Empyraeum Videoblog Episode Three : Setting

“The only constants you can rely on are death and change…”


So said a wise person who has since experienced at least one of those things, probably both at this point. People only tend to quote you a lot once you’re no longer around to say “No! That is not what I meant!” have you noticed that?


Change, though, it the one thing that most people appear to hate with a passion. One needs simply to take a look at social media today to see that. People tend to like a constant, steady progression of events they are comfortable with and can easily predict. Consider this, one of my favourite quotes;


‘People like to be told what they already know.  Remember that.  They get uncomfortable when you tell them new things.  New things…well, new things aren’t what they expect.  They like to know that, say, a dog will bite a man. That is what dogs do.  They don’t want to know that a man bites a dog, because the world is not supposed to happen like that.  In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds.’ 

The Truth, Terry Pratchett


Why do you think that an endless progression of the same kinds of story never loses popularity? I watch, at times from boredom, a certain kind of late night movie on a certain kind of TV channel. They are painfully predicatable. Girl moves to new town or returns to old town. Girl has painful past and hates everybody male. Person she hates the most she falls in love with. Joy and albino pigeons prevail. Or man and woman have perfect marriage. Odd stranger appears. Stranger fame from past and oddly convenient events send either them or one member of the marriage on unrealistic murder spree which helps innocent party meet love of life. It’s boredom, OK? I’ve finised work for the day and I have the falsely optimistic hope that this one will break the mould! My wife laughs and refuses to watch them with me because I faultlessly predict the outcome before it happens, I’m missing my market here, I could write these things! I don’t ned you intelligent people! I’m off to make my fortune recycling overused tat, farewell!


Still here? Good, because I could never do that. I feel the purpose of great writing, the kind that stands the test of time, lies not in recycling the same predictable storylines in a slightly different setting. No, it lies in taking the unexpected direction. OK, we have themes which get reused, ideas and archetypes, those are there to stay. We’ll discuss those later on, in an episode or two. What is the difference? Themes can be used to misdirect as well as be slavishly followed, themes can be useful tools. Aaron Debimski-Bowden is excellent at this; presenting a hero, showing us his or her journey, only to bring it crashing down around them in the end. Graham McNeill is skilled at this too. People escape reality through fiction, they have newspapers and television to tell them the same old tales over and over again. Fiction and, I have noticed, especially science fiction, exists to challenge people.
Sci-Fi has always been about pushing boundaries, going beyond the mundane, and exploring possibilities. Fantasy can be, too, but the genre has gotten quite tropy recently; full of what I call the ‘Pig-Farmer Prince’ type of thing, or the ‘Rise of Mary-Sues’. You know the kind, absolutely untrained around average person meets mentor, mentor reveals part of truth and trains them, they surpass mentor. Mentor dies or almost dies in battle with big bad (whch big bad survives and escapes from) and truth of average person is dramatically revealed. Average person is now nigh invincible and big bad’s defeat is only a matter of time and a lt of needless exposition and exploration of minor character arcs. Ok, not all sci-fi is immune from this either and we all like a bit of tropy here and there, don’t we? I’ve done a few of them myself, don’t think I’m hating on the stories that do this.
In essence you write the story you want to write, not the story you think everyone wants to read.


The Shaping


There is some debate over this one. Does story shape setting or does setting shape story?

Yes.

The answer is a little bit of both. This links back to our Consistency and Context topic from the last episode. You are building a world and a world has rules, many of which may well have to be broken throughout the course of the story, just to keep things interesting. Conflict – either that which the character creates or has inflicted upon them – is essential to moving a story along, after all. To my mind, though, the conflict and change inherent to it must be consistent with the rest of the world. It must be possible for such events to happen and not appear to be just thrown in for drama’s sake. It’s not a surprise if it doesn’t break a rule or two but it is not done well if you have have not been able to use the ‘tides’ of the world to foreshadow the coming tsunami either.


Back in Shakespeare’s time, he built his heroes with a ‘fatal flaw’, an element to the character which their experiences in the world had built into them. This flaw would cause the hero’s tragic fate in the end and it was foreshadowed throughout the tale. Just as the characters can have their ‘fatal flaws’ so too can the world itself. It can have personality, it can have moods and humours. In fact, the world is just another character you create. Like any other character, it reachs to and acts upon other characers and, if you write well, each is changed by the other. We know all about character development, don’t we? We know it is essential to a good story to have some kind of believable character development but what is it that makes that development believable? Your world does; the rules, laws, and norms of your world determine what is and is not possible. Everything you have written up that point contributes to your world and, if you’ve done it well, your readers will both feel that world and feel they are a part of it. The last thing you want them to do if fling your book at the wall with a cry or curse word because you pulled a surprise ‘twist’ out of your behind that doesn’t fit the world.


Look. Batman (from the original TV series) was always captured and placed in a needlessly elaborate trap. He would appear doomed but remember that he had just invented just the thing to escape with AND remembered to put it on his utility belt that morning. Terrible and tropy but it fit the world it took place in, people expected it and were disappointed if it were absent. The A-Team, always captured and locked up together in a location with all the raw materials and tools they’d need to create their manner of escape. We watched to see what outlandish contraption they’d build next.


If your world has smiling, indefinably ethnic old monks in it who may or may no have learned a secret yeti trick, their sudden return from certain death might be unexpected but not hated. You cannot have your character do something which your world has established is impossible without first saying why it is impossible and hinting at this one time maybe, so I have heard from a friend of a friend of a bloke I met in the pub, that it may well have been possible.


You can change what is classified as normal within the boundaries of your world as long as you make it consistent and constant within that world. You can have a world where men bite dogs habitually as long as you make it consistent and believable.


Most importantly of all, don’t be afraid to leave questions unanswered because the real world is quite literally full of those. Leaving a few gaps for the readers to fill with their own imagination is actually a great strategy because this invests them even further in your world. Why? If they start imagining answers to questions they have encountered about your world and inventing answers to said questions, then they believe in your world.


They believe in it and they understand it which means you did your job well!

When Truth and Fiction Collide

I found myself recently asking this very question and I was actually a shade concerned when I did. Now, I had known I was on a time-limit to get the PRELUDES of Enoch out and ‘live’ as it were. I’d known I had to get them uploaded before the events I predicted (not by magical powers, incidentally, by observation, deduction and experience) came to pass, before I could be accused of simply plagarising reality rather than creating it as I’m supposed to.

UPDATE; I was going to write a scene where Lucifer, working with Penumael, formulates a plan to discredit his puppet, Krampus (mimicking the President), using the outbreak of a disease. He was going to step in as the hero, exposing the intentional mismanagement and inadequacies of the former and take over in a suitably muscular and efficient fashion. Then I decided that this is probably what is going to actually going to happen before I reach that part of the book…also, considering recent events, it would be in rather bad taste…

But a writer cannot copy stuff that’s already happened, right?

I’d like you to stop for a moment and roll that question around in your head a few times; savour it, consider it and taste it well. It’s a stupid question isn’t it? Not a completely, throw someone out of the window stupid but, perhaps, more of a badly worded one. Plagarism. It is a word we have all dreaded since we started writing, back at school. It means we didn’t do the work or, at least, people think that. It means we stole what someone else created and took a shortcut. It means not only did we do that but we got caught and, as anyone who watches the news these days knows, getting caught is the really important part. If they don’t catch you, then it never happened!

Well, perhaps that is true….

A small nugget of interesting here. The Preludes of Enoch have been called, by some, a little prophetic.

Well fill me with radon, connect me to a battery and call me a lightbulb!

Can it be true? Well it certainly wasn’t intentional as such. I may have chosen to satirise, lambast and make light of a certain man who lives, shall we say, in a house of a shade produced by the reflection of almost all colors. That big one in America they make such a big deal about living in for 4-8 year periods! I may have objected to several aspects of him and thought to humourously present them in the PRELUDES. I may also have used certain events related to said fine gentlemen and statesman to illustrate key points Asmodeus was making and provided both examples and contrasts for he and Julian to talk about.

Shock. Horror. Fire. Fear. Foes. Awake. I just ‘borrowed’ from somewhere else right there. Anyone have an idea where?

Ten bonus points to the first correct guess. No I am NOT a prophet of any kind who sees the future. I may look toward the future an awful lot but I tend to not go further than either the coming Friday or my next payday (the one where I get money, not that lovely peanut thing I praise America for inventing). I have written some speculative fiction and wanted to make sure He-Who-Is-Named-After-British-Slang-for-a-fart didn’t self-destruct before I got the stories on the internet! Now of course I may gain some enemies from this course of action but who ever said it was a writer’s job to be popular with the establishment? I may even gain some nice letters on White House stationary. I may well do.

If you ask me, I might even admit to loving the idea of that prospect… How can I write a series of books which have, as one of their background themes, the actual end of everything without at least referencing the real world events which might well bring about such an apocalypse about before I am actually able to get the darn series finished?

The truth is stranger than fiction, they say and I often feel like I’m playing catch up with the real world! I’m not actually sure what I’d do in those circumstances. Probably look for a chisel and nice quiet cave to carve in…isn’t that something a prophet or at least a hermit would do? They ask.

Now, wouldn’t a prophet actually deny being a prophet just in case his prophecies go wonky and people blame him for that? Look at that dead French bloke! Someone claiming to be a prophet these days would be considered nuttier than a squirrel banquet.

Soooo, a real prophet would pretend not to be one in order to throw people off and have them not call him or her a nutter, right? So he said….ohhhh! Winky, winky, eh? EH?

Now, let’s move towards shall we say, the meat (sorry non-carnivores) of the proposal. This is one I see a lot of questions about and also insecurities from many in reference to. People ask me what they should write about for one. They ask me ‘I saw a story which was very similar to mine but I didn’t copy them’, they ask about fan-fic, about conforming to popular genres and tropes. “How to be original, how to be original, how to be original!” Goes the cry. “When it appears to have been done before?”. Easy answer to that one. Do it anyway.

There are truly no original ideas left, none. There may well be several unique interpretations, combinations and representations though. Every storyline is recycled. Every event, trope or situation already used. Some genres thrive on such predictable repetition, others really don’t. If you put your heart, your soul and, more importantly, your honest commitment into it, you’ll create something unique.

How many times has the mousy, overlooked and badly-treated young person shockingly turned out to be the only being capable of supposedly changing the world for the better and saving whatever species that individual belongs to from a variety of terrible things. Four or five allies will dramatically die along the way and many moments of self-discovery will take place but the Evil One will be destroyed and peace/prosperity/a New Order will result. The Chosen One will either fade into the shadows modestly or have an important role in the new government.

Sometimes there is even a twist when said Chosen One realises that the Just Change they fought for isn’t and the New Boss they trusted is just like the Old Boss; so they unexpectedly rebel against the New Boss in a dramatic finale never meant to be resolved.

Don’t write the sequel, please, let it hang!

Take a moment to make a list of just how many books, book series and movies I have just described the basic storylines of. Take ten, go for a snack, smoke, whatever you fancy but make sure you can write while you’re doing it ok? Now go over your list and count the entries. Multiply it by your birth year, add the number of times you were scared by the neighbour’s dog as a child (be honest) and divide the result by the sum of your list minus your birthday. I know what your answer is going to be, I know it exactly.

More of my secret hidden prophet abilities coming into play… Your answer was an awful lot, quite a few or lots. Maybe even loads and loads if you’re ambitious or old. I am truly amazing, right? Thank you, thank you, I know! Thank you.

Joking aside, almost every popular fantasy, YA, Sci-Fi and possibly romance book ever written, right? All those popular movies that start with a weak, ugly, overlooked or maltreated fellow/fellowess who develops godlike powers and…all that other stuff happens.

Most food is made of the same basic ingredients but the number of dishes which can be made from it are truly many! Same with writing. Look at the one with that young bespecktacled fellow who finds out he can do magic and even go to school for it and compare it to the young blonde fellow who harvested dew on a desert planet with two suns. One fights a snake faced fellow with an insecurity complex and the other an asthmatic bloke in a robot suit. Both win (oh crap! Spoiler alert, sorry!) and make their respective lands better places for almost everyone who lives there.

Except most of the ones who fought with or agreed with the bad guy…but we don’t talk about them really, do we? The point is this; people watched the movies, bought the books, became nerds for the story and mythology and so on. Nobody crossed their arms and harumphed about how like that other movie they’d seen the other occasion it was. Well, maybe there was one. There’s always one isn’t there? Are you ready? Here he is;


You can just feel that aura of the easily impressed one, can’t you? That is, indeed, the face of a man well-pleased with his entertainment choices! Or maybe not.

How would you guys describe his expression? He’s probably upset because that thing he automatically hates because young people like it made more money than he can even imagine how to fantasise about while being sure to be accurately representing it in the correct denominations and the right amounts thereof.

We just broke the poor fellow’s brain! He’ll be alright, he’s just gone for a quick lie down, after which he’ll find his box of blue biros, yellow legal pad and the contents of his wallet; currently some old receipts, an expired voucher or two and exactly $17 and 45 cents in mixed currency. Fifty bonus points for telling me what this fellow, let’s call him Earl, has in his wallet. What is the most likely or best combination of bills and coins for a man of Earl’s age and demeanour? What else is hiding in there that he forgot about? See what we’ve just done? We made Earl a person. We invented a character!

He is a stereotype but people like those, especially if you make them funny enough. Think about all the angry old man characters you have read about and seen in movies for a few minutes…they all turned out to be big softies in the end don’t they? Not Earl; Earl is an asshole and will never change.

Only kidding, Earl is decent enough really. Your story might have been done before, in it’s essence. It may have been done more times that Earl has itemised the contents of his wallet since he retired, twelve years ago.

More times than he has saluted the flag in his eighty-five years of life. More times even than he has complained about his left leg in winter. He nearly lost it to shrapnel and actually counts his blessings often. Same as he counts his shoes when he puts them on as well as the fact that he still possesses a foot to place inside each.

Motivations and backstory right there, see? If you wish to develop this budding Earl, I gift him to you. Treat him nicely and please don’t kill him off thoughtlessly, he served and was wounded for his country with honour.

He’s actually not a bad old sort when you get to know him. He loves pistachio nuts and if you bring him some of those or, better yet ice-cream in that flavour, he will regail you with many a stirring tale of his own! Brew him coffee with a pinch of salt in it and he will bless you as a brother. OK, let’s allow Earl his rest for now, we could pass all day learning about him.

Best to leave him with his calculations and his list. He’s going to spend a good few hours on this one! Quite the perfectionist, this fellow. Funny how that happens, right? We don’t so much invent as discover some characters. I have been surprised at least once by how some of them turned out!

Someone wrote a story very like yours before. A lot of someones in fact. Did they have your characters, your setting, your skills and your humour though? Take Earl, I described him one way, you might detail other traits he has that I missed. He’ll still be the same man, only described from different points of view. Just like that man whose skin-tone is often compared to both a fruit and a colour at the same time. Some see him as a hero and great man, the unifier of their land and saviour of their way of life. To sensible and intelligent people, though, he is an idiot.

Ok, joking again, I can’t help it! Every writer tells their own story, I can’t get upset because it’s not the same as mine. In fact, in retrospect, I should be grateful that it is not, right? See how it works now? That’s right, you already knew, you just hadn’t realised it yet.

Off you go, I look forward to seeing you on the shelves. Well, your book at least. If I see you on some shelves I might consider you a little strange, perhaps. Go and write it, I challenge you. Just be nice and respectful to Earl, OK?

Fake News & Alternate Facts.

(Owing to how things are going in the world today, I thought I would update and bring back this article I originally wrote in 2017, things have not really changed for the better. Please be aware that this article is satire and no offense is intended towards anyone except Them. They know who they are and also that I don’t care…)
 
We live in a world which is, as most of us are aware, dominated by information. Thanks to smart-phones, smart TV’s, tablets, phablets, crablets (that one isn’t real) – smart everything except for people – we are connected and appraised of events from around the corner or around the world twenty-four hours a day. We never miss a single thing. If a politician farts quietly while leaving an interview, somebody will tweet, twerp, fwerp or burp about it. You can guarantee it.
In fact, you can pretty much guarantee that should you get shot, murdered, assaulted or hit by a car these days, people will, thankfully be on hand with a telephone…to record your final moments and share them on social media later with a frowny face or two…maybe even a frowny face with a tear falling from one eye if you’re lucky. Did you think I was going to say that would call 999 / 911? Oh dear me, somebody has been living under a rock for a while, haven’t they now? That would indeed be responsibile and the right thing to do but how many likes would they get for that? How many followers? Come now! Who wants to accept responsibility these days?
This leads me onto my principle, actual point, I’ll be back to social media later on, don’t worry, it’s important but I have other things to cover first. Social media plays a very large role in what I’m about to talk about, actually a very large part so we will be coming back here.
Lets talk about lies, shall we? Untruths. Misdirections. Misleading statements. Falsehood. Or, as they are more popularly termed – in a very nice and nonjudgemental fashion – today, alternative facts.
I believe we used to call them lies but that could be ‘Russians’ hacking the Merriam Webster database in order to make me think that. That is what they do isn’t it? They want to destroy our freedom and replace it with their freedom which isn’t even communism any more so…..well…yes…right…ah…I don’t know! See that is just it, the age old trick; keep them confused and fighting while we control what they know and fight about.
 
Let me summarise The Rules right here;
  1. Identify the Enemy. Ideally someone who looks a little different, acts a little differently or speaks differently. Someone who can be held responsible for everything which has gone wrong since things were better; everything from The Economy to the store running out of peanut butter last night
  2. Identify their Agenda. They want to destroy something we consider important. Taco Tuesday for example. Those £%&*$£”* Mexicans want us to eat Tacos every day! They plan to introduce Fajita Law into America! Our Grandfather’s father died in the battle of Ruby Tuesdays to defend our right to American versions of foreign cuisine on set days of the week goddammit!
  3. Identify the Group which is “Right”. Make it so that one of the Values the target population holds dear is betrayed by not supporting The Group. Identify those who have left the Group as having copulated with the wives of goats from Afghanistani muslim, lesbian, mixed race, transsexual haters of Freedom and Truth!
  4. Identify your Stand. Choose something nebulous and undefinable. Identify how They are attacking said Value and the Group is defending it but don’t tell people how either is carrying out their activity. Choose something like Freedom, the Right to Bare Feet, Freedom to sacrifice cats to Anubis every 3rd Friday evening, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Just be sure to focus on the fact that Jesus or (diety of choice) is said to approve of said value.
  5. Alternate your Facts. Now you have established that the Donut Hating, Spanish Speaking, Grey-Haired, People from Around the Corner will do anything to destroy your right to eat a donut with enough calories to fuel a battalion of horses for breakfast and will take all of your donuts from you, we can now ensure that nobody will believe anything they say. They will lie to undermine our basic right to sugary fried dough snacks, they will not attack directly, that is not their style, they will try to discredit and negatively influence people about us. They will talk about the C-word and the F-word, they will bribe doctors to talk about calories, health and life expectancy but it will all be lies! Lies I tell you!
 
We used to call it propaganda and it was used to manipulate perfectly reasonable people into doing rather stupid and objectionable things. Nothing like what is going on today then right?
Well, OK, the fellows on the right ARE better dressed and somewhat more organised, this is true. Both groups, however are convinced that folks who don’t look like they do (for which said folks are extremely grateful each and every day) are responsible for every Ill of Society and that removal of said people (though they do not view them as people, oh no, not at all) will Make Everything Great Again, just like that. It’s magic. Actually I am not joking, it is!
The Sky is Blue.
 
We know the sky is blue, except when it’s night time or cloudy or any weather condition you would care to name. I used that example intentionally because it is very open to interpretation. There are a large number of people here who will come up with all kinds of alternatives and caveats. That is the point, an illustration for this excercise.
Let’s illustrate;
  1. The sky is blue. This is fact. During the day, they firmament surely does take on an azure cast which is rather apparent.
  2. But what about when it’s cloudy? Well, it’s still blue underneath the clouds isn’t it?
  3. It might be but how do you know? Well that’s what I heard and read and what they taught me.
  4. Oh what THEY taught you? Yes, my teachers and …
  5. No! Servants of the Donut Haters! Eh what?
  6. They want you not to think for yourself. How do you know the sky is always blue? It goes black at night. Maybe cloudy is the sky changing colour, right? Not all cloudy days are the same colour. Well that is true…
  7. And the Donut-Hating Transsexual orang-utans from China don’t like colors other than blue. They don’t? But why?
  8. Nobody knows. They do say that Donuts make blue look bad on people who eat them and only want people who don’t eat donuts to be able to wear blue. But I like blue, it brings out my eyes they tell me. My friends and family I mean. Good Donut Eaters I can trust!
  9. That’s right! They are trying to take both out Donuts and the colour blue away from us! I have heard too that they want to change the colour of the sky in order to keep blue for themselves. They’ll start with our Donuts but they’ll want waffles next, then churros… No! They can’t do that! Hows can we stop them?
 
Ok, ok I may have simplified slightly for cheap comedic cracks but the principles are sound. You’ve seen it today. Something will happen and the truth of the situation is obvious right? Some guys buys a load of assault weapons and murders innocent people, the answer is simple; why does no-one else see that? How could people think that living exclusively on donuts and nothing else will make you look like Arnold Swarzenegger in his prime, who could possibly believe that to be true? Then you see people who do and will vehemently defend that point of view against all detractors, defend it more viciously that they would defend their own children. They will also defend as strongly ALL opinions of their Group from anyone who does not belong to it and may be a hidden traitor. Lets us entertain ourselves with some examples from real world social media interactions but altered to protect anonimity and to add amusement;
  1. You think yellow frosting on strawberry donuts is just silly, Dunky-Dream are just being ridiculous….How dare you! Dunky-Dream are the defenders of donut freedom and protect us from the evils of salad munchers who will take all our blue away! What are you doing? Do you want they to be blue so that only you and your lot can eat them?
  2. Roland Runce forcing a diabetic to eat a donut on television is evil and he really is a bad President! You hate donuts and you hate Jesus! Jesus ate 12 donuts a day, it’s in the Bible, Mister, you go read that! People who don’t eat donuts shouldn’t be living here! Let them go back to Diabetia or wherever they come from! Hail Runce! Make Donuts Breakfast Again!
  3. Maybe square donuts would be cool? I mean they’d be easier to box and carry around…Maybe Bob Amba has a good point…Square donuts? You are going to Hell sir! Donuts have been round since they were invented in Jesus times because the Earth was round back then . The hole in the middle is to remind us that we are always missing something, God’s love! Love God and love donuts and love America! If you don’t like your donuts round, get out you freedom hating, homosexual cat sniffer! Bob Amba destroyed America and now Runce will save us!
  4. Dunky-Dream doesn’t sell diabetic, gluten-free diet donuts since Runce became President. Five people have died now from mistakenly eating the wrong donut and Runce says nothing! I suppose you want all your Anti-American donuts to be blue too don’t you so Ordinary Americans can’t eat them, only your 1%! Runce is making donuts better for everyone, not like Bob Amba making folks eat all those fancy donuts that don’t even have real sugar in them! Trying to make normal decent folks eat that evil! Thank God and Baby Jesus for sending Runce to lead us!
  5. Blue donuts for Freedom! Runce is trying to make the blue ones evil and replace them all with yellow ones. Stop him before it’s too late! God save President Ronald Ray Runce from people like you! Refusing to eat yellow donuts shows that you hate freedom and disrespect your veterans! You want us all to be muslim communists who only eat falafals or something like that! Those rich black fellows who ate blue donuts on TV during the Dunky-Dream anthem should be fired! Stand up and eat your yellow donuts with pride!
  6. The new Yellow Donut Frosting has a chemical in it which makes us all like cats! Dog lovers unite before They try to wipe us out! You and your nasty smelly butt-sniffers can keep your nasty blue donuts from North Korea! You just want to end freedom and force your blue on everyone! You want to free up the cats so that your Chinese masters can eat them! Defend your cats and buy my special Cats for Runce yellow collars today! Miaows for Runce!
As you may see, there are crazies on both sides of the argument, those identified as the Enemy or Sympathisers of theirs, starts to pick up ideas and behaviours either intentionally contrary to those of the Group or ones the loudest defenders of the Group (or their pet politicians) say the enemy displays – sometimes just as a protest, others to be contrary. Just because they can, you know? Stockholm syndrome is incredible when you notice it actually happening. The Left is behaving in the ways the Right expect them to and vice versa.
Now I have been messing around here a fair bit but I hope you are seeing my points, right? My manner may be less than serious but my point is very serious.
We have Two Truths out there, two versions of the same facts but neither of them is actually accurate. The Left ascribes actions to The Right and accuses them of doing this, that and the other. The Right ascribes actions to The Left and accuses them of going here, there and everywhere. There is some truth to the points of both sides and the current choice for President is far from ideal, there is no denying that one. A failed business man and ex-reality TV star? Not really ideal qualifications for The Big Job now right? Right? Well…let’s think about that one. Recognise this man?
 
tony-blair-9214379-1-402Most of you will at least know what Tony Blair used to be (The Prime Minister of the UK for those who don’t). Not many will know what he does now. Suffice it to say that he’s set for life. I know some of your will see where I am going and say “But no! Kennedy started that!”. You’re right, he got the experiment going but it wasn’t the right time yet. That’s not why they killed him but it also was. Now we’re ready. In 1997 we were ready. The internet was just taking off, social media hadn’t taken off yet but communication was changing in ways no-one had anticipated. What old Tony started was what we could call “Cult of Personality Politics”. We get the young, dynamic and change-bringing upstart who is going to better the world and everyone goes crazy! The year he (they’re usually men) wins, voter turnout had never been higher, nor had hope or optimism. Realk Change is Coming. The heavy boot of the Right is removed and Ordinary People can rise again. Isn’t that wonderful? Only the change does not come. The Bright Young Man turns out be be rather disappointing and the usual crowd of old and boring politicians berate us with wagging fingers for our stupidity.
Then The Right tried it and look what we ended up with. The Saviour from Oppression was always a tactic of the Left but The Right realised they were drowning so they did something amazing; they adapted. The republican party backed a horse unlike any it had backed before. They actually seized the zeitgeist of today and it worked!
Let’s take a step back and think about it;
  1. Ask anyone for their Top 10 TV shows of today and I bet you money that 85-90% of them will mention at least one reality TV show.
  2. Ask anyone for a way to contact them and they’ll either give their email or Facebook.
  3. If you need to locate somebody how do you do it (you use Facebook or Google at least).
  4. What happen when you leave the house without your phone these days?
  5. How many people, hold up your hands – brothers and sisters for you are safe here – admit to their first thought when the power goes out as being along the lines of “how will I charge my phone/have WiFi?” or something similar?
Be honest. I know I have done it. I also know I don’t watch ‘real TV’ anymore because it’s been taken over by incessantly cloned, talentless drones doing exactly what we do every day but in a exaggerated manner and in the presence of significantly more money than you or I will ever see. I admit to getting into ‘Facebook Scraps” and doling out dire warnings online about the dangers of Trump, what the change he is bringing would really be. I admit it, I have done it. I have berated his ‘foolish’ supporters for their short-sighted blindness. I came to realise how pointless these arguments actually were. As vapid as a reality TV talent show star; here today, gone tomorrow. The world, it turns out, has developed the attemtion span and (an alleged fact) memory of a goldfish.
 
I have come to realise that it is not the politicians we need to be worried about though; they’re all going to be the same from here on in because those with the real power have made us want it that way.
Think about it. Politician X does all kinds of horrible things and it gets forgotten about. If a scandal which could threaten deeper investigation and unmask the real villain too soon appears, out comes a distraction, a red rag waved in the public’s face until they forget all about it. They will rage and fight both sides of the argument, they will insult each other, they will be divided and conflicted. Right where they are needed to be. You remember what propaganda is for? That’s right, it’s for control. Let’s finish for this week by upsetting just about everyone or, at least 75-80% of you. Let’s look at how propaganda was developed and used by politicians of the Left and Right over the last twenty years. How neither “side” is winning. Neither side needs to, we just need to keep thinking about sides…Left & Right, Liberal & Conservative, etc. etc…Consider this scenario. It might be fiction, maybe itr’s exaggerated, it may even be the undiluted truth….you tell me. I’m a fiction writer so how could you know for sure?
Phase 1: In 1997, Tony Blair’s Labour government started it. Nominally to prevent upset to minorities but soon seen as overdone, Political Correctness was born. One could not call a fat person fat, a black person black, a glass-wearing person short-sighted. One could not point out the disabilities of the disabled. The N word was relegated to where it belonged. Now a lot of this was good. Racism is NEVER acceptable and never should have been. Sexism neither. It went too far though but that was the point.
 
(Stage 1: Discredit the Left. Success. Left = Big Governement, Nanny State, too much control, letting immigrants take over. Political rights over actual right. War on Christmas and the Church. White people less important than black, other religions less important than Christians, layabouts who don’t want to work, just pop out more children are more important than working people who pay taxes.)
Phase 2: In 2009 Barack Obama became the first black man to be President in a country where black people could not even vote intil the 1970’s and Jim Crowe laws were still in effect until rather recently indeed. He ran on a raft of equality encouraging legislation and policy. The downtrodden and ignored dared to hope. Little did they realise that Blair did this in the UK and had left ofice just two years previously. He had been replaced with ineffective and pointless suits without charisma. Obama’s Presidency, of course, saw improvments in the lives of black people, immigrants and the disadvantaged. It of course had a more Libreral lean to policy. He tried to bring free healthcare to all but failed. He tried to bring reforms to many areas but failed. Like Blair he promised big and delivered little. Many people say he gave America a political correctness greater than Blair gave to the UK.
Phase 3: The downtrodden are no longer ethnic minorities or people of this, that, or the other. Well, actually they are because they still don’t have great jobs, prospects or mansions yet. However, other people are ALSO downtrodden, still not paid attention to and they are starting to realise it. Economic conditions created by banks and other entitities outside of the control of ANY government are responsible but it’s considered wiser for each side of the political spectrum to blame the other. The era of taking no responsibility begins. Assignment of blame is seen as infinitely more important than fixing the actual problem So, a saviour of the downtrodden and the ignored who also have money emerged! He would go on to polarise world opinion and politics like none before him but he would be popular no matter what he did. Why? He and those who are behind him have perfected ALL which we have detailed so far today. They have touched the vein of the people who felt left out by the inclusiveness and fairness of the previous governments. They dislike the ones said loud voices blame. They feel excluded and hurt by not being the center of attention, of having to share the stage with others. They are afraid but they don’t want to show the others that they are afraid; neither side does.
Phase 4: Yet to come. A new young and dynamic saviour will come to rescue us from the excesses the last saviour and his folks. He will save the oppressed and bring us back from the brink of war and we will love him (or her) for it. The the cycle will begin again because they don’t want us getting on. Oh no, that would not be good. We might start actually thinking if we did that!
So my point today?
 
We know that the world is changing but most of us don’t realise how drastically. We have incredibly advanced communication technology but a large proportion of the population does not know how to use it, let alone how it works.
 
We have accusations and, possibly, proof of agencies getting involved in politics and using our willingly shared data to manipulate our perceptions of reality.
 
We have both sides of the political spectrum accusing the other side of ‘fake news’ and the peddling of lies for their advantage. We have more conspiracy theories running wild than ever before but now they are political. In fact, the changing social environment has made everything and everyone political.
 
The population has been truly divided into tribes as never before in peacetime. You are either ‘for’ this person and those who agree with them or you are ‘against’ them, debate has become a thing of the past in this age of absolutes. One cannot be in the ‘middle of the road’ any more.
 
In one generation, we have had one President’s policies raise one group up and his successor’s blame them for all of their ills and drop them back down.
 
Instead of bringing us closer together “They” have pushed us further apart.
 
Conclusion
 
Some of you are writers, you make your living thinking as others do not. Some of you are bloggers, you do the same. Most of you are intelligent and therefore already know how to think for yourselves and this may well not reach the ones who will not. But for those of us who do; Left or Right; think about this; nobody is right because nobody can actually win. Think of the tic-tac-toe problem in the original War Games movie. For Left to win, Right must lose and vice versa. There is never a way to please ALL the people. Change will always be resisted, people will always want to belong to one team or another, it’s human nature. Maybe though, if we pause and ask ourselves this; who is profitting most from the current state of affairs? Then you’ll see who is winning and who is really in control.
 
How can we, peddlers of fiction, function if we don’t even know what the truth is any more?
Then you’ll realise our world of fighting online over stupidities is just stupid. They’re just keeping you distracted from what really matters while you are bashing moslems on a forum; berating a christian on facebook; fighting homophobes on instagram. Your bill are getting no cheaper, your gas no more economical, your salary isn’t increasing, your quality of life is no better, your rights as a human being is not better, your bills are rising each and every year. When are you going to realise? You are not winning and they are not here to help you?

Upsetting the Established Order

“My words will either attract the strong of mind or offend the weak one”
– Unknown
 
“What is freedom of expression? Without freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
– Salman Rushdie
 
From the very first draft of the very first chapter, we realised that The Chronicles of Enoch were going to offend some people, perhaps a lot of people. We know that the topics we are going to be handling are some sensitive ones.
 
We ar, however, of the long-held opinion that it is, effectively, the job of the artist to challenge how people think about and perceive what is around them. It is our job not only to entertain but to challenge ideas and lead our readers (in my case) to ask questions; not only about the topics we dramatise, but our words themselves. A true writer wants debate and opposition because that means people are thinking and they are talking.
 
“As a writer, you know you are doing your job well when they try to stop you from doing it.”
– Anon
 
If we are faced with controversy, that means we are challenging what needs to be challenged but, of course, as with everything else, there are lines that should not be crossed and consequences for crossing them.
 
Lines in The Sand
 
We know that we are supposed to defend freedom of expression and challenge societal norms. We know that controversy is part of our reason of being in many cases. We remember those who stood up when no-one else would and wrote what nobody else seemed to dare to.
 
We do indeed have the right to write what we want to, it is enshrined in the values of both Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression.
 
I take my stick and point at the sand.
 
Just because you can does not mean that you should.
 
I draw the line and wait for the inevitable questions.
 
  1. Graphic murder and graphic rape. I do not think we should try to force these into the mainstream. I don’t mind offending people so I will just say it; if you enjoy reading that, you might consider asking yourself why. Reading is meant to be a pleasure but taking pleasure from such things is…well…now, horror and gore have their place but pure gratuitousness for its own sake does, in my opinion, not
  2. Graphic descriptions of the abuse of children. Though a horrifying trend and something which needs to be addressed and dealt with, we don’t need to know about it, we don’t need to read about it
 
Now, there are more, probably, but for me, those are the only reasons I would have for throwing a book in the bin and never returning to it. There is a worrying trend these days to represent these things, especially among new writers looking to make waves and use controversy and shock value to get immediate attention for their work but I ask them, is that the reputation you want to have as an artist?
 
Of course, my list of lines I do not cross will be different to other people’s, that is normal and part of the process of learning.
 
Some say religion cannot be touched. Others say that gender identity or race must be addressed and the book’s characters inclusive. Fair enough. I wouldn’t tolerate racism or homohobia/sexism personally so no characters I write who practise that will come to a good end.
 
 
The Controversy List
 
There will be several things which will offend the tender sensibility in Darkness Within alone. Let me tell you about them;
 
  1. The Roman Catholic Church, American Mega Church Evangelism, and most of the ‘Christian Cults’ of the USA were set up and are directly managed by Lucifer and his cohorts. The idea of this was to muddy the message and lead humans away from The Creator in order to prove his point. The demon Sammael is resident in Rome and is the Pope’s closest adviser. Those who follow almost all branches of modern Christianity are, to a greater or lesser degree depending, following the Devil, which is ironic.
  2. The angels are not pure and unblemished beings. Towards humans they are distant and slightly disdainful. The long lists of moral laws we have tacked on to the whole thing interest neither them nor their Father even vaguely. The clothes we wear, the buidling we go to on which day and what we call it is irrelevent to them, very much beneath their notice.
  3. That the US military, as well as the militaries of most developed nations are under Lucifer’s control, Abaddon uses them as a money making machine and sometimes as simple entertainment.
  4. All of our conspiracy theories, fancy fantasies of New World Orders, aliens, faked moon landings, dodgy assassinations, etc are all the invention of the being who came up with internet porn.
  5. A certain US politician in high office , who is replaced by a neutrotic demon bears quite a resemblence to a real politician and may or may not make satirical milage at his expense.
  6. The modern Bible is essentially an invention designed to keep people both confused and oppressed. Lucifer is responsible for most of it, togther with his fellow high-ranking demons. They added bits, removed parts, brutally edited others. They did anything they could to remove any clear message or possibility for confusion.
 
That is just the beginning, though. To me, everything is fair game as long as it does not cross my line in the sand or be designed to specifically hurt people.
 
The Politically Correct Trap
 
Now, before we start, there is absolutely nothing wrong in treating people of any minority or anyone who does not conform to what society calls ‘the norm’ the same way as everybody else. I encourage and applaud those who face struggle every day.
 
Here we agree, right?
 
Good…
 
Being aware of offending and conscious adaptation of your behaviour to avoid that are great but, as with everything, it must be a choice. Let’s be honest, there are ignorant and stupid people in the world, quite a few of them, who are content to blame others for their woes and hold very outdated opinions, not at all up to speed with society as a whole.
 
That is their inalienable right. You cannot force their worldview to converge with yours. There are going to be people who have highly inaccurate opinions about Black people, Asian people, LGBTQIA+ people in all their beautiful variety, Jews, Liberals, Republicans, Southerners, people from any country that is not theirs or hold any opinion which differs to their own….
 
With people existing in their infinite and all-splendoured variety, ignorant, hateful, and stupid also exists, it is unavoidable. They were either born that way or some negative life experiences may have made them that way. You can’t look at them and know.
 
You can protest, you can campaign, you can be involved in activism and work to change opinions on the matter but you cannot force people to agree with you or be unable to voice opinions they feel are justified.
 
That is what led to Brexit, that is what led to Donald Trump (not Krampus)!!
 
Look, I’m in my mid 40’s and I remember when it was fine to make racist jokes on TV and have white actors dressed up as black or Indian people in mockery and it was ok. Gay people were exaggerated and exposed to hilarity. Famous LGTBQIA+ people took the secret of their sexuality and identity to their grave, never being able to come out in public.
 
All that has changed for the better. We’re not there yet but we’re improving.
 
Education, you see, that’s how it works. People believe this, so you teach them that and the smart ones learn. The stupid or wilfully ignorant ones will not.
 
It’s just like school, college, university, etc. Everyone (in theory) attends the same classes, lectures and tutorials, everyone has access to the same books, everyone receives equal exposure to the same material but not everyone passes the final exam and those that pass do not all receive the same grades.
 
You cannot force everyone to pass. No law, no rule, and no amount of careful campaigning or protesting will encourage some people to either increase their grades or pass. They just don’t have it in them
 
You could even say that they can’t help who they are…
 
Now, stop before misquoting me because I am not defending bigots of any kind; judging anyone because of aspects, characteristics or behaviours they cannot help is always wrong.
 
Do you hate your child for misbehaving or placing themselves in danger? No, you educate them and present them with consequences. They tend not to do it again after that.
 
How Lucifer Drove in the Wedge
 
Now you see how he did it do you not? Identify differences and work on ignorance across the board. Make people scared of the different, feed the tribalism. He programmed these fears and hatreds deep into his religions and doctrines. The Dark Ages were one of his greatest victories because he bred a hatred of education and love of ignorance deep into the bones of our civilisation.
 
Before then, wisdom, even the folkesy kind those ‘witches’ had a lot of, were respected and looked up to. Being able to learn and grow was seem as a positive thing. Instead the devil replaced such beliefs that all those things came from him when the opposite was actually true.
 
Anything which could keep humans content and united was forbidden; anything that kept them divided and secretly guilty was encouraged. All the things we had in common were turned into sins and silly rules that were impossible to follow were introduced. Nobody could abide by all of them but that did not stop those who slavishly followed the obvious ones from looking down theirs noses at and feeling superior to those judged not to be doing so.
 
It all boils down to fear ultimately…
 
It was actually rather brilliant when you think about it. Afterall, feeling proud and superior for what someone else has done is an essential part of human nature.
 
Take a look at sports as an example; your team wins and you celebrate and mock supporters of the other team although you contributed nothing at all to the endeavour. It’s the same with religion, your team is deemed to be the correct one so it’s OK to do whatever you like to supporters of the other team when all you do is show up once a week.
 
The same thing can apply to socio-ethnic groups; yours is determined to be the dominant one but what do you do to contribute? You just show up and wear the t-shirt. as it were.
 
Conclusion
 
Controversy is impossible in the artist’s world; we tend to think quite differently to other people and look an explanation of why things are as they are. We tend to think not in straight lines on curves or, at times, more complicated forms. Often we are misfits and therefore have sympathy and understanding of those that society applies the same label to; those that refuse to simply sit down and accept the shoddy treatment they are receiving as “their lot in life”.
 
We see the world as everyone else sees it and decide that is not enough, so we use words, sounds, paints, and other materials to show it in a way be like better and dearly wish that others see it too as they share our hard work.
 
It is no coincidence that artists tend to be the first people to dictator rounds up during his revolution or one of many purges. We court controversy, are rebellious, and like to challenge the established way of doing things. We do not fit in with our heads down and question nothing; we question everything.
 
Nobody likes it when someone starts pointing out the holes…
 
The Chronicles of Enoch, over the course of our research, managed to find an awful lot of them and we intend to pick at each and every one.

The Eternal Balance

“Everything is about balance…your breath is about the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood; your natures depend upon the balance of chemicals you never see and rarely understand. Balance is everything. Put too much weight on one side and the balance will not only break, it will take everything else with it…”
Balance. Light with Darkness. Life with Death. Good with Evil. Happiness with Sadness…you can add any that you like to the age-old formula of balance. People die so that new people might be born. The sun sets that the darkness may have its time. Evil rises so that good may rise in turn to oppose it. Swings and see-saws, a model of Newton’s Cradle as large as the universe.
Cause. Effect. Cause. Effect. Cause. Effect. Cause. Effect.
Nothing happens in isolation, nothing exists in isolation, every action generates reciprocity. Every. Single. One.
The Great Conductor
There are numerous reactions from the moment one understands this principle. We are not talking about any particular religious dogma (or catma even) here, let me make that clear. I understand the Chronicles have been thought of a work of a religious nature but it is not. Not really. Yes, we involve religious themes but it would be facile to attempt to chronicle the history of humanity without the, because, as you will see, humans have worked very hard to make them a part of their journey, to assign identity to the Great Conductor of this grand concerto.
One side effect of looking at the universe as, we assert, it actually is allows one to realise that one is both highly important and completely irrelevant at the same time. At a local level, your actions could have far-ranging consequences, obviously but out there, if there is anyone else out there, then they’ve probably no more heard of the Planet Earth than we have the Planet Oog-Wah-Groo-Gah. We might show up in their equivalent of movies and books sometimes but nobody really believes in us.
This is the perspective one needs to consider for this next part. Let us say there is some Great Conductor, an intelligence – divine or otherwise – behind and managing the universe; making surer the right atoms spin in the right directions, keeping everything balanced so that it doesn’t just collapse in on itself. Let’s just say that this being is either directly responsible for the material manifestation of the universe (important distinction, I feel) or the first result of it. What would such a being be like?
I have always had this problem with religious systems; a being who can create everything we see out of nothing is not going to be some list-keeping, petty-minded, old man with a beard in the clouds. To claim to worship this being, acknowledge Him as supreme and so forth, only to go on and assign Him very human traits and behaviours, is a little hypocritical to my mind.
To my mind, this beings is going to be impossible to understand from our highly limited viewpoint.; His (or Its) thoughts may take a thousand years or a millisecond to complete. He may see in dimensions we cannot even imagine. We don’t know and, to be frank, we never will.
Religion always has been and always been a tool to control the masses with menaces, that’s why they hate any signs of spirituality.
The Balance
As we said before, everything is about and in a constant state of balance. Down to the deepest level we can look at everything seeks balance, it is one of immutable laws of the universe.
Darkness cannot exist without light or, at least, you don’t know it is darkness unless you have light to compare it to. Let us take someone who has never seen light (as unlikely as that is, many blind people can detect changes in light even if they cannot see them), they have lived their entire lives in complete, unilluminated darkness. To them, the darkness simply IS. It does not have or need a name because they have no need to compare it or identify it, it is there. It is the same as fish (if they have language) not really talking about the air or land much.
We need one to identify the other. We need one to oppose the other but we do not, can not ever let one of them win.
Think of Newton’s famous Third Law of Motion;
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
There is a universal truth to that; wherever there is light, there is shadow. Your body will cast a shadow on them sunniest of days.
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
Something has to give, right? Not necessarily.
 
Agent of Balance
To move into the realm of fiction for a moment, let us consider the Chosen One trope. It essentially goes like this;
  1. One force, that of Darkness, gains prominence and threatens to take over everything/kill everyone/conquer Light.
  2. Previous attempts to stop them from doing that not only failed but made them more powerful
  3. A Chosen One is discovered who can, usually through sacrifice or, at least, a willingness to do so, can topple the leader of badness and restore the Light.
Now we apply this to Star Wars, because we self-confessed nerds. Anakin Skywalker (he who becomes *SPOILER ALERT* the asthmatic cyborg we all love) was called The Chosen One and he was, it was alleged, created by the mythic Force in order to restore Balance to it.
Now, our friends the Jedi (except, perhaps, our small, wise, green friend with the grammar problem) thought that this meant he was to destroy the Dark Side of the Force and raise the Light Side to peace and dominance.
That is not, however, how it works and you would think an order of wise, knowledgeable warrior-monks would have figured it out by now. One cannot exist without the other. In order for balance to happen, Dark and Light must be equal.
Let us move back to combining Newton’s 3rd Law with our force and object quote. I push against a wall and, if it’s mass is great enough, it will, effectively, push back (or resist me). If the immovable object and irresistible force are equally balanced, they will remain in a state of conflict forever, in theory.
The Chosen One is never meant to be the champion of one side or another; he or she is the Champion of Balance. In the Star Wars Prequels, the Jedi Order was too powerful and needed to be reduced, the Agent of Balance helped make this happen. In the original trilogy, the representative of Darkness was too powerful and needed to be removed so the Agent of Balance again stepped in and sacrificed himself in order to restore Balance.
The darkness was not, however, gone forever while the heroes celebrated, completely failing to ask where the vicious cannibal teddy bears got all fireworks from. It remained and always will, right where it belongs, in the heart of man.
Neither One nor The Other
Or neither one nor t’other as my granddad used to say, which I much prefer the sound of.
You may well have gathered by now that the probable main/central theme of The Chronicles of Enoch is that of Balance. There is always Light in Darkness and Darkness in Light. Lucifer cannot win but neither can The Creator.
The Creator could no more destroy Lucifer than Lucifer can destroy The Creator. The universe would not allow them to do that because, to do so would result in imbalance. We need evil, we need darkness, we need a force to oppose.
If one is truly moral, truly good, truly committed to Light one is probably the immovable object. Evil or darkness, in this case, will be the irresistible force; they are in constant opposition but, deep down, each knows that they will never, ever win because, if they do, they will take the universe out together with their opponent.
Being Realistic
Now, the thing about Chosen Ones is that there is only ever one of them.
Ordinary people are not unimpeachably good or irredeemably evil. Religions, to come back to them, capitalise upon this fact by generating guilt for all of your daily peccadilloes. We are all a work in progress because your average human does not, unfortunately, come with an instruction manual.
We will all commit acts of petty evil and middling good on a daily basis; holding a door open for the person behind us, dropping some change in a homeless person’s hat, cutting queue or not telling the shop assistant that they gave us too much change or didn’t charge us for that small item.
We do not, however, have a bearded elderly gentleman in a bed sheet sitting there either shaking his head or smiling as he makes notes on a very large scroll.
We are one hundred billion billion atoms in the fabric of the universe dancing to a tune that we cannot hear.
Notice that we are making no moral judgements or arguments on this topic, that is intentional. We have our beliefs but no guarantee that they are correct and, contrary to gossip, do not know everything. Nobody died and make us the judge of anyone.
Conclusion
So, balance…it is, essentially, everything.
The battle between Good and Evil, Brahma and Vishnu, God and the Devil, Odin and Sutur, Increase and Entropy, is eternal and an essential part of all that is.
The hero or Chosen One will ultimately triumph because that is the way of things but, perhaps, his or her Light will be stained somewhat in the process because, in order to defeat the Big Bad, they had to cross a line they never thought they would and are thus, revealed to not be as pure as they thought. Perhaps they were never as pure as they thought they were.
That may well be why we need what we call the bastard; the person that is neither good nor evil but a bit of both, in the middle, doing what they know best. In our case Asmodeus can do all the things that Sable could not but that are important, essential even.
Sometimes your enemy’s enemy is your friend and, on rare occasions, the person you thought was your enemy is, in fact, the friend you thought you did not have.
That is the thing about balance, it does not care about how you feel about things, it only cares about the result and will us both sides to get what it wants.