Release: Six Short Stories

I’m thrilled to write that my new eBook, Six Short Stories is out now! Below is the cover as well as a short extract and blurb. I’m so excited by this release, I just can’t wait to see what you guys think!

I die the same way every time. A bombardment of radioactive dust and debris, and the alarm begins to sound. React, retract, jettison are the instructional words the chief drills into our heads every day, but there’s a problem with the hydrogen capture arm and the mechanism refuses to bring it home, refuses to blow the couplings too. That just leaves React. But here’s my problem: whilst I am easily skilled enough to manoeuvre the arm (all 123m of it) and receive the minimal amount of damage possible, I don’t care to. Sure, it takes a lot of concentration, effort, and quick thinking, but that’s not why. I want the situation to play out naturally, I want the arm to succumb to the nebula’s will and take whatever the gigantic cloud of gas, dust and other assorted refuse throws its way. I don’t entirely understand why I let it happen, but I always do. The arm buckles and fractures, explodes, and then I die.

A collection of six incidents, memories and curiosities. Some of these short stories are happy, some of them are not so happy. It’s difficult to tell whether any of them are related, such quandaries are never resolved easily.

Includes the award-winning, X.

A huge thanks to Jason Croxall, filmaker, for his wonderful cover design!

Six Short Stories is available via Amazon UK now.

February 8, 2015Leave a comment

#SciFact

As some of you may know, I tweet about all things science over at @UnpopSci. I particularly love posting some of the fun science-related factoids I stumble across during any given day. So much so, I thought I’d bring a few of my all time favourites together in this blog post. If you have any amazing facts of your own, be sure to let me know!

#SciFact(s)

An adult human is comprised of roughly 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (7 octillion) atoms.

The dinosaur with the longest name is Micropachycephalosaurus. It means ‘tiny thick-headed lizard’.

Seahorses mate for life. They meet every morning to reaffirm their bond with an elaborate courtship display.

The technical term for a baby pterosaur is a ‘flapling’.

Some starfish can regenerate an entirely new, fully functional body from just one severed arm and a portion of the central disc.

Trees are 90% air! Contrary to popular belief, trees receive only 10% of their nutrition from soil and the rest from air.

Every second approximately 100 lightning bolts strike our planet.

The asteroid belt found between Mars and Jupiter is most likely the outcome of another planet failing to form.

On a reasonably clear night, you can see stars 19,000,000,000,000,000 (19 quadrillion) miles away.

Roughly 60% of the human brain is fat.

Fire isn’t a thing/object, it’s an event.

Stars don’t twinkle. It’s actually turbulence in our air which makes stars appear to blink.

Giant squid have eyes as big as basketballs, and the largest specimen reported was 60ft long and weighed 1980lbs.

 

Pretty cool, right? If you find any incredible facts of your own, do let me know in the comments section or message me on Twitter!

January 30, 2015Leave a comment

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Right from the foreword and first chapters of A Monster Calls, it’s clear that the novel is not so much about the tree monster pictured on the wonderful front cover, as the destructive influence of cancer. The central theme is all the more pertinent as Siobhan Dowd, the author credited with the inception of A Monster Calls, tragically died from the disease long before she could finish the book.

Whilst two of Dowd’s completed novels were published posthumously (Bog Child and Solace of the Road), A Monster Calls needed a champion to see it through to publication, and so Patrick Ness, author of the award winning Chaos Walking series, agreed to take the reins and finish it.

The book begins with Conor O’Malley, teenage son to a single mother battling cancer, awakening from a recurring nightmare to find an ancient and well-versed monster at his bedroom window. The monster eventually threatens to eat Conor alive if he doesn’t divulge the secrets of his nightmare – the details of which Conor has vowed never to tell another living soul. Crucially, though, Conor is not in the least bit frightened of his visitor.

Conor’s lack of fear might seem slightly odd, but it’s a powerful mechanism for showing just how dire the thirteen-year-old’s circumstances are. His life is on the verge of being destroyed and the daily horror of his mother’s illness far outweighs anything the monster can threaten to do. Conor’s situation becomes even more harrowing as the development of his mother’s cancer and the effects of her chemotherapy are seen through his eyes and memories. During these intimate moments, Ness conveys the emotions involved with a suitably deft touch, and it should be noted that Conor’s thoughts infiltrate the descriptive aspect of the prose exquisitely, flavouring the lyrical text without ever saturating it.

A non-illustrated version of A Monster Calls exists but Jim Kay’s artwork is a fine addition to the book, forging a dark and moody atmosphere to accompany the excellent writing. The larger illustrations (often double-page spreads) mostly involve the monster or scenes from his stories, and this only adds to the anticipation of his arrival. Whilst it’s possible older readers might be skeptical of a fully illustrated book, it’s worth remembering that prominent authors such as Philip Pullman have been vocal about the merits of illustration, and the interplay between artwork and text here is wonderful. To put it simply, the illustrated version of A Monster Calls is unmissable.

A Monster Calls is available through Amazon UK now.

January 25, 2015Leave a comment

The end of us

From the mighty Torosaurus (pictured) to the itty-bitty Tobias’ caddisfly, 98% of all species ever to have existed on Earth are now extinct. Whilst it seems unthinkable that humanity is no different to our doomed predecessors, our days are probably numbered too. So, how might humanity meet its end? Let me count the ways …

Firstly, and this isn’t so bad, humans may just evolve into something else. You might think that, with all of our medicine and technology, there is no longer any driving force (selection pressure) for the process, but scientists are still recording subtle changes in human biology such as the lengthening of the female reproductive period. There are also arguments that advanced civilisation is accelerating evolution by allowing a huge global population. Amongst other things, this large population means it’s more likely that some of us may be able to adapt to any dramatic changes in our future environment. Realistically, however, a group of humans truly evolving into something else would require interbreeding between different regions to cease for tens of thousands of years, so it seems pretty unlikely.

Another potential conclusion could come in the form of an asteroid strike. It’s a widely accepted that the sudden demise of the dinosaurs was due to such an impact. Scientists believe a 10 – 15km space rock struck the Earth at Chicxulub on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula at the end of the Cretaceous period. It’s thought that the resultant dust cloud plunged the planet into darkness and caused a lengthy, global winter killing off the dinosaurs as well as many other creatures. If such an asteroid was found to be on collision course for the Earth any time soon, there really wouldn’t be much we could do about it.

A global pandemic might finish us off.  In the past, outbreaks such as the Black Death have resulted in the demise of millions. Any disease that was going to level humanity would have to be pretty special though because, in a given population, there are usually some individuals who display a natural immunity.

From nuclear war to extreme climate change, there really are many other hypothetical scenarios that would result in a human free world. There might be a sense that we humans can always rely on our ingenuity save ourselves, but sadly there is one event that would be completely unavoidable. The so-called Big Crunch; the theoretical end of the entire universe. The reverse of the Big Bang, Big Crunch theory proposes that eventually the expansion of the universe will stop and the universe will begin to re-collapse on itself. This would obliterate absolutely everything (yes, even cockroaches) and possibly result in another Big Bang. There truly would be no escape.

Read my thoughts on post-apocalyptic fiction here.

January 18, 20152 Comments