Jonny Nexus

Writing, life, politics

Category: Life (page 1 of 15)

General life related posts.

YouTube Review: Encounter With Tiber and The Return

My review of two books by the science-fiction author John Barnes (who’s not that John Barnes) and Buzz Aldrin (who is that Buzz Aldrin). In it, I compare and contrast them, describing how they start from similar premises (a then near-future accident to the space shuttle Columbia) but then go in very different directions.

The Gutter Prayer, by Gareth Hanrahan

I’ve just (belatedly!) ordered the signed, limited Goldsboro Books edition of the Gutter Prayer, the debut mainstream novel of my very good friend1 Gareth Hanrahan (actually Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, but that’s apparently too long a name to fit on a novel’s cover). Limited edition as it is, it costs £24.99, but I think that’s actually excellent value for money given that Gar’s first published work cost me €4002.

The paperback version isn’t being published until January, but ARCs are already getting some pretty stunning reviews, such as this short but sharp one on Goodreads:

“From carrion gods to alchemical warfare, this is genre-defying fantasy at its very best. An absolutely stunning debut. Insanely inventive and deeply twisted. I loved it! Highly recommended.” – Michael Fletcher

Alternatively, you can check out Gar’s own elevator pitch, or the series of blog posts he wrote about the story’s fantasy city setting. Either way, I’d recommend checking it out, and I’m not just saying that because he’s a mate.

1I mean this in the genuine non-Hollywoodian way, as in we attended each other’s weddings. At his, my wife and I stood on a County Kerry beach in glorious sunshine and watched a magical ceremony. At mine, he couldn’t go back to his hotel room, and I believe ended up part of a group who were locked out of the hotel – but in my defence I’d already departed on my honeymoon at that point, and so I’ll admit to no responsibility.

2This was at the 2003 (I think!) Gaelcon charity auction, back in the pre-Lehman days when Irish charity auctions were mad, bad, and dangerous to one’s wallet. If you don’t believe me, here’s a video of me paying for the lots I won, afterwards, although I should point that that about €300 of that was Evil G’s.

 

I Have A YouTube Channel

I’ve never really got into the vlogging area. Back when Game Night came out in 2008, Jules and I filmed three videos that I thought were actually quite funny, and which I uploaded to YouTube. But I didn’t really get any response from them, and I never followed it up. Of course, since then, YouTube had exploded, and I’ve found my own usage of its changing – especially having bought a smart TV. While I used to see it only as a place to watch occasional clips, I now find myself watching it as very much a form of TV – such as the brilliant WWI documentary series The Great War. Anyhow, I’m still not sure what I could or should be doing in this area, but I’ve created a channel, and uploaded an introduction.

You Think 2016 Was Bad?

As a writer, I spend a lot of time thinking on plots of novels, and so it’s only natural that when I think about events occurring on our world, I try to imagine how they would develop were they events of fiction rather than reality.

People talk about 2016 as being the year from hell, but the thing is, most of the bad things about 2016 were the taken of decisions to do something bad, with the something bad itself having not yet occurred.

In other words, if 2016 were fiction, it wouldn’t be a stand-alone novel, but would instead be one of those slightly frustrating first books of a trilogy where lots of plot lines are initiated but nothing ever gets finished – and you then have to wait a year for the next book.

And that leads onto a second thought: if 2016 were merely the first book of a trilogy – what’s going to happen in the next two books.

Well with thanks to my friend Ian McDonald for the crucial plot development at the end, here goes…

2016: The Unfolding (Book I of the End Years Trilogy)

2016 begins in a world still struggling to extract itself from the Great Recession of 2008, and racked by wars triggered by climate change and ill-advised imperialist interventions.

In Europe, the European Union is under assault from the forces of left and right, while in the United States dark populist forces are gathering.

As mainland Europe struggles to cope with the refugees pouring out of a war-torn Middle East, the disastrous result of a recklessly called referendum plunges the United Kingdom into political and constitutional chaos. Meanwhile, the American presidential election produces a stunning shock of unprecedented proportions as a racist and misogynistic narcissist utterly unsuited to the role is elected on a tidal wave of neo-fascist populism.

2017: The Unravelling (Book II of the End Years Trilogy)

2017 begins with the results of the American election turning from tragedy to farce as the president-elect is revealed to be a Russian intelligence asset whose election was largely due to the Kremlin’s intervention. Meanwhile in Britain, the phony period of fudge and bluff comes to an end as the process to leave the European Union is begun.

As the world economy spirals further into the chaos triggered by Brexit and the nationalistic protectionism of the American president, Russian president Vladimir Putin invades the Baltic states. Shorn of effective leadership, and betrayed by the United States at the moment of invasion, NATO disintegrates.

Alongside this, and goaded by the United States’ ascendant right-wing, an increasingly belligerent Israel attempts to increase the pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As the Western World attempts to celebrate an uneasy Christmas, a drunk American president engaged in a late night Twitter argument with the president of Iran orders a nuclear strike on Tehran. Following a rehearsed script written several months previously by Pentagon lawyers, and deploying pre-written letters signed by certain departmental heads, the Air Force officer carrying the “nuclear football” announces that by issuing such an order the president is clearly incapacitated as defined by the twenty-fifth amendment, and as such, presidential authority will now lie with the vice-president.

2018: The Unleashing (Book III of the End Years Trilogy)

2018 starts with the United States engulfed in a full blown constitutional crisis, with a still-tweeting president claiming to have been the victim of a military coup and the Joint Chiefs of Staff claiming to be following the now legitimate commander-in-chief, the former vice-president.

Both the military and civilian authorities are split as to the legality of the Joint Chiefs interpretation of the 25th amendment. A majority of state governors declare allegiance to the former president, with several calling up their state national guards. The regular military itself fractures into uselessness. Within weeks constitutional crisis has given way to a limited, but still bloody, civil war, with fire fights breaking out in Washington DC between different factions.

The American economy, paralysed, enters a death spiral; the world economy follows. Vladimir Putin meanwhile, follows his move into the Baltic states with an invasion of Poland and a declaration of a new Russian Empire, with himself as emperor.

With the world on the brink of an all out war, only one leader remains with the moral and political authority to hold the centre: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Gathering together the remains of NATO, she forges a new alliance. While her forces meet and defeat the Russian invasion, triggering a democratic uprising in Moscow, a Canadian led force allied with the anti-Presidential forces occupies Washington DC in the last hours of 2018.

When the sun rises on New Year’s Day 2019, it is on a new world, in a new era.

Film Review: Suicide Squad

IMG_1357.PNGDirector: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Stars: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie

Shit, epically so.

David Cameron Might Just Have Saved The UK

The most important news from yesterday, other than the referendum result, was David Cameron’s decision to not immediately trigger Article 50, but instead leave that decision to his successor to take, in October at the earliest. Had he triggered it yesterday, as he’d said during the campaign he would, he would have committed the UK to a hard and full Brexit within two years.

As a result, three further options have opened up: a soft, though still full Brexit taking longer than two years; a partial, Norwegian style, Brexit; or some sort of supposed renegotiation that concludes with the UK remaining an EU member.

This is huge. I’d think this will eventually be seen as the most crucial decision taken by him during his entire political career. I’m mystified as to why it wasn’t the lead item in every news piece.

It’s About Identity, Not Democracy

Brexit supporters often attack the EU for its supposed lack of democracy, saying things like: “What about that President of the Commission? We didn’t elect him!”

I’ve heard this time and time again, and I’ve only just realised that I’ve misunderstood it every time. Pro-Europeans such as myself hear it as:

We didn’t elect him!

And each time we hear that, we point out that we did elect him. And then we patiently, and as it turns out pointlessly, explain the particular electoral mechanism involved. (Essentially, the people of Europe elect MEPs belonging to various factions, and then the leader of the faction that wins the most seats gets to be a sort of “European Prime Minister”).

But what they actually meant was this:

We didn’t elect him!

…where “we” refers not to the people of Europe, but the people of the United Kingdom. It’s just like when a Scottish Nationalist complains that: “We didn’t elect David Cameron!”

He or she is not complaining about the system by which David Cameron was elected PM (a First Past the Post election to a UK parliament, followed by a ” virtual election” among the MPs to select a PM from amongst their number). He or she is not advocating an arguably more democratic system, where the PM is elected by a direct presidential style election. In fact, since such an election would arguably give the British PM more power over Scotland, that would probably be the last thing our Scottish Nationalist would want.

His complaint is not in the “elect” part of his sentence, but in the “we”. He doesn’t like the fact that since English voters outnumber Scottish voters by about 10 to 1, essentially, Scottish voters have only a minor say in who rules them. When he says that “we” didn’t elect David Cameron, he means the people of Scotland. His problem is not that the UK is undemocratic. He just doesn’t want what he identifies as his country, Scotland, to be ruled by the English.

The EU is actually quite democratic, and where it isn’t democratic, that’s usually to preserve the rights of individual member countries (the national veto, for example). It’s not about democracy. It’s about identity. Are you happy to elect leaders as part of a European election, accepting that sometimes you won’t get who you voted for?

Which basically comes down to: do you feel European?

 

 

The River

Before moving here, I’ve only ever visited Hebden Bridge in the summer. The Hebden Water river I saw was a gentle stream, a few inches of water tumbling gently over its rocky bed, frequently braiding into rivulets that left much of the channel free of water. When people talked about the town being vulnerable to flooding, I couldn’t believe it. That! That tiny stream can cause flooding! Hell, I thought, I’ve pissed stronger streams than that.

But then came the devastating Boxing Day floods. I wasn’t here for those, but the river I see now is an angry beast, filling its channel to the very brim. This is no gentle stream; this is the sort of foaming torrent Kevin Keegan and his perm might have been found kayaking up in the mid-1970s, accompanied by a bevy of fellow sporting personalities, somewhere between the cycle race and the gym test.

Each morning, when I take the dog for her morning walk, I look at the river, and hope that today it won’t rain, and the river might get a little less angry.

Hebden1

Ducks swimming over a flooded riverside platform, that leads to a set of submerged steps

A Belated Announcement of a Geographical Nature

I have news, that news being that I’m not in Brighton anymore, but am in fact… well actually I’m currently in a hotel room in Mumbai on a trip with the day job, which is why I’ve found myself with the time to type this announcement, an announcement I’m making a shockingly bad fist of.

Let me start again.

We have moved, last week, from Brighton, to Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. In some ways this is a big move. I now find myself, a Southerner, in a sort of internal exile in my own country, adrift among a people who think engaging a complete stranger in conversation is a reasonable thing to do. In other ways, this isn’t such a big move. Brighton is an arty, cultural, cosmopolitan place famous for being a haven to gay people, and those who follow alternative lifestyles. Hebden Bridge, while smaller, is also an arty, cultural, cosmopolitan place famous for being a haven to gay people (Lesbian capital of Europe, apparently!), and those who follow alternative lifestyles. So we’ve exchanged one vegan enclave for another, albeit one with cleaner air and different, if not better views.

If you’re wondering why we’ve made the move, the capsule summary is that we’ve moved to West Yorkshire to be near my wife’s family, but have moved to Hebden Bridge specifically because we were looking for somewhere vegan friendly.

It’s a little battered still from the appalling floods that hit the whole area on Boxing Day, but it’s getting back on its feet, and we’d like to think that by moving here, and spending our money here, we’re helping just a little bit with that.

We’re really enjoying being here (or there, given that for me, now, here is the aforementioned hotel room in Mumbai) and I’m looking forward to building a new life here, for myself, and my family. If any of you are in the area, please drop me a line, especially if you’re into board gaming or roleplaying, two hobbies that I’d like to get back into.

And for no particularly reason, here’s a couple of pictures I’ve taken of the town.

Hebden1

Ducks swimming over a spot where two days earlier, we’d been standing

(The river is still pretty swollen, and on this particular morning, it had risen back up a bit).

Hebden2

A very steep footpath, with the town centre beyond

Feedback Of The Nicest Kind

Yesterday, a reader tweeted to say that she’d enjoyed If Pigs Could Fly, and hoped there would be a sequel.

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I RTed that with a replying comment and was really happy to then find the Dublin 2019 Worldcon bid account RTing that to its followers:

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And to complete my day, the Irish Discworld Convention account (this was the con where the book was launched) tweeted this:

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As a writer of sometimes fluctuating confidence, this sort of thing is awesome. Thank you all.

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