Writing, life, politics

Category: Life (Page 1 of 15)

General life related posts.

Black Live Matter: A Personal Anecdote

Some years back, a black friend took me to a Poetry Slam event organised by the Afro-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust. The event, which pitched a team of Black British performance poets against a team of Black American performance poets in a crowd-judged event, was great fun. But it was during the interval that the founder and head of the Afro-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (Orin Lewis OBE) climbed up on the stage and talked about the real reason why we were there.

Some years previously, his child had developed leukaemia and needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. Unfortunately, though, there was no matching donor on the national bone marrow register, meaning his child was going to die.

Why was there no matching donor? Well the register had been created and filled by the Anthony Nolan Trust, a brilliant, grass-roots led volunteer organisation whose volunteer supporters had run events across the country where they’d invited their family and friends to come and do a simple blood test that would get their profile and add them to the register.

And therein lies the answer to the question. Because the founders of the Anthony Nolan trust had been white, their friends and family had been overwhelmingly white, meaning that the people on the register were overwhelmingly white. And since whether or not someone is a match for you is a matter of genetics, that meant that a black person’s chances of finding a donor were vastly less than a white person’s.

It’s no one’s fault. No one had set out to do this. Everyone had had good intentions. But we’d ended up in a situation where if a white child developed acute leukaemia they had a good chance of survival, but if a black child developed acute leukaemia, their chances were very poor. And that can’t be right.

Orin was a bit of hero. He didn’t take it lying down, but instead went out and organised drives within his community, getting thousands of black people onto the register and eventually finding a donor who saved his child’s life. But he hadn’t stopped there. He’d founded the trust and made it his mission to get more black people onto the register, to save other black kids. The Trust worked in partnership with Anthony Nolan: the trust found the people, and Anthony Nolan tested them and added them to the national register.

It has to be stressed that this is win-win for everyone. Having more black people on the register doesn’t in any way reduce the chance of a white child finding a donor. Anthony Nolan’s mission isn’t simply to have the largest number of people on the register; it’s to have a register that provides a donor to the largest number of people. And every person from a diverse background added to the register significantly increases the register’s reach.

It’s all good. And any decent white person should be horrified about the idea that black children had such poor chance of survival and want to help any and all efforts to help improve those chances. And here’s the point, and my question to those who, when they hear a cry of “Black Lives Matter”, feel compelled to respond with “All Lives Matter”.

When he was giving his speech and saying his shocking figures (I can’t remember what they were, but let’s just say that it was that a white child with acute leukaemia had a 60% chance of survival while a black child had only a 10% chance of survival), and finishing by saying that Black children with leukaemia deserved effective treatment, should I have stood up and heckled him by shouting “No! All children with leukaemia deserve effective treatment!”?

I’ll say that again for those at the back. When he said that Black children with leukaemia deserved effective treatment, should I have stood up and heckled him by shouting “No! All children with leukaemia deserve effective treatment!”?

The answer, of course, is no. And the question to whether you should respond to a cry of Black Lives Matter with Actually, All Lives Matter is, similarly, no.


When I attended the event, I wasn’t on the Anthony Nolan register. Aware as I was of the purpose of the event, I didn’t want to risk causing even one black person to not get on the register. I was worried that they might not be able to test everyone. But I gave it about twenty minutes until everyone was in the queue, and then joined at the very back, so I was literally the last person to get to the four lovely elderly white ladies from the Anthony Nolan trust who were doing the testing.

“You can do white people too, right?” I asked them. “I mean it’s all going on the same register, right?”

They smiled and said yes, and yes. So they tested me, and I’m on the register. And that means that if ever I get tracked down and told my bone marrow donation could save someone’s life (and that someone will likely be white), it will mean that that person’s been saved thanks to a black solidarity event.

There’s probably a message in there somewhere.

Game Night – A Relaunch For The Streaming Era

I first self-published Game Night (Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Goodreads), my novel of six Greek-style gods roleplaying with the mortal realm below, in December 2007. This was a different world. D&D’s Fourth Edition was just launching to a largely lack-lustre response, at a time when the RPG industry was a pretty low, post OGL boom, ebb. Amazon’s Kindle had literally launched only twelve days previously; Game Night was paperback only, and would be for another three years or so. It wasn’t even strictly speaking self-published – my friend the gaming publisher and writer James Wallis published it through his Magnum Opus gaming imprint.

Considering the choppy waters into which it had been launched, it did pretty well, getting some strong reviews and an ENnie nomination in the Best Regalia category (where it lost out in the popular vote to WotC’s Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress), and eventually selling something like eighteen hundred copies in paperback over the next few years via a combination of Amazon, games shops, and sales at conventions (with Gencon 2008 being a particular highlight).

Since then, I’ve published a lightly re-edited second edition with an updated cover, but I haven’t perhaps given it the marketing love it deserved. Meanwhile, the world has moved on. Fourth edition has been replaced by a better received Fifth. A new generation of gaming companies and gaming systems have exploded onto the scene. And the rise of RPG streaming channels on Twitch and YouTube has bought “old-fashioned” pen-and-paper roleplaying into the cultural mainstream in a way that back then, we could only have dreamed of.

So I think it’s time to try and remind the world that Game Night exists. I’m looking to send out review copies to bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers (both BookTubers and streamers). If you think that might be you, drop me a line at jonny@jonnynexus.com. In the meantime, I’m going to be reaching out to folks who I think might like the book. If you’ve got any thoughts about who those folks should be, again, let me know.

Jonnycon II Makes The Local News

A press release I put out about Jonnycon II (the launch party for the Sleeping Dragon) was picked up by our local web news site, Rochdale Online. I was quite chuffed about that.

…Jonny said, “I’m a Londoner originally, but my wife and I moved to the Littleborough area nearly three years ago. It was here that this book came together, helped in a large part by the folks at Rebecca’s, the Cherry Tree, and the Wine Press, who kept me fuelled up with coffee while I was bashing away at my laptop in their establishments. So it seemed only right that I should launch the book here, in my new home town.”

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.

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?



« Older posts

© 2022 Jonny Nexus

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑