Goals are great, but adaptability is greater.
So this year I started with the goal of finishing my novel, The Space Between Worlds, by the end of the year.
I no longer have this goal.
If you don’t know A.A. Milne, he’s the guy who created Winnie-the-Pooh. If you’ve never heard of Winnie-the-Pooh, I both pity your childhood and admire your ability to avoid Disney references.
If you, like me, had a childhood speckled with stories set in the Hundred Acre Wood, you might be surprised to know that A.A. Milne also wrote a murder mystery novel, entitled the Red House Mystery. (I certainly was.) This book follows Anthony Gillingham, a man whose idea of exploring the world is trying out every possible profession. When he stumbles upon a murder, he decides to try out being an amateur detective, along with his trusty Watson, Bill Beverley.
People will tell you to be careful of snakes in Australia. I mean, they’ll tell you to watch out for spiders, kick-boxing kangaroos, drop bears, and every single animal in Australia, but snakes tend to top the list. And it’s true that the drop bears do serious harm—I mean, it’s true that there are poisonous snakes, but to be honest if you live in an urban area you won’t see too many. You have to go looking for them. Or venture in their territory.
Arrival is a 2016 sci-fi film written by Eric Heisserer and directed by Dennis Villeneuve, and tells the story of Louise Banks, a linguist who helps to communicate with aliens visiting Earth. It is based on Story of Your Life, a short story by Ted Chiang. If you have neither seen this film nor read this story, I very strongly encourage you to do one or the other before reading this blog post. I’m going to spoil both of them, and they are both excellent pieces of craft that do not deserve spoiling. Go now; the blog will still be here when you get back.
Truth time: This is mostly an excuse to link to a story I wrote that was published as part of the Short Fiction Break 2018 Summer Writing Contest, which you can find here. It’s called Trial by Fire and involves a prisoner being offered a chance at freedom … as long as she can pass the trial.
On the other hand, I also have something to say about how I wrote this story, and maybe learnt a lesson from it, although I’m not sure what that lesson was.
I almost exclusively write fantasy and science fiction. I write about things that aren’t real, that couldn’t be real, not in this time or place. I do this because I love to make things up. I’ve been making things up since I was small. As a child, I populated my backyard with fairies, and I populated the school playground with cheese-eating grass-gulls. I didn’t just make things up. I also read about made up stuff. I grew up with Brer Rabbit and Aslan, and I spent my teen years with Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins, and Arthur Dent.
This is the story of the time my brother and I bought tickets to a show in China, and is a little more interesting that the description suggests.
You see, every night in Hangzhou (at least at the time this took place) there is a show on the West Lake. It’s called ‘Impressions of West Lake’ and it is a very cool show that involves the performers acting, singing, and dancing on a stage that is partially under water. You should definitely see it if you ever get the chance.
There is a high demand in China for native English speakers to teach their kids. But are they the best for the job? There are pros and cons to having a native speaker for a teacher, and some of these do depend on whether the native speaker happens to be bilingual.
Why is art important? People do ask that question. Why is art a thing you should devote your time and your life to? It doesn’t do anything, after all. It isn’t about anything real. It isn’t as useful as science, is it? Well, art is at least as ubiquitous as science. Sure, we all use science when we walk, throw a ball or use a computer, but we see art every time we watch something on a screen, listen to spotify or look at somebody’s photos on facebook (well, nobody said it had to be good art). Even in the days before all this modern media, we were telling stories and painting pictures on rocks. Art is a quintessential part of humanity.