24 Nov 2015

The Length of a Story

Hail readers!

Previously, I wrote on matters of writing; specifically, that concerning how much detail is too much detail—especially in sex. To continue from my literary deliberations, today I address another oft-troublesome aspect of writing: length.

Writers often feel anxious about the length of a book: will I write enough, the more inexperienced among them wonder; what if I write too much, think others. Both, you may notice, assume there is particular set length to a story—but is this true?

In a manner of speaking, yes. A sweet romance tale is best when told with strictly the detail and length required to capture the lover’s heart; no more and no less. A sweeping epic fantasy novel, on the other hand, or a thought-provoking scifi masterpiece—they need length. Length is part of their charm. They wouldn’t be what they are were it not for all those dialogues on philosophy (what is knowledge? What is moral? etc.) or on science, or on the architecture of the world—a particular favourite of ours.

But so too is there a degree of… flexibility, in length. Perhaps the epic fantasy novel may choose to employ language in a manner befitting of 18th century writers—as is indeed traditional. Or, perhaps it may not. Maybe the scifi masterpiece could do with missing a particularly technical discussion on the means of propulsion of the spacecraft. And maybe that romance novel might need a bit more side-character development or plot.

So how does one determine a suitable length? To answer that, one must go back to the key principles of writing.

The Key Principles

All tales are unique, but I believe certain key principles are universal among them all. These are:

  1. The struggle. A significant philosophical discussion can be had here; but as far as we, the writers, are concerned: a tale must have a struggle. It could be the protagonists finding what lies in their heart, and the struggle to find love. It could be a struggle to defeat a disturbed but immensely powerful necromancer. (Did anyone mention the Necromancer?) Or it could be a struggle for life—a struggle to reach the spaceship that will bring you to salvation.
  2. The fight. How do the protagonists find love? How is the Necromancer vanquished? (Not telling!)
  3. Resolution and aftermath. If the duo (or trio?) do find love… what happens after? If the Necromancer is indeed vanquished… what will become of his apprentice? And so on.
  4. Life etc. What happens in the meanwhile? And why, oh why, is it important? It could be to bring depth to the characters; it could be to elucidate on the finer details of a world. Or it could be there simply because… stories are like that.

Now, the above is probably incomplete. And addressing even these basic principles would require an entire book devoted to the subject—such is the complexity of writing.

But for our purposes, let’s consider these principles specifically with regards to length.

How Long is Too Long?

Without doubt, the first three principles make up the core of a tale; you cannot remove those. You can shorten them, perhaps, or re-write them—but you cannot remove them.

Number four, on the other hand, is where the grey truly lies. Number four makes up the bulk of a story; why? Well—because it’s lengthy by its very nature, and important in the workings of the tale. But: it can be cut down.

However, this is not to say that one ought necessarily do so. My scenes in the Necromancer that pertain to, for example, the workings of the mage schools; or, in the Ark, the scenes relating to the protagonists’ education and life more generally—these are important in developing the world and the characters.

Still, let’s be honest: it’s not as if the exact reasons for why fireballs break up beyond ~500m or why certain bullets are only used rarely make up some key idea.

No. The question that a writer must ultimately ask themselves is rather: how far do these scenes serve the first, second and third principles? For these scenes do, in fact, possess a peculiar derivative quality. In some ways, principle four is an extension meant to serve the other three.


A final concern lies with language. Even beyond a large number of subplots or backstory, the workings of language can extend or contract a book’s length to great degree. Consider:

The city known as Trebon by those who inhabit its boundaries, or as Trabean-bennevont by those that made its ten foot thick walls by a hundred feet high, is majestic indeed. The Elves known as the Druiadath had named it ‘the Forest of Stone and Blood’—and as for why, well: that is no trouble for any man with half a sight to see.

For a thousand years the city had stood firm. A thousand by thousand soldiers had dashed themselves against its walls; all had perished. It is said that in the city’s catacombs their bodies lie entombed, for purposes that only the city’s necromancers know; it is said, also, that in the city king’s throne is made from the bones of some terrible beast, summoned centuries past.

The Black Beast of Denar—if it is indeed that beast which the legends speak of—had torn ten cities and a hundred towns to pieces. It had turned thousands of soldiers to bloody ribbons; but even it could not flout that impregnable gate.

But the force that rules it now had broken the gate. That feat had been performed by Selein, the city’s new ruler. He had used nought but his own power.

They say the sky went dark as raven’s wings; they say that some strange phantasmagoria had stolen into the city’s domain; they speak of dead men that walked, of mothers turning against their babes, and of a strange blackness that cut through the Great Gate as if it were no more than string.

They say Selein opened the gates of Hell.

The above is large enough to occupy a page; and yet Trebon could have been described in perhaps half that, had I truly been willing. Indeed, some writers can take the above—which is merely very detailed and verbose—and turn it into three pages, by festooning it with flosculations and asides.

And to some degree, fantasy works on that. It likes it when you describe the world with many names, according to many people, and through the ages of history. It loves legend (e.g. the Black Beast). And it also likes this kind of detailed description—of ‘dead men that walked, of mothers turning against their babes,’ and so on.

But the kind of writing above would be less appropriate for a thriller or a romance. And, even in fantasy, things can be taken to their extreme:

There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad. But for a long while they sang only each alone, or but few together, while the rest hearkened; for each comprehended only that part of the mind of Ilúvatar from which he came, and in the understanding of their brethren they grew but slowly. Yet ever as they listened they came to deeper understanding, and increased in unison and harmony.

And it came to pass that Ilúvatar called together all the Ainur and declared to them a mighty theme, unfolding to them things greater and more wonderful than he had yet revealed; and the glory of its beginning and the splendour of its end amazed the Ainur, so that they bowed before Ilúvatar and were silent.

Then Ilúvatar said to them: ‘Of the theme that I have declared to you, I will now that ye make in harmony together a Great Music. And since I have kindled you with the Flame Imperishable, ye shall show forth your powers in adorning this theme, each with his own thoughts and devices, if he will. But I will sit and hearken, and be glad that through you great beauty has been wakened into song.’

Then the voices of the Ainur, like unto harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and organs, and like unto countless choirs singing with words, began to fashion the theme of Ilúvatar to a great music; and a sound arose of endless interchanging melodies woven in harmony that passed beyond hearing into the depths and into the the Void, and it was not void. Never since have the Ainur made any music like to this music, though it has been said that a greater still shall be made before Ilúvatar by the choirs of the Ainur and the Children of Ilúvatar after the end of days. Then the themes of Ilúvatar shall be played aright, and take Being in the moment of their utterance, for all shall then understand fully his intent in their part, and each shall know the comprehension of each, and Ilúvatar shall give to their thoughts the secret fire, being well pleased.

—J.R.R Tolkien, the Silmarillion.

The above is certainly beautiful, but Tolkien takes so many pages to say what may take but paragraphs that, truth be told, the Silmarillion was only published because it was written by Tolkien.

To Conclude

Ultimately, the length of a book—or, should I say, the ideal length of a book—depends on genre and on the tale’s personality. Some fantasy works, such as for example the Hobbit, are quite fond of the embellishments of writing and the details of the imagination; others, like—say—Prince of Thorns, are rather less verbose.

To really address the question of length, one needs two things. Firstly, one must understand one’s creation. And secondly: one must consider how far the language, or the fourth principle, actually contribute to the three key principles.

Anyway: I believe I have addressed this question as far as it is possible for it to be addressed. I shall be back with more news on the Ark—which has thus far accrued 200 pages—and will also write on a topic of current affairs.

Until then: may the stars be with you…

20 Nov 2015

Writing Shadows and Sex

As hitherto mentioned, yours truly is engaged in writing the Ark. It is a substantial endeavour, as any novel inevitably is—particularly one that falls into three genres: Sci-Fi, fantasy, and romance.

However, none of this is to say that I have forgotten my duties here on the Magical Realm—as some of my readers have already reminded me. Thus, the topic of this post is one concerning the writing process. Having completed the first part of the novel—entitled Love—and being occupied with the second part (Life) I feel it necessary to address the topic which I’ve covered previously, albeit with updated and extended detail.

To put it far fewer words: I’m going to talk a little about sex.

Oh, Dear…

In my previous polemic on the matter, I wrote of how sex was a powerfully taboo subject to discuss—in books, and outside of them. I’ve already covered some of the causes; our society’s contradictory attitude being one (we seem unable to speak of it, and yet able to speak only of it) along with, perhaps, a natural human aversion to discussing deeply personal matters.

However, today I am not concerned with this; today, my concern is rather more simple: how to write sex.

It is already an open secret that the Ark contains a sex scene (which is currently under hot debate by various readers). Why? Well, the answer to that is something I’ve already hinted at: sex is an important part of romantic relationships. It can make or break a relationship. And of course—it provides an excellent opportunity to explore the character’s thoughts and relations.

On a purely literary perspective, sex is an important key aspect. Any romance novel worth its salt will feature some form of sex; for without it, such tales would be deeply dissatisfying and incomplete.

But how, oh how, is one to write them?


A truth of all writing is that it is often concerned with what I call the shadows of things. Consider the following analogy: suppose you were a conductor in an orchestra. What do you do? Do you attempt to manhandle and strong-arm the musicians; do you force the melody from their lips and their instruments?

Of course not. What you do is direct—you are there to guide them to the melody you know, but ultimately they achieve it through their own powers.

Writing is much like that. A writer cannot attempt to photographically imprint the tale on the reader’s mind; that is the purlieu of the film medium. What a writer does is create the shadows of things, and allow the reader to imagine the rest.

Take the example of character description. One can attempt to describe every minute detail; every blemish, the exact colour of their hair, their precise height and build and bearing—and any half-competent writer can do this just fine.

But a master writer knows better. A master writer can create a more vivid picture using a flash of green eye, a touch of white dress; a contour of a strong shoulder.

And so, you ask: are sex scenes much the same? As is often the case, my answer is cryptic: yes and no.

A Tricky Matter, Indeed

Writing a sex scene ultimately requires one to strike a particular balance. Too little detail and the characters’ true relationship will remain obscured; too much and you may not capture the true essence of their relationship at all. And that’s not even jumping into the murky matter of ‘Oh, but what would the readers want…?’

Allow me to put it unkindly: a writer’s primary concern is not for their readers’ sensibilities. It is for their tale. There, shoot me.

Anyway: let us get back to the matter at heart. How much detail is too little or too much? The answer to that ultimately depends somewhat on the tale itself. In my previous novel, the Necromancer, a high level of detail for a number of scenes gave it a particular quality—a phantasmagoria of Winter magic and the dark whisper of the Necromancer’s dead:

He sits in his throne room. Its floor is black marble, polished by the blood of the fallen: it reflects the Necromancer’s face, emblazoning it in horror. Windows stretching high unto the ceiling fill the room with grey, monotonous light.

At the centre, lies the throne.

Carved from trees long extinct, adorned by gargoyles in vicious form, the throne is pale compared to the being that rests on top.

But sex, alas, is a tricky matter. Attempt to describe everything the characters feel, and elucidate on the precise anatomical details of their intercourse, and, well—you may end up lecturing the reader on the workings of the human anatomy. But fail to give the reader some juicy details, and… disappointment will inevitably follow.

You may be able to guess that this question is one I have not yet found an answer to. Or, rather, I know the principle but may not, perhaps, have the practice in order.

Anyway: I must leave you now. I hope the above has been informative and fascinating. Now I need take my own advice; the Ark doesn’t write itself, after all…

PS: I have decided to release one more chapter of the Ark, along with an edited draft. Keep following.

13 Nov 2015

On the Ark, and a Poem

Hail readers!

Hitherto, I have mentioned my progress regarding the Ark (my upcoming scifi novel come romance, for those of you who managed to miss my numerous posts so far). I promised that part I, entitled Love, is to be complete; and I can indeed confirm that my promise has been fulfilled. Part I is finished, and I have a few words that need be said.

Firstly, I have decided to precede the section with an epigraph; this shall be a poem entitled A Fool’s Hope. You may consider it appropriate once you have read it:

In the warm whispers
Of timeless summer zephyrs
A message; a word, is carried
By its caressing touch.
A word named love.

Through the bright summer sky
Across the golden light of that
Eternal cosmic giant; across willows and oaks
And pools of perfect blue-green water
The word makes its way.

Who can know where it may go?
Will it find me, alone in the forest
Whose name is a thorn
To all those foolish?
For it would be a foolish thing, indeed!

To believe in that warm promise;
To hope: of nights spent in your embrace
Alive with your awesome temptation.
A fool’s hope, a trinket for peddlers!
Or is it, in truth, what I have always desired?

The word—a whisper in the wind, a rustle in the leaves
A bird, bright red in that green world—settles on my shoulder.
It sings a beautiful song; the forest sighs
Released from its dark thoughts.
You have come.

(A PDF of this poem shall also soon be posted to the Poems page, if you are wondering.)

Aside from this, allow me to address certain ideas about this part in the book and the wider plot in general.

Part I, and its Place

Part I is, as you may be able to infer, about our darling protagonists’ love affair. It is chiefly concerned with bringing about that strange sequence of events; that which leaves two young men smitten one with another, and their lives hopelessly entangled.

In some ways, Conall and Casey’s connection is surprising. It is true: they share a thing or two in common. Both are really rather keen intellectuals—for Conall this generally means politics, and its brethren, economics; and for Casey this means computers and the universe. The two are not nearly so disparate, however; for they find that in discussing their interests, they begin to see both sciences as being absolutely fascinating.

Anyway: let’s leave their intellectual pursuits aside. They do have substantial differences. Conall is the son of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and his mother is a multimillionaire. Casey is the son of deceased parents, and is taken care of by his academic Uncle. While both suffer from the pursuit of the intellect, there are substantial differences in their economic means that I take pains to explore.

Part I, however, is not only about their love affair. It also serves as an introduction. It details the situation of Cork, in 2120; it speaks of the Plague, and how it can turn night into day and summer into winter (quite literally!) It speaks of the technology, much of it already extant—as I explain here—but more developed, and more mainstream. It also addresses everything from how nature has adapted to such circumstances (phosphorescent grass being a particularly obvious example) to the style of the architecture.

And in the broader plot, part I sets the scene. It hints of the dark reason for the Plague’s inception. It hints also of the troubles that our protagonists will face; for, of course, no tale is complete without hardship. (Indeed, to misappropriate the great C.S Lewis: if God had made the world, he would be a cosmic sadist.)

‘Alex!’ you cry; ‘this is all fine and good, but why don’t you show us the damn book?’ That, alas, I cannot do. But if you have not already done so, you may take a look at the first two chapters.

Now, I must leave you. I shall write more on the Magical Realm, when time permits. But I am of course concerned with the Ark, for not only am I consorting with an English teacher with regards to what changes I may make to part I; but also, I must think of part II: Life. For that, dark omens lie in wait…

8 Nov 2015

A Day of Musings

Hail readers!

As mentioned previously, my work concerning the Ark (my upcoming scifi novel extraordinaire) is progressing; today I have completed Chapter Nine, and will begin Chapter Ten. With the latter, part One—entitled Love—will have been completed. Read this if you are curious to know more, or check out the Upcoming page for more information in general.

Anyway: today I concern myself with a number of musings concerning political economy. Do read on...

A Question of Semantics

Certain people have complained that mine and Oli’s essay on Socialism takes a non-standard definition of ‘socialism’. Apparently, what we define as:

An economic system in which great need is provided for—such as to disabled people, or those left unemployed—and in which sectors of the economy are run by the state if it is in the public interest; but on in which, nevertheless, it is permissible to own private property and businesses provided that you act according to the law and the interests of the nation

Is supposedly what is called ‘welfare capitalism’. According to certain figures, ‘socialism’ is defined as an economic system in which all the means of production are owned by the state, but one in which private property exists.

Now: semantic debates often prove pointless. My green is your blue, as they say. Nevertheless, I must take issue with this; for, it seems to me, this is a covert attempt at discrediting our theories.

My objection with such a definition stems from two facts. Firstly, today’s self-described socialists don’t believe in that; and that’s as good a reason as anything. But secondly, the above definition appears to be completely untenable—inconceivable, even.

How can private property exist in a system in which all the means of production are state-run and state-controlled? Land is a means of production; without it, you can’t grow crops or build factories. So, supposedly, all land must be owned by the state.

Capital is essentially the product of stored resources. But capital is also the most important means of production there is; without it, you cannot build factories, start a business, employ people, or do anything else of economic value. And if people can own things, then they can amass capital; and so hold a stake in the means of producion.

So, you see, the above definition is complete nonsense.

There are in fact only three types of economic systems: market systems, in which everything is run by markets (excluding perhaps defence and the workings of government; capitalism); as well as command systems, which are essentially communism; and finally, there are mixed systems. Socialism.

Now, by this I should say: I don’t mean to say that socialism is just a mixed-market system. Nearly every country on Earth would be socialist by that measure.

No. I am instead referring to a very specific type of mixed market system: one in which need is accounted for; in which equal opportunity is granted, insofar as possible; in which excessive inequality is curtailed and reduced; and where the state has no fear to intervene on behalf of the common interest of its citizens, even if it contradicts the market dictat.

This definition, you shall notice, excludes a number of countries; whereas certain others fit it more or less. Saudi Arabia is not socialist. The US has elements of socialism (e.g. public schools, health and safety regulation) but is largely a laissez-faire capitalist system. France has a publicly run health system, schools, provides unemployment and disability benefits, and its railways are run by SNCF. It is a pretty good example of socialism.

A Globalisation Skeptic’s Take on the EU

Globalisation is a complicated problem; and it is problematic, that much can be said.

In a globalised world, a banking crash in the US can have worldwide ripples; a Chinese stock-market crash likewise; wealthy corporations and individuals can escape to tax havens, while still keeping their business operations running. Globalisation means sweatshops in China and African or South American farmers being paid pittance for their crops.

This is not to say that globalisation is not without advantages. You can’t grow bananas in the UK, for example. It provides efficiency benefits for certain companies, too: a maker of suncream can sell cream both summer and winter—to the Northern hemisphere in the former, and to the southern in the latter. So too can globalisation allow nations with particular advantages to specialise in doing what they do best.

You can buy cars from Germany, olives from Spain, and computers from the US. And so on.

Which all sounds great. But the worst effects of globalisation are, in fact, to do with the claim above. In theory—in that naïve universe—every nation sells what it does best, and buys everything else. Everyone trades equally. Everyone has a balanced current account.

Only, the real world doesn’t work like that. The UK has a trade deficit of around £20B right now, and has had as high as £30B (Trading Economics). China has a big surplus; so does Germany.

Nor is the trade deficit some abstract concept invented by economists. A trade deficit is the result of very real economic woes—as the workers of Redcar are discovering to their horror.

So what’s wrong with the theory? Many things, really, but the most important is this: it’s not a level playing field. Chinese workers are exploited with long hours, poor air quality, and very little safety; the Chinese government subsidies exporters, too, with the most galling example being its steel industry.

Germany has strong trade unions, safety laws, and unemployment benefits. It also has an excellent education system, with vocational qualifications being respected; along with well-developed, efficient road and rail links; and bosses that don’t look down their noses on the workers, since—like the new CEO of Volkswagen, Mathias Müller—they themselves were once workers.

So: the UK’s problems are self-inflicted to some degree, that’s true. Our financial speculation industry takes away talent from industry, and diverts capital away from businesses and into property bubbles and credit booms. Our unions are weak, and industrial co-operation is a pipe dream for many companies. And our contempt for vocational learning is world-famous.

But even so, there exist problems beyond our control. We have no control over working conditions in China, and the Chinese government is only too keen to devalue its currency and subsidise its exporters.

If we try to raise taxes on corporations, they move to Dublin. If we try to tax millionaires, they move to Switzerland. Globalisation is a powerful force, and one that, sadly, rarely acts in our best interests.

But why would I, a skeptic, support the EU?

The answer is simple. Europe is the counterpoise to unfettered globalised madness. The majority of our exports go to Europe (OEC) and likewise they are our major importers (ibid.)

The difference between trading with Europe, when compared to the rest of the world, is that we actually have say in what goes on in Europe—thanks to the EU. As part of the EU, we elect members to the European parliament; we are given veto rights, and can discuss matters with closely-aligned European heads of state. If somebody pulls a Chinese on us, we can do something about it.

Europe is also rather helpful when dealing with other nations. Europe is the world’s largest economy; it has a lot of clout in trade negotiations, and can haggle for favourable terms. On our own, we make up a fraction of that.

You see such examples when Europe haggles with the US, or negotiates favourable terms with Korea—both of which would have been harder nuts to crack without European unity.

Finishing Off

Apologies if my musings have been somewhat disorganised. I do, after all, have a book to write. Nevertheless, I hope my musings have enlightened you; and please do keep following. I shall be releasing more on the Ark...

4 Nov 2015

The Ark and Other Difficult Matters

As of late, dear reader, I have ceased to blog. This is unfortunate, but to some degree unavoidable: I was concerned both with my UCAS application—I am applying to a number of UK universities as a contingency plan—and also because A levels are a substantial endeavour. In particular, I have been quite busy with physics coursework.

I shan’t talk too much of such matters, for they are not the goal of the Magical Realm. What I shall say: I have decided to study PPE (politics, philosophy and economics) at university, due primarily to the fact that I enjoy all three subjects and cannot decide between them. Also, my interests in the Labour party would be well matched.

But onto the topic of this post. The Ark, my romantic scifi novel extraordinaire, has been steadily growing; I have finished writing chapter eight, and will soon have chapter nine written. With chapter ten, the first part of the book—entitled Love—will have been completed. There are two parts that will follow.

The first, entitled Life (perhaps ironically), shall concern itself with Conall and Casey’s struggle to survive. It will likely be of similar length to part one, or perhaps slightly longer. The final part, however, shall be entitled Fate; it shall be shorter, but will culminate with the end of the Ark.

If you are wondering ‘Will there be a sequel’ then I shall say this much: it is a real possibility.

With such detail aside, let us address some questions regarding part one. Or, indeed, the book in general.

Conall and Casey; Not Conall and Clara

This is almost without doubt the question that will trouble readers most of all. To put it crudely: why is it a gay novel?

The answer lies with three aspects. Firstly, the Ark was conceived with Conall and Casey—and in my conception, as you may know, I have no conscious hold. My ideas originate from some strange creative ether; from the part of my mind that sees beauty and wonder, and creates tales to behold.

It is true that the process of writing is also a conscious one, not merely a conduit for the unconscious. But it would be sheer folly to attempt to consciously alter such a key aspect of the novel: it could, in fact, destroy it.

Secondly, why would I even wish to change it? Their relationship is a beautiful one. And as they say: why fix what ain’t broke?

Finally: let’s talk politics. It is no secret that being gay was frowned upon in the Anglophone world, and indeed much of the rest of Europe, for some centuries. Not since forever, mind you—in Russia, Orthodox and patriarchal as it was, homosexuality was common and open since Ivan IV up to about the 19th century[1]; likewise it was spoken of in pre-mediaeval England, and in Ancient Greece Theba had an army division of male lovers [2]—but, by and large, it was taboo throughout the post-mediaeval world.

It was only since the 1967 that being gay was decriminalised in the UK. Gay marriage—which may perhaps be termed the ultimate acceptance—wasn’t made law since later into Cameron’s first term. That’s just two few years ago!

The gay equality movement has long since struggled with repudiating certain pernicious ideas about homosexuality. One such is the belief that gay people—men in particular—are promiscuous and not interested in monogamous, loving relationships. Another is the belief that gay people are somehow abnormal—pathologised, even.

But what better way to put these myths to rest, than by the very antithesis of all these pernicious stereotypes?

That said, don’t get the wrong idea. The Ark is not a polemic and is not created out of political desire; it is a story. A story with a very powerful tale to tell—and one that ultimately transcends mere politics.

Let’s Talk Scifi

The matter of creating a scifi world is a difficult one. Indeed, any kind of universe creation is a difficult proposition; but unlike, say, fantasy worlds—a scifi world is yet bound by the laws of physics as we currently understand them.

This provides both challenges and opportunity. I do, for example, explain the operation of super-light travel:

‘Now, Conall, do you recall asking about the Ark’s means of propulsion—specifically that pertaining to superlight speeds, better known as warp?’

Conall nods. Admittedly, I had been curious also, though I had
never taken to asking.

‘Are you two familiar with General Relativity?’ he begins. We nod.

‘I don’t really believe you, so I’ll explain a bit. Einstein’s theory was many things, but one of its key discoveries was linking space with time; and it is this space-time fabric, which the Ark affects.

‘We see General Relativity in action all the time: satellites, as you
may already know, operate to a different timescale. Time, in space,
actually “flows” faster than on Earth. We have to correct for this; if not, GPS would never work.’

‘We know all this—right, Conall?’ I interrupt. Conall nods.

‘What you are probably unaware of, however,’ Alistair continues, ‘is
that space-time is affected not only by gravity, but by a variety of other factors. Broadly known as the stress-energy tensor, this includes radiation and electromagnetic fields.

‘It is the latter by which the Ark operates. Its ‘engines’—more correctly known as field generators—produce a powerful electromagnetic field that alters space-time. The effect is such that the Ark can distort space itself, and thus achieve faster-than-light travel.

‘It should be noted, however, that the Ark does not travel through
space, but rather: that space itself is being “distorted” so to speak. You must be weary of applying classical paradigms to quantum events; time, for example, is not so much a continuum by which we traverse, but an abstraction generated by varying rates of change of physical events.’

Much of what I say is actually correct. There is indeed a space-time fabric, and a stress-energy tensor; whether these principles can be applied in practice is another matter, but the principles are sound.

In other areas, I take a uniquely… philosophical view of technology. Rather than inventing improbable technological creations, I instead think it more compelling to take extant technology to new heights. Electric cars, for example, are common place; and yet the descriptions of the electric powertrain, for example, is actually true to cars that exist today—like the Mercedes SLS electric drive.

I believe this makes the Ark a world in which one is remarkably familiar with, and yet utterly amazed by. That, I believe, is true to how change actually works.

Finishing Off

I have talked at length on the matter of the Ark. Now I must continue with writing it; please do humour my efforts. And as for the Magical Realm, I shall see whether I can persuade my friend Oli to once more write an essay on political matters.

Until then: may the stars be with you.