Meanwhile, in Canada…

So, here I am in Toronto airport, waiting to go to Chicago…

I had a good time here; went up the CN Tower, visited Casa Loma (where a bunch of films including X-Men had scenes filmed) and, of course, Niagara Falls. Now, the falls are very impressive and awesome but it’s difficult to get an appreciation of the scale of it all until you’re there and especially sailing headlong into the Horseshoe Falls themselves. Over the last 10 thousand years or so the falls have eroded back kilometres of land to their present position and a rate of several metres per year. Now, that rate has been slowed to a scale of per decade because of water siphoned off for the hydroelectric power generation in the area.

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Rainbow over the falls

Of everything I’ve experienced here I think that’s what I’ll take away with me most, how human activity can cause such a major impact on the workings of nature. Sure, you hear about global warming and the melting of ice caps every day but there was something about the falls that really drives it home.
So too with Toronto itself.

Lots of cities have tube systems, and Toronto’s is relatively small compared to the likes of London and New York but what really impressed me was that a large portion of Toronto’s commercial sector is underground. I don’t just mean sub-level shops or underground parking. I mean entire malls reaching as far underground as some buildings do above the surface. Last night I went to explore and found myself at least three stories underground at a food court as busy as any I had ever been to. I envisioned it as if the Artilleryman’s dream of an underground civilization, from War of the Worlds had come true or the rag-tag survivors in Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro 2066 had rebuilt beneath the surface.
It may be everyday to the locals and I may be too easily impressed but the sheer scale of it all, a whole different world beneath the streets left me with a feeling that is hard to match.

So, now I think my flight may be pulling in and I hope Chicago holds just as much awe as this small corner of Canada did.

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P.s. Another reason Toronto is awesome. Allosaurous in the airport.

Why so serious…

First post in over a year. Well that’s a fail… It has been quite a year to be honest.

 

I realise I start off in the title with a casual Joker reference which has a tendency to amuse people but the point is The Joker actually sums up what I want to talk about quite nicely (Forgetting, for a moment, all the homicidal, deranged chaos he creates) because this isn’t going to be a fun post-

 

No, please don’t leave, I didn’t mean boring. It’s just that I would like to cover a topic that, I have come to realise, affects a great many people despite how they may feel alone.

There is a reason why I have been absent for the longest time. I don’t write this for me, though, I write it for those people who I know have felt the same as I did.

 

Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar or anything of the like; They are not something that can be dismissed. They are not the made up conditions for miserable people and crybabies. They are very real conditions that a large majority of people struggle with everyday. Conditions that a lot of people cannot, and often don’t want to, understand. Even those afflicted often decide it’s nothing, convince themselves to try and push on, that they are stupid for being sad or worried all the time.

Depression is often called the ‘Invisible Disease’ and I find this quite apt. Most of the people with it you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong and often that’s because they’re trying to fool themselves into thinking nothing is wrong or hiding it away from the outside world from fear of ridicule but this only makes it worse.

But it is far from nothing. Study after study have confirmed that depressives show wildly different brain activity from non-depressives. I’m no doctor but I know it can arise from too much or little of this or that chemical in the brain, including Serotonin (a mood regulator.) It can be caused by many other factors, though, traumatic events from your past, a pre-disposition to mood changes, even genetics, it could be almost anything. One thing it is not, though, is imaginary. Issues like this are very real mental health conditions and should be treated as such. If you suspect a friend or family member may have depression don’t just tell them to ‘cheer up.’ Simply be there for them. Oftentimes you don’t actually need to try and actively comfort them, just let them know you are there to talk or be a shoulder to cry on if they need it. Above all, never loose your patience with them, not matter how long it goes on. They have just as much control over it as you do: None. 

 

I have the utmost respect for anyone who can admit that they struggle with depression. I feel a relevant example would be the late, great Robin Williams, may he rest in peace. A comic, a wacky personality but a tortured soul. A fun loving comedian, you might think, how could this happen? The truth is a great deal of comedians struggle with this kind of thing. Need I say any more than simple Stephen Fry? For years Williams grappled with his own demons, even turning to drugs to try and stem his uncontrollable misery. A misery that had no reason but yet existed regardless. To the pain of the world over he eventually took his own life earlier this month. The final, ultimate action of a man desperate for peace with himself.

And yet he was branded a ‘coward’ by some, for leaving his family, for allowing them to find him in such a way.

“(…)something inside you is so horrible or you’re such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it.” These were the words that US News Anchor Shepard Smith had to apologise for after Williams’ death. I feel this is one of the the most appropriate examples of how people who have not experienced depression cannot understand the mindset of someone in such a condition. I acknowledge that it was terrible for his family, especially in the method he did it but I feel people fail to empathise with what he was feeling. His family brought him great joy, they were the light of his life, so it must have been that much worse to be convinced that they did not feel the same. I know his family did love him very much but in that state of depression the world can become a dark and twisted place where you feel everyone around you, even your closest loved ones despise you, where no-one would care if you died. A place where everything feels like it imprisons you, torments you and you are constantly surrounded by a dark cloud you cannot shake.

Robin Williams was not a coward. In fact I would call him brave. Brave for facing so many years with that ‘invisible disease,’ smiling and joking to the world even though this thing is eating you inside. Ultimately, though, in a ‘fit of depression’ and desperation he ended it.

 

So this has been a somewhat long and solemn piece but if even one person reads it and understands all of this a little better then it would have all been worth it.

Before I go, here’s something my partner found that helped her to understand things a little better. Personally, I think it’s amazing and couldn’t hit the point better.

 

P.S. If there was no other reason for him being so Robin Williams is a legend simply for naming his daughter Zelda.

Inspiration

Well here’s a pretty sizeable topic.

When talking about inspiration as a whole it’s the equivalent of talking about the entire scope universe. The entire scope of the universe and in detail facts about every single component thereof. As a great man once wrote; “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is…” This is pretty much pittance in comparison to the scope of human imagination. That in mind, you’d think it’s probably best not to get lost in the vast labyrinth of any one persons mind and yet we do. I know a lot of people would disagree with me at this point, raising the banner of ‘not everyone has an imagination.’ Completely wrong. Everyone has an imagination and is inspired day by day in a variety of ways they don’t even realise. At this point these people might add ‘…like you’ to the end of their banners. True, this may be closer to the truth but still a good few parsecs from bullseye.

The point is that everyone is inspired in different ways. As a writer I am inspired constantly (sometimes at the most inopportune times) and can’t look at something without dreaming up some wild tale about it in the back of my mind. 

 

This image pretty much sums me up perfectly.

 

I would imagine film makers see the world through different camera angles, Artists see the world as they would paint it, Musicians see it as they would hear it. Even scientists (especially scientists, in fact) see the potential of everything they look at through the perspective of their individual field. I can’t argue that some people have more difficulty getting in touch with their creative side, unable to see anything other than the world as it is for the most part. For this I would have to blame the general world we live in. With the news constantly barraging us with all of the evils in the world and repetitive routines blunting our senses it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing much more to think about. The fact, I would say, is that imagination, in whatever form it comes in, is the answer to the very thing that would stop us dreaming. Babies and children don’t seem to have a problem with the world around them and they have very open minds, imagination most artists (in whatever form) would dream of. You might say it’s because they don’t know any better but that’s the very point, they don’t have any of these issues weighing them down, nothing depressing them and nothing making them feel guilty when they dare to take pleasure in what they imagine.

Well that got pretty philosophical fast.

So what makes good inspiration. As I said before this is a vast topic and is different for everyone, depending on personal tastes. Personally I find the bulk of my own inspiration comes simply from pictures, music and travelling.

 

One of my favourite pictures. Everything about it drips inspiration to me.

 

From these three aspects respectively I can build an image in my mind, give it an atmosphere and then make it real from my own experiences. There are plenty of times where I have spent literately hours sifting through images on Google relevant to whatever I’m writing while listening to some ambient electronica and reminiscing about my various exploits away from home. Suddenly, when I go back to actually write something my mind has created a living, breathing world that I simply have to describe rather than actively dream up. I grant you sleep deprivation generally helps with the process but isn’t that true for all the arts? (Seriously, this is a thing http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=sleep-deprivation-amps-up-brain)

 

Juno Reactor never fails to inspire me.

 

So, to wrap up, is inspiration the same for everyone? No. I don’t think I could have been more wrong if I had said anything else. Inspiration is every bit of it is as subjective as each individuals own view on the world. Even the people who feel they haven’t got any imagination at all, can’t be inspired by anything. Just think to yourself next time something catches your eye in the street, any time you think you see something. Just ask yourself ‘what did I think that was?’ and thus a world of possibilities is opened up. Failing that you can always go get drunk and pass out in a field like that same great man.

Just don’t forget your towel and remember not to panic…

Happy is a lie

It’s well known that tragedy plays a big part in crafting any good, solid storyline. I mean most of the most enduring tales have been those centred firmly around something terrible, a horrible end for beloved characters. The most obvious that will spring to most minds is, of course, Romeo and Juliet (no not that Decap film that was, to put it kindly, terrible and, to put it unkindly, not repeatable in any form of public media.) This kind of thing goes back for centuries, though, millennia. The Greeks had a firm handle on what could get into a persons head and directly stimulate that place in your brain that makes you sad and angry when someone kicks a dog.  Sure, everyone says they like it when it all goes well in a story and there is a happy ending, when no-one dies or suffers a major setback. At the end of the day, though, they just end up coming across, to me at least, token and shallow. Not to say there can’t be a happy ending but it means all that much more when it’s earned after struggling to overcome some adversity.

Why does this struggle and loss and sadness wet our narrative pallet? Because it’s more REAL. No matter what the setting may be, be it an outrageous space fantasy with black hole dragons and star dwelling cosmic dwarves, if there’s a well placed play on emotion, we have no choice but to relate. Contrary to popular belief, life is not nice. Or at least it’s not supposed to be. That’s exactly the point, though, we have a built in knowledge of this fact and a pre-disposition to its influence. The simple fact is that happy, light, ‘everything is alright’ narratives seem shallow and unreal because they are. Not to mention naive and ignorant of the general nature of life.

I won’t keep you with examples and deconstructions as this topic is probably one of the most discussed in all of creative history. I just wanted to highlight it’s easy to want to engage with this trope, to gain the maximum amount of emotional investment from an audience, but much harder to pull it off. I can’t profess to be an expert in it, I can’t even try to say I am even good at it, being as modest as I am as well as completely ignorant of the full extent of my own abilities. What I believe of it though is that whatever is being created must come from the heart, channelling some level of inner torment from the creators past. Sure, I could bang on all day about how characters much be well formed and relatable, whatever tragedy you choose must be logical in the story and significant to the characters. That’s not even going into how to keep a hook running, possibly providing hope for the wronged character or keeping them in a constant state of turmoil to keep the audience invested-.

Sorry, said I wasn’t going to go into it.

The point is you have to draw on what you know. In order to create a great story you must have lived a reasonable life. You have to be able to draw on the ups and downs, goods and especially bads of your life to really engage those you want to tell your story to. Personally, I like to come away from a story, whatever format it may be in, feeling emotionally exhausted, potentially hating the story at first because it dared to push my feelings to that point. It’s easy to come away saying you are angry because Event X happened to Character Y and it upset you but just think, if it managed to get you that bothered than it must have been doing something right to engage you that much. If you really didn’t like it, you simply wouldn’t care, not one bit.

Don’t be scared to feel the feelings Storyweavers are trying to invoke in you. After all happiness is a lie and the sooner that’s realised, the sooner you’ll start having a great time.

 

P.S. If you’ve ever watched the first 20 or so minutes of Disney Pixars “Up” you’ll know exactly what I’m getting at with this post…

Words to your ears

It’s been quite a significant absence but I am back with a new post. A post with all kinds of news and jollity and no real topic of significance.

First of all the absence was mainly due to various kinds of busy and responsibilities and not at all that I am inherently bad at blogging. Of course some things have changed lately and I find myself with considerably less time than I would like. Time which I would preferably be using to write and edit and not waste becoming engrossed in the Mass Effect trilogy.

Secondly… Everything else. I have been on to so many things of late that I can barely keep track of them. The biggest news is probably that I am working on bringing The Median (the first part of Chronicles of the Median) to audiobook. I have enlisted the help for the actual narration of the book so won’t be reading it myself, although this frees up time to work on other things. The prologue is complete and can currently be found on YouTube (or below) along with a short trailer for Chronicles (also below.) Further parts will be uploaded intermittently and will also become available as free audio downloads (.mp3) on this blog as soon as I sort out a viable online storage medium (I’ve had bad experiences in the past.)

Other news includes the impending release of something I’ve been working on for a while. My ‘Short Collection of Short Stories’ entitled “Abridged.” I mentioned this a few months ago, thinking it would be a quick throw together of various shorts I’ve written over time but soon snowballed. Some stuff turned out to be of questionable quality, likely because I wrote them long before I thought I did when my talents were somewhat less honed as they are today. Other stuff was good but in desperate need of serious editing or even a re-write. Some stuff, it turned out, wasn’t even down on paper. Like I said, it snowballed and I felt it was a good opportunity to get down some ideas that have been bouncing around in my head but didn’t really have a home in any of my other work. One of these pieces was even inspired by an Infected Mushroom track I was randomly listening to on the bus home one night. I feel the ultimate product was, ahem, unique in its take on psy-trance but something I enjoyed writing very much. Long story less long, the collection is in its second phase of editing so it’s kind of out of my hands for the moment but will hopefully appear on Amazon, Smashwords and Kbuuk in the near future. Oh, yeah, did I mention it was going to be free? Of course this means some negotiation with Amazon if that’s even possible but I shall attempt it non the less.

Third and finally to a long and long overdue post is the new book. It is something that will not surface for some time, I’m thinking, but is something very important to me. It is a traditional, full length, stand alone novel that will not be complicating any of the upheld trends (like I feel Chronicles does on occasion.) This is because I am intending this to be the novel I first approach literary agents and publishers with. After all it is my, like I imagine it is many other writers, dream to my work in print. To hold my novel and say “I did this.” I have had quite some experience writing over my life (Chronicles is far from the first book I’ve ever written) and I feel it is time for me to do something about this dream we all have.

Well until the next, hopefully not excessive amount of, time please enjoy inspiration and namesake of, what I feel to be, Abridged’s signature story.

Geo-Clearing

-My name is Marty, I’m a long time collaborator of Nick. He recently invited me to write the odd article for his readership to fill in for those periods when he cannot possibly write anything other than his novels through fear of forgetting his latest stroke of genius.-

I recently had an epiphany.

Why, with climate change, are we trying so so hard, and spending so so much money, to lower carbon emissions? I appreciate that this may seem like the obvious move, but it feels more like spilling a glass of milk and then stating, “how can we ensure we don’t spill anymore” rather than looking to wipe up the mess.

I appreciate that the move to renewable sources is necessary, however as it isn’t moving forward, why do we also look to reverse the damage that we have caused?
“How?” I don’t wait to hear you ask, through geoengineering. Now, alot of people believe this area to be, well to quote Al Gore, “Nuts”. But I would urge people to rethink the matter. The multitude of ways that we have altered this planet would suggest to many that we are most comfortable with geoengineering. All of the gardening and building that we do is geoengineering. The only difference is the name.

Now, these methods are not all radical, nor beyond the grasp of the common man, but simple techniques and plans that would all help to massively alter the rate of the warming of the environment.

I fail to see why governments are working hard on this matter rather than smart. There are so many people struggling to fund these ideas that will buys us time and help us to search for the right answer to the long term question.

Time Circuit Vortex

Image from Doctorwhocast.com

So yeah, I am clearly not the first one to pick up on this but still…Doctor Who and Bill & Ted; There seem to be some similarities here. Now I love both of these franchises. Bill & Ted were and still are two of my all time favourite films. Similarly I love everything about Doctor Who especially the fact that the super advanced multi-dimensional manipulation of time and space is summed up in the phrase ‘It’s bigger on the inside.’ Despite this I can still objectively appreciate how, once again, American cinema had descended on the twitching carcass of British television.

Now Doctor Who was a long running British sci-fi programme starting in 1963. In 1989 the series ended but in a strange conscience this is also the year Bill & Teds Excellent Adventure was released. It is clearly apparent that that someone in Hollywood had been watching the show having the ‘great’ idea of Americanising it once the British telling had begun to wane whilst still capitalising on the fanbase. Only Bill & Ted turned out to be nothing like Doctor Who, bar the obvious ‘travelling through time in a phone box’ thing. The premise of Doctor Who started as a near enough immortal alien exploring time and the cosmos with his inter-dimensional, shape changing space ship. Now the famous police box was first created because this alien wished to stay hidden and in that day and age (the 60’s) there was emergency blue police boxes on nearly every corner, thus a perfect way to blend in. Later, in order to keep the iconic box, it was written in that at some point the ships chameleon circuit was broken and it was stuck in that form. Conversely Bill & Ted have a Phone Booth for no overly apparent reason other then ‘it’s kinda cool’ and ‘Doctor Who did it.’ They could have easily made a time machine anything…Maybe a car (now where have I heard that before?) but they didn’t and I would be willing to wager the reason they didn’t is because the Doctor Who had that much of a cultural impact that it was worth building a film around in order to capitalise upon. There’s just one thing, though, I don’t think Hollywood expected Doctor Who to make a comeback, especially not in the overwhelming fashion that it has. Still, there doesn’t seem much fallout over the situation and I think that lies in the fact that the Bill & Ted films were made in 1989 and 1991 respectively. That’s at  least 5 years before any form of Who revival and over a whole decade before the massive kick start in 2005. As such I’m not surprised they’ve never gotten in each others way, B&T apparently managed to slip in at the start of the 25 year niche of Doctor Who absence, completely managing to avoid stepping on their toes. But now with speculative word of a potentially possible idea for a concept of Bill & Ted 3 (Yes, this is apparently happening! http://www.totalfilm.com/news/alex-winter-talks-bill-ted-3) we’ll just have to see how many more people begin to sit up and take notice of the elephant in the room similarities between the franchises.

For the record, though, I wish to state again that I LOVE Bill & Ted and have nothing against those who made it simply because it was done well. Unlike other Americanised products or adaptations like the horrid Red Dwarf remake…But that’s for another time. The point is that Bill & Ted took and idea and made it there own which, in their own ways, made it better than the original concept. I mean time travel, rock music and Keanu Reeves… To this day I don’t think you can get much cooler.

Anyway, I shall leave you with the all famous words of the duo spoken by the great vampire hun- I mean President himself…