Wednesday, February 27, 2013

So, this whole 'love' business...

Right then, with my typical sense of good timekeeping, it's time for me to remember that Valentine's Day was two weeks ago, and write a post about love. After all, it's quite possibly the most talked about emotion in the entirety of human history, and since the whole topic plays a rather large part in Messiah's Shard, I reckon it might pay to talk about love, and soulmates, and all that gubbins.

Oh yes, there's much more than just epic, prophetic shenanigans going in the book...

Y'see, we begin Book 1, Act 1 by going and sitting next to John Harley, a man whose whole character is kinda sorta defined by love. The painful love he still feels for his long-dead sister, the heartache when he remembers her little face and realises he's never going to see her again, is simply one aspect of it, but it's not unfair to say that a big chunk of Harley's personality is a reaction to that aspect of his past, that bond with a sibling who's no longer with him.

And then, there's her. Anna. The woman he loves with all his heart.

The genesis of Messiah's Shard happened waa-aaaaa-aaaaay back in the mists of prehistoric time (seriously, we're talking pre-2000, here), back when I was young and daft, and still remained utterly convinced that soulmates existed, in a literal sense. I eventually moved away from that viewpoint, but that nugget of an idea kept festering away in my brain, as I thought more about what the idea of soulmates would actually mean.

Think about it; say that soulmates really are two parts of one soul, and say that they can only be happy together. What then? What happens if the souls can't be bonded in this lifetime? Would only having half a soul hurt? What if something happened to the other person, the other half of your soul, and you knew you could never be whole?

That's a horrible thought!

So therefore, my take on soulmates is possibly a little bit darker than you might be expecting...

On a brighter note, though, there's another relationship in the novel, and this one's quite a bit happier. I'm talking, of course, about Jake Mooney and Madeleine Wilder, a couple who are just perfect for each other, and who were fun to write. Not that that will stop me messing with them; no-one gets a happy ending unless they've been stretched right to their breaking point.

Because that's the big question, of course: can love survive the apocalypse? When humanity falls, can love endure?

There's only one way to find out...

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I reckon aliens should look, well, ALIEN...

It's fair to assume that, since I'm a sci-fi writer, I'm a rather big sci-fi fan. It's a logical assumption, right enough, and you'd be bang on the money to jump to it, but there's one bit of sci-fi that really sort of annoys me, and it's this:

Aliens that look like humans with half a ton of rubber glued to their heads.

What I'm saying, right, is that evolution doesn't work like that...

Yes, it's that old trope, the rubber-forehead aliens, the bane of my very life when I watch things like Star Trek, or even my favourite TV sci-fi show, Babylon 5. Yes, I know that it all comes down to budgetary restraints, but the simple fact is that there's no reason why an alien lifeform, from (need I remind you) an entirely alien world light years away, should even vaguely look like a human.

To produce an alien that looks like, well, us, a species would have to follow an evolutionary path that's exactly identical to our own. Hell, if you reran evolution on Earth, and changed just one tiny parameter, you most likely wouldn't get humans here, so to imagine it happening on an alien world, with vastly different evolutionary constraints, is a bit silly really.

Where's all the floaty head things, like the eosapien from Wayne Barlowe's exquisite Expedition? Where's all the five-limbed treefrog things, from the 2005 version of War Of The Worlds? Where's all the malevolent, telepathic locust things, from Quatermass And The Pit (the film version with Andrew Keir, that scared the cacky out of me)?

I want more of those, please...

"But Mark," you may well now be saying. "Don't you use humanoid races in your novel, Messiah's Shard?"

Well, yes. Yes I do, but there's more going on there than you know about, just yet. There's hints of what's going on there, in that first novel, but you don't yet know the whole story (but you will, eventually, oh you most certainly will). Besides, there's the yowason and the n'kaf (the two beasties in the pic up there) to consider, and I've made a pact with myself that any future races I come up with will resolutely not be humanoid.

Hmm, maybe something with limbs on their faces (*scratchy beard noise*). That could work...

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Monday, February 25, 2013

It's all H.G. Wells' fault...

Well, alright, it's mostly H.G. Wells' fault, but it's also George Pal's fault. And Byron Haskin's fault. And Jeff Wayne's fault. And my dad's fault for letting me listen to Wayne's 1978 musical version of War Of The Worlds when I was four years old, before then letting me watch Pal and Haskin's 1953 film version.

 If you want the truth of it, that, right there, is why I'm a sci-fi fan. The musical version is also why I'm a musician, but that's by the by...

I can still remember the first time I heard that album, y'know. I know I was four years old, so it must have been either the arse end of 1981 or the first bit of 1982, but yeah, it was definitely "the early years of the 1980s", to paraphrase the granddaddy of alien invasion stories. We were in Wales, visiting relatives, and my uncle stuck t'LP on t'record player. Richard Burton's voice flowed mellifluously through the speakers (best. voice. EVER), and that was it; I was hooked. I sat in silence, listening as the first cylinder landed on Horsell Common, as the heat ray turned men to ash, as the HMS Thunderchild made her famous, valiant last stand.

And then, me and my cousin went playing on the common, near their house.

Yeah, I spent the next hour resolutely watching the sky, watchful for that telltale green flash...

But the movie version, oh the movie version. The worst bit is that it was entirely my own fault; after hearing the album, I bugged my dad for months, to show me the film version, expecting it to be pretty much the same as the musical version. Only it wasn't. I was more or less okay when I saw Pal and Haskin's version of a Martian fighting machine (still the most iconically beautiful war machine I've ever seen), but then, it got to that bit. The bit that shouldn't be scary, because let's be honest, that thing's got a Simon board for a face.

Yeah, you know the bit...

I know it's not in English, but trust me, words aren't needed...

When you read my own novel, Messiah's Shard, there's a bit in it that may well be very familiar to anyone who's seen War Of The Worlds. I had to include it, it's one of those moments that's just intensely personal to me; it's that terror of seeing something otherworldly in your own home, the place that's supposed to be safe. Well, alright, it's more the fear of not seeing it, because it's standing behind you, with its long, gangly and entirely wrong hand on your shoulder...  


Dammit, Wells (and Pal/Haskin), you've got a lot to answer for!

(Image Credit: The Essential Films)

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Every sci-fi universe needs a squidly race with weird heads in it

There you go, that title pretty much sums up my approach to science fiction. Yeah, we're not necessarily talking about the hardest of hard sci-fi, here. Granted, I may have sat down and worked out their evolutionary path, to give them some semblance of verisimilitude, but when you get right down to it, right down to the very nub, it all came down to me wanting a squid race in there.

So there.

Erm, maybe I should back up a bit, so you know what I'm on about...

See that pic, just there? Yes, I can finally say that I'm a legitimate published author, thanks to the sheer magic that is ebooks. My first novel, Messiah's Shard, is available on Kindle and Smashwords (with more to come), and let me tell you, it's a damned fine feeling, so it is!

It doesn't end with that first novel, though, no sirree bobby. Y'see, this story's been kicking about in my head since I was a young'n, and over the years, it's grown and evolved into something way bigger than the mewling little pseudopodal thingie that it began life as. As it grew, and as the universe in which it was set got bigger and bigger, I realised that it'd ceased to be just a standalone story. There was a whole universe there, ripe for the plundering.

And so, the Cynos Union was born.

So basically, what I'm saying, right, is to expect lots more Cynos Union novels after this one. I'll also be publishing exclusive stories and content on my Facebook fan page, so wander over there, and give that Like button a good, hard clicking. There's character profiles, exclusive prequels... hell, maybe some giveaways, too, from time to time!

Oh, and if you're wondering, that squidly race? Yeah, that's the yowason. They're vampire space squids.

In fairness, I did warn you it wasn't particularly hard sci-fi...

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