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Archive for September, 2016

..in the explosive event described in Watchers 4. For those of you who were wondering, here’s the page from George Bull’s History of Cyprus, volume 3, that Colin was reading. In fact there may have been survivors, but it’s another question whether they knew what had caused the disaster.20160930_144445

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Star blaster: cover design by the author

Tiana-riane Dfosa is a threat to everyone in Gray Bradley’s Galactic Empire because she’s an idealist without a heart; a totally reasonable, rational person who doesn’t believe in society. If she was alone she wouldn’t be a problem, but a lot of people like her ideas — particularly her belief that the Emperor is a myth, so his laws can be ignored, and only humans should rule the galaxy. How does she intend to get rid of the other intelligent races? Do you really want to know?
Gray and his friends have a good idea of what the Rationalists intend, but by the time Gray catches up with Dbfosa the damage is done and it’s already almost too late …

… I’ve just uploaded The Most Dangerous Woman in the Galaxy to Amazon Kindle, so it will be available to download shortly.

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Watchers 4: Explosive is now available on Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Watchers-4-Explosive-Julie-Smythe-ebook/dp/B01LZXXVGF/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1475007129&sr=8-2&keywords=helen+Lerewth

and on amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Watchers-4-Explosive-Julie-Smythe-ebook/dp/B01LZXXVGF/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475007416&sr=8-1&keywords=helen+lerewth

As the story explains, the plot of Watchers 4 is based on an historic siege, which ended explosively. As no one survived the explosion, it’s not clear what happened. Contemporary writers attributed the explosion to a young noblewoman who chose martyrdom over dishonour.

Many modern youth might agree with her choice — after all, a large number of western European youth have been heading to the Middle East recently, to join the group that calls itself Islamic State. But although the young members of the ‘Watchers’ team cheer on the would-be martyr, Julie Smythe asks whether anyone has the right to wish martyrdom on to others. Surely martyrdom has to be voluntary?

Somehow Julie and her friends keep getting themselves into these difficult questions!

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I’ve just uploaded the most recent ‘Watchers’ story to Kindle, so it should appear on Amazon.com (etc.) shortly. Regular readers will know thattemplate-cover-watchers-4-redrawn
Julie Smythe and her friends and family are Watchers, with the task of trying to stop humans ‘making complete fools of themselves’. When Julie’s daughter Caroline and her best friend Tonja go out together one evening, Julie realises that they’ve gone to Watch the end of an historic siege. Julie and her friend Sue rush after the girls to try to stop them turning a disaster into a catastrophe, but can they stop the two young idealists before everything goes explosive? …

… the story considers different attitudes towards war: while Julie and her friend Sue are horrified by what they witness, Caroline and Tonja are determined to get involved and ensure that ‘justice’ is done. But what is justice in war?

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… is the title of a short story by Isaac Asimov, and also an episode in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass: and what Alice found there. Readers will remember that the bolshy and perpetually bewildered Alice encounters the bossy Red Queen in the garden of the house of the looking glass. As well as giving Alice useful advice (‘curtsey while you’re thinking what to say; it saves time later’) she and Alice start running frantically faster and faster, until Alice is completely out of breath and exhausted. Then they stop: and Alice realises that they haven’t gone anywhere; they were running madly just to stay in the same place. When she protests, the Red Queen retotts that if she wants to go anywhere she will have to run a great deal faster than that.

Many of us in modern business and industry recognise this situation: we are in a Red Queen’s Race, wearing ourselves out forever running just to stay in the same place. It’s thought-provoking to realise that Lewis Carroll, in the supposedly more laid-back 19th century, obviously knew this feeling too. And obviously Isaac Asimov also knew it: the frustration of thinking you’ve made a big step forward, only to discover you’ve only enabled yourself to stay in the same place and not lose ground.

I was going to take a photo of the Red Queen’s Race from my own copy of ‘Looking Glass’ to accompany this post. But when I found it, there’s no picture of the race! (Sigh.)

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… on intelligent plants: take a look at the BBC’s report from last year: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-34849374

and a report on a new book on ‘plant intelligence’, in the Guardian newspaper last month: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2015/aug/04/plants-intelligent-sentient-book-brilliant-green-internet

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‘Chemical Plant’ is a short story by Ian Williamson, which I first read in Out of This World 1, ed. Amabel Williams-Ellis and Mably Owen (1960). To spoil the story: the key figure (creature? character?) in the story is a plant that can manipulate the environment to produce the chemicals it requires to grow and flourish. This becomes a problem for the human space-explorers in the story when the plant gets hold of one of their space ships. Everything ends happily, and the plant is only slightly inconvenienced.

As a gardener I love this story, as would any gardener who has wrestled with plants which don’t grow or grow too enthusiastically. Plants do manipulate their own environment simply by growing in it, but most not so effectively as the ‘hero’ of ‘Chemical Plant’. At the very least, plants break up solid soil through their roots, and raise the local humidity, making the area more hospitable to other plants and to animals. I’m told that a patch of woodland can attract rain. Perhaps readers of this blog can comment?

The most famous plants in fiction are probably John Wyndham’s triffids, who have become a standard description of any disagreeable and over-enthusiastic plant — such as rambling roses that ramble too far or spiny trees that take over the garden and seem to threaten the life of any human who tries to trim them. But other authors have also described plants that manipulate those around them. Now, where did I find that short story about the lovely plant with blue flowers that makes its gardeners really happy by making them think they have all they want? – this fictional plant can manipulate minds at a distance, and so ensure its own survival and growth. The people who care for it don’t even realise that they are being manipulated. A very clever idea … wish I could remember where I read it.

In my own writing there are a few plants which are more than they seem. I refer in Kimball’s Kiss to oak trees being intelligent, but that’s a theme I haven’t pursued further as yet. Also in the ‘Gray’ stories, the alien rhuaans are reliant on the berries of the evergreen ‘singing trees’ to enable them to reproduce. The ‘singing trees’ sing through the rustling of their leaves. The implication is that they are talking to each other, but again that’s a theme I haven’t developed. One for a later story!

I think it is in Penelope Farmer’s A Castle of Bone that the boy hero realises that although we think of trees as part of normal life, if we realise that they are giant plants they become altogether threatening and alien. It’s over 40 years since I read that book, but this image has stayed with me. Trees are not alien to this planet, but they are completely alien to us: they are living things that grow and operate with a completely different worldview from ours, massive chemical plants that use sunlight to split carbon dioxide and water and make cellulose. They can live for hundreds of years: to them, our puny little lives must seem contemptible. Until, that is, a human produces a chain saw.

 

 

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