Archive | May, 2012

Liddell’s Ghost

30 May

Click to read my short story, Liddell’s Ghost, in Cygnus, the Journal of Speculative Fiction!

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The Shakespeare Conspiracy

27 May

William Shakespeare, the man known to history as the Bard of Avon and celebrated as the greatest playwright that the world has ever known, is at once a familiar yet elusive figure. Whilst there are few people on Earth who have not heard of or come across one of his plays, or at least one of his famous sayings, there is an enigma at the heart of Shakespeare’s character. Very few hard facts are known about the man, which has led to endless speculation about who exactly he was and how he came to write verse which is just as popular now as it was when it was first written, almost five hundred years ago. Some have even questioned the very identity of Shakespeare as the writer of the plays which made him so famous, pointing to the incredible breadth, variety and quality of his work as proof that an uneducated commoner could not have been behind them. Over the many centuries since Shakespeare’s death numerous theories have been put forward concerning the provenance of his plays, the true identity of their writer(s) and the reasons for the elaborate cover-up, if such existed. Hollywood got in on the act as well with the recent film Anonymous, which cashes in on one aspect of the Shakespeare conspiracy. There is, however, far more to tell, including facts which are even stranger than anything which ever appeared in Shakespeare’s plays.

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First Date

23 May

Click to read my short story First Date in Aphelion, the Webzine of sci-fi and fantasy!

The Unwritten

20 May

If I mentioned a bespectacled boy wizard with an undead nemesis, two best friends and a flying familiar you might think I was talking about Harry Potter but what I’m actually referring to is The Unwritten, a clever, post-modern graphic novel series by Mike Carey. The comics follow Tom Taylor, who was the inspiration for a series of hugely successful children’s fantasy novels in the vein of Harry Potter, written by his father Wilson Taylor, who disappeared mysteriously just after writing the story’s conclusion. The Unwritten deals with themes related to fame, celebrity, and the relationship between fiction and human consciousness. Basically, Tom Taylor’s life was screwed up from the start because his father modelled his bestselling novels so closely on his son’s real life that the fictional Tommy Taylor’s fans constantly compared him to his counterpart (turning him into the most pointless variety of Z-level celebrity in the process). In Wilson Taylor’s final book it was even implied that the fictional Tommy would cross over into the real world, giving his delusional fans more excuses than ever to harass poor old Tom. Just when he thinks that his life cannot get any worse, the unfortunate Tom comes into contact with a very mysterious, very deadly group that has secretly kept tabs on him all his life. In the process of escaping from them, Tom travels the world to discover the truth behind his own origins. Tom’s journey of discovery takes him to places where fictions have impacted and tangibly shaped reality in all manner of forms, ranging from famous literary works to folk tales to pop culture. In the process of learning what it all means, Tom finds himself having to unravel a breathtaking conspiracy that may span the entirety of the history of fiction. Literate, absorbing and totally original, The Unwritten will simultaneously leave you wanting more and make you question everything you have ever read.

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The Golden Section

13 May

The golden section (or golden ratio) has fascinated Western intellectuals of diverse interests for over two thousand years. Basically, two quantities are ‘golden’ if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one. If you can get your head around this, you may start to notice how this ratio appears frequently in mathematics, architecture and the arts — especially in the form of the ‘golden rectangle’, in which the ratio of the longer side to the shorter is, in the above sense, ‘golden’. Through the ages, the golden ratio has been regarded as having unique and interesting properties, both because it is intrinsically aesthetically pleasing and because it may have a deeper meaning. Some of the greatest mathematical minds in history, from Pythagoras and Euclid in ancient Greece, to the medieval Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa and the Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler, have spent endless hours musing over the golden ratio and its properties. Even today, the golden ratio is used in the analysis of financial markets, in strategies such as Fibonacci retracement. But the fascination with the golden ratio is not confined just to mathematicians: biologists, artists, musicians, historians, architects, psychologists, and even mystics have for centuries pondered and debated the basis of its ubiquity and appeal. This inevitably invites the question – what is it about the golden ratio that has so intrigued thinkers of all disciplines?

 

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A Haunting at Haworth

6 May

That the supernatural should be associated with the most famous trio of sisters in literature, the Brontës, should perhaps come as no surprise. Raised by their grim and brooding father, the Reverend Patrick Brontë, in the bleak hillside village of Haworth in Yorkshire, Charlotte, Emily and Anne were lonely, dreamy children. Their mother died the year after Anne was born and, since their surviving parent spent most of his time in his study – often even having his meals alone – the girls were left to themselves to read and wander on the wild empty moors surrounding their home. Together the Brontë children – they also had an unhappy brother named Branwell – made up stories of an unreal world, writing them in tiny handwriting on small sheets of paper, which they stitched together to look like real books. For one year Charlotte and Emily went to a school for the daughters of clergymen, but they were very unhappy there. This tumultuous early life inevitably found its expression in their fiction. Charlotte gave a terrible picture of her school in Jane Eyre, where she called it ‘Lowood’. Emily’s only novel, Wuthering Heights, is a wild, strange, powerful book, containing stirring descriptions of the Yorkshire moors that she knew so well. Anne’s novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, contains a terrible account of a drunkard, which was written from what she knew about her brother Branwell’s alcoholic binges. The three sisters were very different in character. Anne was gentle and open, Charlotte was quiet but with very deep feelings, and Emily, who was perhaps the greatest of the three in talent, had the strongest and the strangest character. She was silent and reserved and endured pain of body and mind with determination; only in her writing can be seen the fierce passions which she kept hidden inside her. The three also each had very different attitudes and experiences of the supernatural.

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