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.

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