – yeah, THAT UFO – teaches writers

Does anybody remember UFO? Gerry Anderson’s first live-action sci-fi series, made around 1970 and set in a modish ‘1980’. A romp of a tale with mysterious green-skinned aliens, a talking satellite named SID, spandex-clad moon women with purple wigs and a heroic alien-fighting commander named Ed Straker. When I was 8, I used to get Commander Straker haircuts. … More Worldbuilding: what UFO – yeah, THAT UFO – teaches writers