30 Dec 2016

A New Year’s Eve...

Hello readers! A Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year as well.

You may wondering what Alex has been up to. He did, after all, promise he would write on Christmas day here on the Magical Realm—a promise he has, alas, been unable to fulfill. This is entirely because of Alex’s lack of access to a reliable Internet connection. My parents here in Glasgow have been waiting weeks for BT to activate their connection; and for weeks they have heard excuses that wear thinner every day.

Anyway, renationalising BT—while a tempting proposition for Alex—is of course not the subject of today. Rather, it will concern something else entirely: his writing. A little will touch on the Necromancer (including the Kindle Countdown deal that is still running!) but most will be about what has happened to the Ark. Read on!

The Necromancer

As part of his commitment to review four books in exchange for four reviews, Alex has now finished reading and reviewing the books allotted to him; if you’re interested, you can see his reviews on Goodreads (the ‘Reviews’ tab on top has the links). Two of the books Alex awarded 3 and 2.5 stars; to the other two, Alex gave 4 and 4.5*.

Although somewhat time-consuming, this process does have two advantages: it gives Alex free books, which he reads carefully, reviews in depth, and thus learns more about the art of writing a book. And of course, Alex gets reviews in return.

Alex has received his 3rd review of the lot. The reviewer spoke fondly, calling it ‘a well developed tale with lots of interesting battles and events to keep readers interested and rooting for Linaera and her comrades’. The fourth review Alex is expecting soon.

Anyway, the Necromancer has been written. Alex has fond memories—of the many days he spent laboriously working, of the many nights he dreamed and the many others in which he despaired. (If he sounds a little melodramatic while saying this, do excuse him.) But, as beautiful as that tale was, a writer must move on. And this leads us to...

The Ark... Now Know as Fallen Love

This is more than a title change. I have a shocking confession to make to you: I’ve changed the course of the story formerly known as the Ark. I’ve changed it so much, in fact, that I’ve decided to re-invent it as a new book.

Before you rip my head off, allow me to explain. Conall and Casey (as well as Kaylin) remain the main characters; it is, in that sense, the same story at its heart. But Fallen Love is also very different from the Ark. For one, there is no ship—the conflict is entirely different.

Perhaps the new (work in progress) blurb can do some of the explaining...

I’m Fallen. That’s what they call us—the members of the underclass. We’re the cleaner you look down on. We’re the grunts of the army; the cannon fodder for the Party’s wars.

I’m not allowed to love a man. I’m certainly not allowed to love an Upperclassman. But I love him all the same—and I know it’ll doom me.

Maybe I don’t care. After all: when you’ve already Fallen, there’s nowhere left to fall...

Of course, this being an Alex Stargazer novel, there’s more to it than just forbidden love or class warfare. Kaylin is here, seeing the future, plotting nefarious schemes—overthrowing the government being the chief among them—and concocting various other wonderful plot ideas. And behind it all, there’s the same antagonist as in the Ark. It’s called the Entity; it’s mysterious, malignant, and Casey has a connection to it...

Since I am writing a new book, I have of course had to start from scratch. But, I am over 10,000 words into it; I am writing as fast as I am able. The date of completion will be set back, inevitably, but if progress continues I hope to finish the book by around Easter.

If you have any advice to give, I am looking for more beta reading. My work email (work DOT alexstargazer AT gmail DOT com) is always open to interested beta readers; please do consider it. Writing a book is tough work.

This leads me onto one more thing I should clarify: I did not take this decision lightly. I spent a significant amount of money on my editor. I made a significant number of revisions to the Ark. But in the end, my editors’ advice rang true: there wasn’t enough conflict. If one thing is clear about Fallen Love, it’s that there’s plenty of conflict.

I will write more on this quest of mine. For now, allow me to wrap things up...

Parting Thoughts

Alex has been busy this Christmas, especially with reading and writing. On top of that, his family have desired his attentions: we have gone to visit some of the surrounding Scottish countryside, which I’ve taken pains to photograph ((link)[https://goo.gl/photos/dAdZWuU6b4MwGx656]).

Christmas has also seen Alex escape the clutches of the university teachers, and all their assignments, papers, and tests. The resulting free time Alex has tried to make use of wisely—hence his frantic writing.

Soon, however, Alex will be back in Amsterdam (this time learning Dutch). Until then, do keep following the Magical Realm! On top of my many essays, humorous anecdotes, and writing-related remarks, I also have a substantial collection of poetry available.

Finally, below is the blurb and link to the Necromancer. Give Alex a New Year present!

In the frozen heartlands of the north, a dark force is reborn; his power is great, and his army swells with every monstrous recruit. In the Arachadian capital, Dresh, a string of mysterious kidnappings leaves the Great Mage puzzled. And in the mage academy of small town Renas, an unwitting apprentice is plunged into a quest: it will prove a fight for her life, a fight for the man she loves, and – ultimately – a fight for the future of the land.

Delve into this dark world of mystery and magic; of beings that walk the great forests and haunt the alcoves of the night. The necromancer awaits you...

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Necromancer-New-Alex-Stargazer-ebook/dp/B01N3UGDEQ/ref=sr11?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1483110548&sr=1-1&keywords=the+necromancer+alex+stargazer

12 Dec 2016

And a Brexit in a Pear Tree...

Hello readers!

It has been sometime, alas, since I have been active here on the Magical Realm. This is due to several reasons. Firstly, university has taken a great deal of my time: I have two substantial papers to write; there is preparation for two exams; and there are assignments on top of it. The Wednesday of last week also required me to travel in order to be present in a lab session. All in all, this has proven time-consuming and demanding.

I have also been busy with several other necessities, including applying for huurtoeslag (rent benefit), tuition loans, and seeing the doctor.

Anyway, I have found a window of opportunity to write to you, dear readers. The topic of this post? Brexit. (Yes, it’s overdue.) But before I go into that, allow me a quick recap of the writing situation.

The Necromancer and the Ark

I am undertaking a ‘read and review’ session on Goodreads for the Necromancer. This means that I review 4 books from different authors, in the space of about 2 months; in return 4 authors (none of them the ones I’m reviewing) review my own book.

There are two benefits to this approach. Firstly, I get free books. Free books are always great. Secondly: I get reviews from people who are at least half-way competent at reviewing. The downside, of course, is that this process is rather time-consuming.

As for the Ark, I am concocting something special (and surprising). I will say no more than that.

Finally, do remember that the Necromancer will be getting a Kindle Countdown deal on Christmas. As I say—give someone a gift. I’m sure we’ll both appreciate it :)

The Brexit Bus

Some developments have occurred since I last blogged on this issue. Many of them are unsurprising. Theresa May is calling for hard Brexit—just like I said she would. Boris Johnson is making a fool of himself as Foreign Secretary: his undiplomatic remarks regarding Saudi Arabia’s proxy war in Yemen, while justified, are ultimately stupid, since the Tory government policy is to ignore it.

The Brexiters have also managed to come up with some more vacuities (I guess I ought to be surprised, but the Brexiters have shown limitless imagination in that regard.) One such is that the ‘Remoaners’ (what a charming neologism) ought to stop moaning; instead they should keep quiet and work for a successful Brexit.

The idiocy of this viewpoint is too great to unpick point by point; we would be here all day. Instead, it can be illustrated much more simply using an analogy. A bus is driving across a mountain road. Half of the people in the bus are shouting at the driver to drive the bus off the cliff; the other half is begging him not to. The former group, 52% to the other’s 48%, wins out. The bus drives over the cliff, killing most of the people onboard.

You cannot blame the 48% for shouting at the driver. It is not their fault that the bus is lying in ruins and several people are dead. Driving the bus off the cliff was a stupid idea. There’s no such thing as ‘successful Brexit’; it’s an oxymoron.

Another vacuity trotted out—this one favoured by Unionist Brexiters—is that Scotland voted for the UK to remain in the EU. The Unionists then go on to say, through a disingenuous reductio ad absurdum, that if the SNP had their way, why—we’d expect London, Bristol, Oxford, Liverpool and Manchester to split off from the UK!

The first argument is an exercise in desperate pedantry. The second argument is disingenuous because it assumes Scotland is a region, a bit like London or the Midlands—it’s the only way the argument from analogy can work. Of course Scotland is not a region; it is a nation. A nation with hundreds of years of history, its own devolved government, and the right to self-determination.

But how would Scotland, in practical terms, actually manage it? I have not addressed the constitutional, political and economic challenges of continued EU membership for Scotland, until now; and therefore these will be the last topic of this post.

Tough Choices for Scots; but a Bright Future Ahead

Economically, EEA membership and EU membership are, as far as Scotland is concerned, identical. The Accession procedure however is different: to accede to the European Union Scotland must meet the criteria (it already does, obviously); and it must be agreed unanimously by Member States. Some have floated the possibility that Spain might veto Scotland’s entry. I personally am skeptical of this; thankfully, as far as economics is concerned, this shouldn’t be a problem. To join the EFTA (and by extension to participate in the EEA) Scotland’s entry needs only to be agreed upon by Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

These countries have not suggested that they would oppose Scottish membership; indeed, considering the similar size and economies of the countries involved (Scotland has the same population as Norway, and an oil and gas sector) it is probable that such an arrangement would go smoothly. There is good will politically between the countries as well—and that’s just as important.

To be honest, I think most people in Scotland would be happy with this arrangement. The other problem that remains is the same problem that Scotland would have faced had it gone Independent back in 2014: currency.

The rUK has already clearly stated that Scotland cannot use the Pound Sterling. So Scotland has two choices: it can issue its own Scottish pounds, or it can join the euro. (There’s also a possibility that it may have to do the former before it does the latter, but I’m not too sure.) Obviously this decision will have to be thought through, but I think the evidence clearly points to the latter as being a better option.

Scotland would be a small country facing a period of uncertainty: this would likely mean that its currency would start out weak (which would cause problems with inflation) and subject to volatility as international money speculators assess and reassess its position. Moreover, two other serious problems present themselves. Scotland’s oil sector would likely—after the initial years of uncertainty—cause the Scottish pound to appreciate. Scotland will then suffer Dutch disease. On top of that, the volatility would make it more difficult for Scotland to trade with the rest of the EFTA.

Scotland could try and peg its currency to the euro in order to ameliorate these problems, but as Black Wednesday showed us—this is not so easy as it appears in theory. It is the forex that decides exchange rates, not central banks, and especially not the central banks of countries with a few million people.

There’s also a personal side for me. My parents are funding me to study in Amsterdam; I don’t want them to earn a weak Scottish pound. It would be far easier if their salary were paid in euros.

The last economic issue I wish to address is rUK trade. Unionists like Ruth Davidson (and some in my own party) proudly point out that most Scottish trade—64% to be precise—is with the rest of the UK. Presumably UK membership would be more important than EU membership, at least as far as economics is concerned. Right?

Well, not quite. For one, as autonomy Scotland claims, that 62% figure is questionable; it’s very difficult for companies to separate Scottish and rUK business operations. (And it is business operations we’re talking about—exports don’t just include physical goods.)

Leaving that aside, the trouble with percentages is that they can change. The 64% is a metric of Scottish exports now, as they stand with this constitutional arrangement. But may I remind Unionists that the rUK has 60 million people; the rest of the EU has 450 million, and EU trade agreements cover nearly the entirety of the rest of the world (population 6.5 billion, albeit most of them poor).

It is hardly inconceivable that Scottish exporters could export elsewhere—Europe after all is a huge internal market, with a highly streamlined regulatory framework, no tariffs, passporting rights, and countless other benefits the likes of which no other trading zone can match. And it’s close to Scotland too, and already well integrated, unlike Brexiter fantasy trade with countries that are thousands of miles away and lack anything close to what the EU is. (Just look at May’s bumbled trip to India.) Plus Scotland might benefit from rUK companies relocating to maintain preferential EU market access.

Anyway, with that out of the way, let’s look at the deeper questions of politics and constitution.

Clearly, Scotland wants to stay in the EU. And not just for economics—as Nicola Sturgeon has shown us, the EU means more to Scotland. There are, dare I say it, patriotic feelings involved. The EU represents something: the European Dream, openness, human rights, prosperity—take your pick.

So how does Scotland stay in the EU? As I’ve already mentioned, the Accession process requires Scotland to meet criteria (which it mostly already meets since it’s already in the EU, obviously). Some of these of course are to have a government and central bank, and for this reason Scotland would need to be independent.

The other side of the coin is unanimous agreement. Spain might veto Scotland’s entry because of Catalonia; but this should not be taken as granted. I’m sure Rajoy will not veto it if he gets Gibraltar. Or, Scotland can join the EEA and then simply wait. Rajoy’s position as Spain’s head of state is extremely fragile, and he could quite plausibly no longer be head of state within a few years.

Another possibility is that Scotland gets to stay in the EU by becoming the successor state to the UK. Apparently, this is legally feasible.

Anyway, let’s assume Scotland keeps its place in the EU. What about its relationship with the UK? There are some complicated problems to work out. If Scotland joins Schengen, it will have to have border checks with England. If Scotland doesn’t join Schengen, then again—it’s complicated. Scottish citizens would have freedom of movement to the EU, but UK citizens wouldn’t. But would UK citizens have freedom of movement to Scotland?

To be honest, I don’t see why Scotland can’t have its own arrangement with the UK. It could offer UK citizens freedom of movement (though only to Scotland, unless the UK citizens claim dual nationality) and the UK could reciprocate to only Scottish citizens.

Also, bear in mind that freedom of movement does NOT mean there is no hard border; that’s what Schengen is for. When I go to Romania by car, I have to pass border checks. But being a Romanian citizen I obviously have free movement, as do all other EU citizens.

Can Scotland therefore maintain an open border with the UK? I believe the answer is no, for a number of complicated reasons. The UK will likely be out of the customs union, so goods would have to be inspected. As for people, EU counter-terrorism is one thing to think about. Freedom of movement is another: UK citizens could enter Scotland then (if Scotland is in Schengen) head illegally to work in the EU.

Anyway, let’s not get worked up about this. So long as freedom of movement exists between the UK and Scotland, people will be fine to go to either country. A ‘hard border’ sounds scary but it’s really not the end of the world—it’s just formality, no different from passport checks at the airport. I do it all the time. Heck, UK citizens do it all the time when they go to Europe.

Final Thoughts

This has proven a long and complicated post on what is a long and complicated issue. I hope you have found me intelligible (do leave a comment if anything is unclear!) and interesting. Now, work calls. Keep following the Magical Realm for a Christmas special!

1 Dec 2016

December Fun

Hello readers!

Alex did promise you that he would be hosting an event this Christmas. And he can, thankfully, confirm that this is so; the commencement of this month is the beginning of the Indie Christmas Calendar, hosted over at Kay Macleod Books The Necromancer—along with a bit about me—will be there on the 3rd of this month.

Additionally, the Necromancer will have a Kindle Countdown Deal! This will last from the 22nd–29th December (around Christmas) and will be available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk If you haven’t already, go and grab and a copy!

Anyway, with that out of the way, what I have been I doing over the past weeks? The answer is that I’ve generally been busy—very busy. As I’ve already mentioned, I am heading to Scotland—and my parents—for two weeks this Christmas. I have, of course, had to go through the motions of buying plane and train tickets, planning, and all the other necessities of travel.

Another cause of my busyness has, of course, been university: I have had multiple tests and assignments to do over the past two weeks or so.

The Necromancer

As for the process of marketing the Necromancer, I have another glowing review, this one from Jayde Kemsley: ‘The Necromancer is an adventure through an old school fantasy world, and I enjoyed it immensely.’ See the full review on Goodreads.

One of the beta readers who helped me with the Ark has also given me some feedback on the Necromancer, primarily in the form of minor corrections; his advice I will implement before Christmas.

I am also thinking about bringing the new version into print, and various other such schemes.

Finishing Thoughts

As you can see, things have been rather slow here at Alex Stargazer HQ. The best I can offer you at this stage is a promise: I will be busy over Christmas, working on both the Necromancer and the new novel. I will be faithful as a blogger once more—and will finally be writing another politics post.

Until then, why not check out the Necromancer (along with other delicious books) in the Indie Calendar? Or, why not buy a copy of the Necromancer for just 99¢/99p this Christmas? It will make a great Christmas gift (bias alert!)

23 Nov 2016

Promotions & Christmas

Hello readers!

It has been awhile since Alex updated the Magical Realm—and for this Alex is sorry. You see, yours truly has been rather busy as of late: with the release of the new Necromancer, he has been highly preoccupied obtaining reviews (he is still looking for more!), promoting the book, and of course he still has academic commitments to assuage.

In any case: the topic of this post will, alas, be relatively brief—but I hope informative. I will speak primarily of my efforts in promoting the Necromancer, and some remarks about the process as a whole. I will also touch on the Ark—for some progress has been made there as well—and on other, more miscellaneous matters.

So without further ado...

Promotion, Promotion, Promotion...

Promoting a book is no easy task. There is a reason why many an author is keen to attract the attention of a publisher—and why professional markets can charge significant sums of money for their services. Alas, Alex does not at present have the resources on hand to buy full-page ads in the New York Times, or to hire high-end professionals. Therefore: Alex employs his creativity in other guises.

An important part of promotion is reviews; they are taken into account by retailer algorithms (such as Amazon), they’re used as a measuring stick by promotion companies, and they help the reader decide whether a book is worth their time. It is no surprise, then, that a book needs reviews—and while those reviews should be mostly positive, even less positive reviews can sometimes be to a writer’s benefit.

Alex therefore re-iterates: if you are interested in helping him promote the Necromancer, then please do review his books! Every little helps.

Another key part of marketing is exposure. Now: exposure is a complicated thing, with many different elements. Alex will address two here. The first is categorisation; this helps readers discover your book when they seek out particular kinds of books.

On Amazon, the Necromancer is filed under Dark Fantasy and High Fantasy, and has several pertinent keywords (e.g. ‘Elves,’ ‘Thrones’ and ‘Magicians’); on Goodreads, the book appears in lists like Schools of Magic and Necromancers (duh).

Speaking of which: Alex would appreciate it if you could vote for the Necromancer on the following Goodreads lists: Schools of Magic; Fantasy & Scifi Books with Strong Female Characters; Necromancers; and YA Epic Fantasy 2016.

Another important part of exposure is Amazon rankings. The mechanics of this are a whole technical topic in themselves; the abridged version is that Alex benefits from you reading and reviewing his book on Amazon, and that he benefits increasingly more the more his book is read & reviewed.

I must therefore ask one more favour of you: if you know friends who are interested in fantasy—then please do direct them towards the Necromancer!

What About the Ark?

Although very busy, I have not been entirely inactive with regards to the Ark. For one, I have found another beta reader: she has read the book and is extremely supportive so far.

I have also been thinking, in great depth, about where I want the Ark to go—and what kind of story it is that I’m trying to tell. You may remember that this is a topic that I discussed with the editor; indeed this is a topic that has troubled me since the inception of the book.

I will reveal the results of my thinking at a later date.

Final Thoughts

It has not escaped me that Christmas is approaching. So, I’ve made two plans for the future. Firstly—the Necromancer will be featured on another blog! (Likewise, I shall be hosting other Indie authors here on the Magical Realm.) The event will run from the 1st–24th December; do keep an eye out!

And of course, I will be heading home to my parents. We have not seen each other in, I believe, four months; you can imagine that this is somewhat overdue. There I shall discover Glasgow, our new house, and perhaps I shall also have the opportunity to questions some Yes voters.

Until then—keep following. Much is will be going on...

13 Nov 2016

The Necromancer—Out Now!

Hello readers!

As promised, Alex will stop talking about the American elections, and talk instead about the promise he made to you back in October: to release a new version of the Necromancer!

As of now, it is available on Amazon to pre-order (and very soon, to buy). It’s out folks! Presently it has no reviews: Alex has contacted a number of reviewers, but they are yet to respond. No matter. Alex is sure you will enjoy the book—and he is also quite sure that you’ll be posting a review. (Right?)

Below is the new cover complete with a new blurb, as well as an excerpt. Just in case you needed tantalising ;)

In the frozen heartlands of the north, a dark force is reborn; his power is great, and his army swells with every monstrous recruit. In the Arachadian capital, Dresh, a string of mysterious kidnappings leaves the Great Mage puzzled. And in the mage academy of small town Renas, an unwitting apprentice is plunged into a quest: it will prove a fight for her life, a fight for the man she loves, and – ultimately – a fight for the future of the land.

Delve into this dark world of mystery and magic; of beings that walk the great forests and haunt the alcoves of the night. The necromancer awaits you...


Deep in the frozen north, a fortress stands tall.

It is a huge, magnificent thing: a towering construction of granite. The mountain on which it rests makes it no less humble; indeed, it seems the mountain is the subject, and the fortress the king.

Though magnificent, no ordinary human would observe it. Strong magics concealed it from mundane eyes – and stronger magics still guarded it from those with power.

In the midst of this fortress lies Neshvetal. He is the necromancer; the king of this forgotten realm. He is in the throne room. The floor is black marble, polished by the blood of the fallen: it reflects the necromancer’s face, emblazoning it in horror. The windows are tall, and shine a pale grey light – the light of approaching winter.

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.

His black robes absorb the light, like an infinite void of darkness. His cobalt blue eyes scan what is around him.

His guards – skeletons, devoid of eyes, and armoured by growths of bone – raise their axes. Leira walks past them. She is his apprentice; and she is beautiful. Her eyes are ruby red, and her hair black as the silk of mourning. Her dark robes do not conceal the figure within.

Yet Neshvetal feels nothing. He did not live; his elixir was death. Sexual pursuits scarcely troubled him. No: he had chosen her because she was powerful. A little young in the dark arts, perhaps, but that was a deficiency he could more than rectify.

“Hello, apprentice Leira. Why do you seek my presence?”

““Apprentice Leira’ – really, Neshvetal?”

The necromancer smiled.

“You never did care for formality, Leira; an admirable trait, in truth. So let me put it to you more simply: you’re supposed to be busy spying on our enemies and commandeering our army. What the hell are you doing here?”

“I was wondering about that Silver Mage you killed.”

“Her? She was an arrogant fool – she deserved her death,” Neshvetal replied, his voice gaining the passion that all zealots possess.

“But Neshvetal... don’t you believe whomever sent her would come looking if she doesn’t return?”

“I doubt it. Silver Mage or not, she is still just one mage.”

“Perhaps it is as you say. But I am your spy, and I know many things. Our Wraiths have reported activity.”

“What kind of activity?” Neshvetal enquired.

“Vague unrest so far – a mage knows of her death, and news has spread to the student body. I shall need to find more informative spies to discover more. You know how the limitations of our undead.”

Indeed he did. Wraiths were powerful beings, immune to physical harm and capable of traversing great distances. At night they could hide among the shadows; and no physical barrier could contain them. But Wraiths could not blend among the living; they could not discover their inner secrets. And mages were particularly difficult to spy on.

“In that case, I suggest you persuade a man to work for our cause.”

“I thought as much. Thank you for the advice, master.”

“Whose the one being formal now, Leira?”

She only smiled at that.

Neshvetal waved his hand. “Very well; is there anything else you wish to discuss?”

“There is still the question of our undead army.”

Neshvetal permitted himself a small smile. It was not a pleasant one: it revealed teeth that were inhumanly white, and a twinkle of madness within those cold orbs of sight.

“Do not worry, Leira. I have many plans in motion.”

As if on cue, a screech penetrated the air. It was not the cry of a bird: it was too deep, too unnatural for that. It was followed by a terrible scraping sound, like metal on stone. Then the creature entered the throne room.

It was difficult to believe it had once been human. Its eyes glowed red, like coals; its skin was deathly white. Its claws still held blood. It smiled: its mouth was filled with canines, like those of an airborne shark.

“Master,” it said. Its voice was as inhuman as its body. It bowed, respectfully though clumsily.

“Rise, Dragethir, and tell me what brings you here.”

“Master, I am bored. And we are still too weak. Shall we kill more?” It licked its lips, savouring the blood that still dripped from its teeth.

Neshvetal pondered the Dragethir’s words, stroking smooth stubble. (It was one of the few parts of his undead body that continued to live.) He had ordered the death of a few elves, more out of curiosity than necessity – he wished to see what beings could be created from their bodies. Now he considered whether to extend his efforts.

“Dragethir, I give you permission. Find the elves, and kill them.”

The thing smiled gleefully. Then it unfurled its wings: they resembled the wings of a bat, though they were immense, and the skin was like no living creature. With a single stroke, it was out of the throne room and into the sky.

“Do you think that was wise, Neshvetal? Killing elves would give them a reason to attack us.”

“I doubt it – the elves’ power is bound to the forest, and they dare not leave it. And even if they do attack us, they are few; they can be no more than a nuisance. No, let us take this opportunity. I am pleased with their undead forms.”

“If you say so. We shall see what they can do, when battle comes.” Leira did not sound particularly convinced.

“You will not have to wait much longer, my apprentice.”

Leira rolled her eyes, and turned to leave. “See to your business, master. I have my own to deal with.”

“I trust your spies will prove reliable.”

“You have put faith in me, Neshvetal, and I will not betray it.”

She left. Neshvetal smiled faintly, in the cold light of that room. He had put much faith in her: he had entrusted his spies, part of his army, and many of his secrets to her. She, too, had been betrayed. She, too, would be there when he crowned himself ruler of Arachadia.

It was a pleasing thought. Neshvetal laughed; the castle trembled from his madness.

Buy now—only $2.99!

9 Nov 2016

Good Morning America! (And Hello from Europe!)

Good morning America!

The phrase seems altogether appropriate on this particular morning. We have discovered—to our shock, thought not to my surprise—that a man who sexually assaults women, plans to have millions of people deported, wants to build a 3000km wall with Mexico, and intends to use nuclear weapons... has been elected President of the United States.

Several reactions are in order. I, being a citizen of an EU Member State, can open a bottle of wine and watch the fireworks. The worst that can happen to us is that we’ll need to spend a bit more money on the military (to keep the Russians under control and divorce ourselves from the Americans). The citizens of the US should be shocked today, but not for too long: Trump’s victory is not such a big surprise, and taking him down will require a cool head and a smart electoral strategy.

In this regard, I wish to propose some courses of action for the American left.

What should the Americans do now?

To begin curing a disease, one must first ascertain its causes. So: why did Donald Trump win? The following is not a entirely comprehensive or fully detailed account, but it underlies the main reasons:


Sorry folks, but this one cannot be ignored. An important reason why Trump won was because he gave voice to the prejudices of millions of Americans. White people saw him talk about Muslims, Mexicans and Blacks, and they thought ‘Hey! That’s what I always thought! Finally, a president who gets it—Muslims are terrorists, Mexicans are bad hombres, and who wants their little white girl to sit next to some big, overgrown Negro?’ (Yes, I’m quoting Eisenhower.)

Personality politics

I always thought that the Americans’ penchance for personality politics would prove their undoing; and here I am, proven right. Sure: Trump is a ‘pussy-grabber’ and a morally bankrupt businessman (hehe) but he also has a personality that many Americans find appealing. When he does funny caricatures of disabled people (they’re deeply offensive but they are funny), or comes out with some big, beautiful, nationalist jingoism—Americans love that. (One could draw an analogy between Hitler’s cult of personality.)


This is not the dominant reason here—Trump’s election is about politics, not about men being better than women—but I think it did play a part. If Clinton had been a man, I doubt the Republican smears on her would have been as effective. But something about her personality grated on people: she reminded men of the ‘nagging wife,’ and women of a heartless, childless bitch. It was easier to paint her as dishonest because she was a woman.


The Marxists were wrong when they said that politics, and history, is the endgame of class; prejudice and personality are just as important. But economics did a play a role here—and it is sometimes overlooked. Most white people are not privileged (as so many theorists misleadingly claim). This is for the simple fact that most white people aren’t rich, and in America, money talks. Americans were angry—angry that jobs went to China and Mexico, and that their standard of living had been eroded by financial crises.

Courses of Action

There are several things the American left should do after this calamity. Let’s begin with the first: concerted opposition. This will unfortunately be difficult as the Republicans control both the executive branch of the US government, and both houses of the legislative. Moreover it is possible that some Supreme Court justices will bugger off and die; Trump will then appoint new ones (and you can be sure they won’t be good judges).

The only options in the immediate term, therefore, are the following:

  1. Legal battles. Trump has plenty to be held to account for—he was accused of raping a 13-year old girl, sexually molesting several women, and he bragged about not paying taxes. A lawsuit on one or more of those issues might get him impeached.
  2. Protest. Put Trump under pressure: organise large scale protests. See how he reacts.
  3. Work with ‘moderate’ Republicans (let’s say ‘Trump-hostile’ since there there’s no such thing as a moderate Republican). Block Trump’s Bills in the Senate and in the HoR.

In the longer-term, the American left needs to do the following:

  1. Get people to register as Democrats so they can vote in the next Democratic nominations. Remember, the Democratic party blocked non-registered voters from voting because polling showed they would have preferred Bernie Sanders; let’s remember that lesson.
  2. Kill the pundits. Okay, I’m speaking metaphorically here. The pundits have been preaching from the same hymn sheet for decades now: American politics is all about appealing to the centre, they say. Trump wouldn’t win the Republican nomination, and certainly not the election. And Clinton could appeal to centrist voters—Sanders was too radical. Well, all that turned out to be disastrously wrong.
  3. Nominate Bernie Sanders? Or at least some other likable left-wing politician.
  4. Campaign hard. Trump has shown to the world that Americans are thick racists (as has Brexit for the UK). This needs to change. The left needs to persuade people that Mexicans are people just like us, that Blacks are not a bunch of criminals, and that the kind of chauvinistic misogyny which Trump displayed is badly out of date.

What about the EU?

Finally, I shall briefly address what we in Europe need to do. I see three key areas where we need to rethink our policies:

The military

This is the big one. Trump thinks NATO is America paying for Europe’s defence (and not entirely untruthfully, might I add) and he seems to have a liking for Vladimir Putin; this is bad news.

The EU can entertain diplomatic talks at the emergency summit they’ve invited Trump to: but let’s face reality here. Trump has stated his intentions clearly, and there’s not much diplomacy can do. The EU needs to spend more on the military, go forward with plans to e.g. have a common EU R&D fund for defence research, and we may even have to contemplate the extreme option of scrapping NATO and getting our own EU army.

Foreign policy.

There’s no telling what diplomatic gaffe Trump will perform, or what he’ll do in Syria; the EU needs to consider any and all possibilities.

Oh, and Federica Mogherini (the EU foreign policy head) needs a security detail—in case Trump tries to grab her pussy...

Internal politics

This is another big one—it’s possible that Trump’s victory will translate to electoral success for our own fascist parties (namely FN, AfD, etc.)

I am actually rather doubtful of this claim; Brexit was said to increase anti-EU sentiment on the Continent, but it actually did the opposite. We need to wait and see how Trump will really affect domestic EU politics.

I suspect he won’t—Europeans don’t really care that much about American politics. Europhobia has roots in migration (both intra-EU but mainly outside of EU), economic vicissitudes, the refugee crisis, and a host of other complex internal issues. Trump might make Farage, Wilders and Le Pen feel good, but he will not suddenly drive Europeans to insanity.


Okay, that’s it for today folks. I will at a later date address Brexit and Trump—together, for there will be some inter-relation. In the following weeks I suggest you pour yourselves some wine (or whiskey if you’re American) and entertain yourselves with my upcoming new edition of the Necromancer. That will be out over the weekend, more likely, since Trump will be hogging up the airwaves and make it difficult to promote.

Until then, may the stars watch over you.

5 Nov 2016

Vote Hillary Clinton

Hello readers!

You may be wondering what Alex is up to. How goes the new edition of the Necromancer? Will it be out this November? Has Alex contacted reviewers and built up an audience?

The answer to all those questions is of course yes: I have been most occupied with republishing the new edition of the Necromancer. However, as you may be able to guess, that is not the topic of this post. Rather, it is indeed—as the title alludes—to that most vexing of political questions: American presidential elections.

Alex’s reasons for entertaining this topic are relatively straightforward: American elections are more important than, say, Icelandic elections; and this particular election has some particularly interesting politics involved. Being a student of political science, I am inevitably drawn to it.

Anyway, let’s proceed to the introduction.


Ordinarily, I do not partake in American politics. I don’t write about it; I scarcely even follow it; and I don’t waste time thinking about it. The reasons are multifold—the most compelling is that I live 5000 kilometres away. And directly inline with that, I don’t consider them relevant to my life.

Oh sure: American politics is Trumped up (yes, I know) to no end. But in reality, the French, German, Spanish and Italian elections—while rather less glamorous—are far more important in the scope of European politics. They will determine the deal that Britain gets after Brexit, or the EU funds available to construct infrastructure projects in Romania, or the specifics of monetary policy that affect Dutch exporters.

This leads me to my third gripe with American politics: it is excessively sensationalised. In fact it resembles not so much an election as a national popularity contest (intermixed with a healthy dose of showbiz, naturally). It’s hard to take seriously—the unseriousness of it is terribly offputting.

Another explanation may be my own personal politics. I am a Socialist; I make Bernie Sanders look like a laidback moderate. Being far to the left of the American political spectrum can make the whole debate resemble a popularity contest between a billionaire whose favourite colour is red, and another who prefers blue.

I admit it does breed a certain contempt. I do not speak here of nationalism, or even the voguish Anti-Americanism of the kind espoused by critics of American foreign policy. I mean an ideological contempt; the whole of American politics seems altogether sordid to me. The eminent HL Mencken, an American strongly critical of that nation’s government, put it more eloquently than I:

In the present case it is a little inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible to any public office of trust or profit in the Republic

But, let us move on. Now that you know my background and the perspective I am approaching the issue from, allow me to elucidate on my stance.

Clinton versus Trump: Crook versus Crook?

On one side of the arena we have Donald Trump. He is a walking embodiment of every American stereotype I’ve come across: unctuously nationalist, blatantly avaricious, clearly ignorant, spectacularly sexist, and of course racist.

Opposing him, there is Hillary Clinton. Numerous criticisms have been levelled at her: she’s arrogant, hawkish, and in the pockets of Wall Street. The narrative of some among the American left—and several commentators of various political stripes here on the Continent—is that the two are virtually indistinguishable. Crook versus crook, or perhaps even Satan versus the Devil.

This narrative is plausible, but wrong.

It is, in fact, dangerously wrong. You may be surprised to hear this: after all, am I not a Socialist? How can I possibly support Hillary Clinton?

You’d be right on one level—I would have preferred a Sanders presidency. Nonetheless, we must deal with what we have. The registered Democrats chose not to elect Sanders, so now the US must face a stark choice: the presidency of a moron, bully, and megalomaniac; or the presidency of a less than ideal woman.

And that, at the end of the day, is the reality. Clinton is not the devil. I do not mean to say that she is perfect—indeed her links to Wall Street all but guarantee she won’t try anything too radical. America needs someone better than Clinton. The millions in poverty, and the grotesque face of American inequality, will not be resolved by a little centrist tinkering.

Incidentally, I am aware that Clinton’s language has become more Berniesque following her succession to the Democratic mantle. Some of it is genuine: she does strongly support the right of a woman to have an abortion, or the need for serious gun control.

I don’t believe she will usher a new era in economic thought, however—that was Bernie’s ticket. Clinton is just a centrist employing the language of the left, because it is politically expedient to do so. This is not to disparage her necessarily—sometimes it is smart to make the right noises—but merely to highlight that Clinton’s plans for a fair economy are grounded more in rhetoric than in real substance.

But for all that, the woman is still infinitely preferable to the alternative.

It’s not just that she’s less bad; that she’s not misogynistic, racist, or actively engaged in trampling over the proletariat by dodging taxes and outsourcing to Mexico. (Ironically, in the case of the latter.)

The woman is genuinely a nicer alternative. Despite some of her politics, there is a great deal to commend in her. She is highly competent, having proven herself in various roles of upper government; her grasp of public policy is strong, particularly in (for example) carbon-free energy and corporate taxation; and while not likely to shake the nest too much, she is also unlikely to bring it down.

A particularly striking example of the latter would be foreign policy. Trump’s misdeavours in this regard are almost without parallel: from building a wall with Mexico, weakening NATO, being friends with the Russian kleptocracy, and—worst of all—threatening to use nuclear weapons render him temperamentally unfit to be president.

Some of us here in the Continent are sadly naive about Trump’s foreign policy regime. Typically, these are young, naive, left-leaning students who are angry with Clinton’s interventions in Iraq and Libya.

Even setting aside the complexities of those cases—and they are complex, far beyond the narrow-minded narratives of the Anti-American psyche—believing that Donald Trump will be better in this regard is foolish, to put it mildly. It’s not just that the man is foolhardy, ignorant, and has a towering vanity matched only by his nationalist fervour; it’s that Trump is fundamentally more inclined to war than even Hillary Clinton.

One should not confuse Trump’s professed trade isolationism with military isolationism. Throughout history, the two have been rather distinct. Trump may want to build a wall and impose tariffs—but he also wants to spend money in the military, and put it to use fighting Isis. He does, after all, regularly attack Clinton for being too soft on terrorists. Is that really what you want, Stop the War advocates?

The Third Party Question

The final question I wish to address is that of the alternative: why not vote for a third party?

There are two very good reasons for why you shouldn’t. The first is often repeated: in the American electoral system, a vote for Jill Stein is de facto a vote for Trump, and a vote for Johnson is de facto a vote for Clinton.

The other reason—which is perhaps even better—is that the other two candidates are piss-poor. Johnson, a libertarian, is no better than Trump: his socioeconomic policy will prove a disaster so profound even Trump won’t be able to match it. People will literally die of cold, hunger, and disease on America’s streets. (And let’s not even touch on the man’s ignorance of Aleppo, documented live on television.)

As for Jill Stein? She lives in cloud cuckoo land. 100% renewable energy by 2030? Impossible: there is nowhere near enough storage capacity in the grid to allow it. Creating 20 million jobs by doing it? Pure fantasy. A return to 18th century agriculture? The world will starve.


My conclusion mirrors my title: vote Hillary Clinton. Of course I do not hand out my recommendation without caveats (you should know that I always caveat). The woman isn’t perfect: her economic policy will not be sufficient to deal with that country’s problems; her record on LGBT rights is complex; and there is reason to be weary of her links with Wall Street. America is a corrupt country. (Yes, it’s true.)

But if the worst that can be said about Hillary is that she’s not ideal, than far worse can be leveled against Trump: diplomatically, he would be a disaster; in foreign policy there’s no telling what he would do; and his economic policy will be worse than Hillary’s. Clinton just won’t make things much better than they are; Trump will make sure they worsen.

Aside from being unfit to lead, the man himself is odious. He’s a corrupt businessman who bankrupted himself 70 times and doesn’t pay taxes; he believes Mexicans are rapists; he thinks all Muslims are unconditionally evil; and he likes to grope women. The only good thing I can say about him is that he’s not homophobic.

And for all of Hillary’s problems, I like her. She’s competent—and I deeply admire competence. Her position on renewable energy, climate change, and fracking is one I find particularly well-informed. One need not vote for her with an upturned nose; in fact she will make a decent President, no worse than the others that have gone before her.

Anyway, that’s it for today. I will conclude with a warming, handed out by HL Mencken eighty years ago, but still all too relevant today:

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

2 Nov 2016

The Pierian Spring...

Hello readers!

Previously, I released the new cover of the republished edition of the Necromancer, along with a blurb and prologue—to tease you. I did not give a firm publication date; I said it would be soon, very soon.

You see, I have sent out a review request to several reviewers, and will be sending out several more over the coming days. I hope to gain a fair number of reviews, and high star reviews if possible; these are important for the success of the book. I am therefore hoping to have the new Necromancer out by the 10th November, possibly later—it depends on the reviewers. (Reviewers, as you can imagine, are as fickle as writers.)

In any case, while you are still waiting for the book, you can still follow the many intriguing writings here on the Magical Realm. Up today is a piece I consider particularly interesting: it is about the rules of magic in fantasy, and the important consequences that it brings for plot.

Too Much Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

Going back over the Necromancer—by editing it, rewriting it, and thinking how I might remarket it—it occurred to me that the greatest strength of the book was that... one could never really tell where it would go. Every encounter was a mystery; it was always possible for something to go wrong unexpectedly.

Indeed, ‘things going wrong unexpectedly’ are perhaps the most compelling element of any plot. It’s what keeps your reader in suspense—it’s what surprises them and makes them want to read more. If the reader knew the outcome of 90% of encounters... well: what would be the point? No one would care to read the book.

And this is where the rules of magic systems become important. In a system where the rules of magic are clearly defined and unbreakable—then the outcomes of magic battles are clearly defined and unbreakable. And thus, as above, such battles become boring.

So what can the intrepid writer do? There are a few options:

  1. Keep the magic system deliberately vague.
  2. Make the magic system inherently uncertain. For example: the principles of quantum physics are immutable, but at the same time, uncertainty is inseparably part of quantum physics. A similar thing can be done with the principles of magic systems.
  3. Let the magic system have clear principles, but don’t reveal them all to your readers—leave them with just enough to try and puzzle it out.

There are some problems associated with all of these approaches, but (2) and (3) are—in my experience—superior to (1). The issue with the first option is that, by making your magic system vague, you end up with a world that doesn’t have any rhyme or reason to it. Why did x lose a battle to y? How does the magic system work? (Your readers will be wondering about this, trust me.) And most of all: what are the limitations of magic? Can mages move mountains or just pen knives?

The second and third options are superior, though not entirely perfect. The second option is attractive if you can pull it off—but it requires some quite complex magical principles, and may be difficult to visualise and implement.

The third option is what I took with the Necromancer. I was able to create a world with clearly delineated roles of magic, limitations, and relative power levels. At the same time the reader was always left in suspense—because the magic system was complex and never explained in full detail.

The take-away point here is that, as is often the case with fiction, you need not tell the reader everything. Sometimes, too much knowledge is a dangerous thing. Sometimes—a little ignorance can go a long way.

31 Oct 2016

Halloween, and the Necromancer in 2016

Happy halloween, dear readers!

Previously, I promised you that the Necromancer—the book I wrote at fourteen and published two years ago—would be getting a make-over. And guess what? Today is the day!

Okay, I must say that the new version is not on sale just yet; you’ll have to wait a few more days for that. But, you do get to see three pertinent elements of the new work: a newly revised blurb, prologue, and of course a brand new cover. While you ooh and aah over the new content (or at least I’ll hope you’ll be ooing and aaing) I will be busy getting a new series of reviews; expect to see them in the coming weeks.

Without further ado, here is the new cover and corresponding blurb:

In the frozen heartlands of the north, a dark force is reborn; his power is great, and his army swells with every monstrous recruit. In the Arachadian capital, Dresh, a string of mysterious kidnappings leaves the Great Mage puzzled. And in the mage academy of small town Renas, an unwitting apprentice is plunged into a quest: it will prove a fight for her life, a fight for the man she loves, and – ultimately – a fight for the future of the land.

Delve into this dark world of mystery and magic, of beings that walk the great forests and haunt the alcoves of the night; the necromancer awaits you...

And of course, I have also included the newly re-written prologue. If you wish to know more of the changes I have made to the Necromancer, well; you’ll just have to wait. Consider this a sweet taste of what’s to come...


The mage ran through the forest, and the necromancer followed.

Eiliara was her name. She was a fool. She told herself as much: You fool, Eiliara; you arrogant, stupid fool. Determined to uphold justice, you doomed yourself. You can’t fight him—you’ll die here, on this forsaken mountain. What the mage told herself was true, but still she carried on running. Perhaps she thought she could evade him—though that was folly, as any halfway competent mage would have told her. In reality, she ran because she was a Silver Mage, and Silver Mages never give up.

The forest around her is shrouded by darkness; the moon, a graceful queen in her empyrean abode, shines a pale blue light. The necromancer’s laughter follows her laboured breathing and tired footsteps. His is a dark laugh, a mixture of both arrogance and madness.

“Trying to escape me, mage?” The mage pays him no heed; she continues running.

Then Eiliara feels it—a terrible emptiness, a howling being of death, given birth through unholy magic.

The Wraith, for it can be no other, soon outruns her. It moves with an impossible grace; it moves unhindered by physical imperfections or moral bounds. It tries to grasp her in its lethal embrace—to consume her with darkness.

Eiliara’s spell is but a whispered word, and yet its power is undeniable. There is a searing flash of white. There is a bitter tang of ozone, not such as might be caused by a storm, but the taste of powerful magic. The Wraith screams, and then it implodes.

The necromancer is no fool, Eiliara; he sent the Wraith only to toy with you. Her words prove correct. There is a powerful gust of wind; the necromancer then appears before her, darkness pooling at his edges.

He was, Eiliara had to admit, rather beautiful. His jaw was masculine—a faint hint of stubble graced it, perfectly trimmed and subtly seductive. His hair was obsidian black, and gleamed in that pale moonlit night. His countenance was that of an aristocrat; his bearing arrogant and forceful.

“My darling mage!’ he begins. “To think you could destroy my faithful undead, and hope to avoid my notice. Your arrogance is remarkable. But I must admit,’ he says mockingly, “that I do find it intriguing. Are you brave, or merely stupid?”

“Spare me your insults, necromancer, and do not pretend that you yourself are not privy to the allure of arrogance.”

The necromancer laughs. “Ah, but you see, my arrogance is justified; for I am the most powerful wielder of magic in this forsaken realm. You, Silver Mage, are no match for me.”

“Let us see if your words mean anything,” the mage taunts. Her attack is powerful and without warning. The world turns white; her power slams into the necromancer. She attacks with spells—spells of fire, of thunder, and of magics beyond the ken of ordinary battle mages.

The light fades, and the efforts of her assault are revealed. The necromancer stands tall, his expression amused—perhaps even bored. His eyes glow an ethereal blue; they are alit by the unholy power of his dark magic, and the madness of his disturbed mind.

“Is that really all the mage academies could teach you? I fear I shall not be terribly entertained.” His words are not in jest; the power he unleashes cannot be underestimated.

At first he attacks with ice—a coldness so profound, Eiliara feels as if all the stars of Arachadia had been extinguished. Then he attacks with fire: a fire unearthly and blue. Then with blackness. It is a darkness absolute, an abyss into the dead lands, a precipice where life hangs dearly for its continued existence.

Eiliara’s wards shudder, and her power is exhausted. She had been trained to fight dark magics, of course: indeed she had been trained to fight anything. But none of her skills—her mastery of spellcraft, her cunning ploys, her subtle tactics—are a match for him. The necromancer was no ordinary meddler of the dark arts; his was a power perfected by many years, great skill, and staggering ability.

“So this is it,” she says.

“Indeed; but consider yourself fortunate. You, at least, shall not see the institution you so cherish be destroyed by my power.”

“Do you truly believe you can destroy the mage academies?” She intends the words to mock, but they only show her fear. Eiliara knew the necromancer’s power—and nothing seemed beyond him.

“I do, and you know full well I can. My undead shall rise and smite down the living. They shall destroy your corrupt administration and the injustices you perpetrate. Death will bring a new beginning: Arachadia shall see the dawn of my rule, and a new dynasty of necromancers will be born.”

“You’re insane.”

“Perhaps. You would not be the first to say as much, and I doubt you will be the last. Indeed I find your accusation quite entertaining. After all: it is you who live in gilded halls while the poor suffer in their slums. It is you who gaze imperiously at their downtrodden faces, secure in the knowledge that your power renders you immune to whatever revolt the peasants may devise.”

“But surely you know that the queen is responsible for this! She sets the taxes, not we.”

“Oh, I know, and rest assured the nobility shall perish with you. But you are complicit. Your powers are used to demand loyalty from the army, and ensure the continued rule of the Sovereign. I know; I was part of it, once.”

“Who are you?” Eiliara whispers.

“Don’t you know? I’m the necromancer. I’m the being forgotten; the love destroyed by the ambitions of a fool.”

“Are you...” Eiliara searches her memory. She had lived for many years—sixty in total—and recalled much. The necromancer’s identity was a suspicion; if only it could be confirmed...

“Are you—”

“Enough talk. Prepare to die.”

Eiliara focused all of her power on the strength of her wards, but she kept a tiny reserve—the very edge of her power—towards a different purpose. As the necromancer attacked, she sent out a message.

Eiliara died on that cold night. Her screams found no solace in the inclement face of the mountain, nor in the necromancer’s forgotten conscience. But her message found its way.

A darkness rises; a necromancer haunts the mountains of the north. Years ago, he was betrayed. His vengeance cannot be quenched. He must be stopped—and his progeny kept safe. I am Eiliara, and I will be no more. Let my sacrifice not go in vain.

21 Oct 2016

The New Face of the Necromancer (and Other Goings On)

Hello readers!

It has been awhile since I last wrote a new post here on the Magical Realm. The reason, as you know, is that I have been busy working to republish the Necromancer on its second anniversary. Nonetheless—you are by now, I am sure, bored of rereading old essays on liberalism and the Soviets. Today you are in luck; I have found a window of opportunity in my seemingly infinite pile of work, and I shall use it to brief you on all that has been going on in these past few weeks.

To begin with, the most pressing and interesting aspect of my work so far: the new face of the Necromancer.

The Necromancer, 2016

I have been a busy boy: I have written approximately 8000 words. Most of these have found themselves in the epilogue; the Necromancer has a new ending! I shall, of course, be secretive as to how exactly things have changed. What I can say? I have tied up several loose ends, and given Linaera an altogether new purpose in her life.

Aside from that, I have also rewritten the prologue. The prose is more fluid, and more cogent—one of my favourite beta readers has already commented favourably upon it. I hope that a more convincing prologue will, indeed, convince more readers to give the Necromancer a chance.

Aside from that, I have made notable edits to a number of chapters; and in the following days, I hope to have completed all of the edits I intend to make with the new edition. I shall not reveal too many details as yet; that will be for a later post.

The new edition also has various other miscellaneous changes. The Deathbringer, a sequel I considered writing, is not to be; therefore that excerpt has been removed and replaced from one in the Ark. I have also changed the preface and made a host of other minor changes.

But perhaps what will you notice most of all—particularly on publication day—is the new cover. Once more, this is hush hush. Rest assured that there will be a cover reveal day, however; and there you will see the new face of the Necromancer...


I have also written (and subsequently revised) two articles for Scriptus, the university’s student-run journal. Sadly, my second article—regarding my experience writing the Necromancer—will be published in then next issue on November. Thankfully, my article on Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century is out today!

As you may know, I intend to furnish my journalism credentials over the coming months and years; I one day hope to write pieces for the likes of the Guardian, the FT, the New York Times, and other respectable publications.

Life in the Netherlands

The final part of this update will concern some observations I have made about the university here, and life more generally in the Netherlands.

I have already mentioned that university does not function like lower school: I have an irregular schedule, with no lessons on Wednesday and variable hours depending on whether a guest lecture is scheduled, whether I have a particularly challenging assignment due in, and so on.

I have also mentioned that I am not convinced of this system, and that impression has only been re-enforced. There is something to be said for regularity—for starting school at 9 (or preferably 10), having something to do for a set number of hours, and then going home. Such a system allows a lot of work to be done in a co-ordinated manner.

The university system, I have found, is flexible—but difficult to work with. I often find myself working well into the evening, and alternately having plentiful time on my hands. My sleep has suffered somewhat: I tend to sleep erratically from day to day. On a morning lecture, I will have slept about eight hours the previous night; on other days I will have slept ten. I am functional—the ten hour nights prevent sleep deprivation—but I am tired on some mornings, and oversleep on others.

Sleep is a common problem for young adults, alas. The best I can do is attempt a schedule and practise some good habits. I will, for one, open the curtains before I go to bed—for in the darkness I can sleep eternally.

As for the grading system, assignments, and tests, I have found them... reasonable. I am still getting to grips it with—an inevitable consequence of changing systems—but so far I have found it reasonable. I have scored the maximum grade, A, on most of my tests and assignments.

One strange aspect is that scoring above 82.5% will give you the maximum grade—regardless of whether you got 83%, 90%, or 100%. While such a grading system does not finely distinguish between very high performers, it has the more beneficial effect of giving me a certain margin of error. Trying to always score 90% would be exhausting; the lower boundary supports better mental health.

I must also admit that the marking schemes are somewhat foreign to me—although considering my strong performance, I hope I will not need to memorise mark schemes, as I was forced to do lower down in school.

As for the courses themselves, I have them highly interesting. Energy, Climate and Sustainability perhaps more so than any other: I find the boundaries between economics, physics and chemistry to be intellectually febrile ground. But this is not to say that my other courses are not interesting.

In Economic Thought, we have learned a great deal about the classical economists. In Academic Writing, I have the benefit of discussing the finer points of literature with the teacher. And in logic I was given a very interesting lecture on group aggregation logic—a topic with applications ranging from distributed computing to voting systems.

The Land of Milk and Bicycles

As for Holland itself, it is in many ways as I remember it. Dark and rainy, though beautiful when the sun shines. Amsterdam itself is not the most interesting European city architecturally (sorry Dutchies!), but it makes up for that with numerous beautiful parks, events, and plenty of shopping.

Although, I do detest its street signs. They are written in small font, kept hidden behind corners, and often have obscure and difficult names. (For example: Carolina MacGillavrylaan.) This makes it challenging to find one’s way, even with GPS.

The city is relatively compact—I can get from one side to the other by bike, although it can take up to an hour once traffic and faulty GPS directions are factored in.

I have also found Amsterdam unusually difficult—by Dutch standards—for bikers. This probably down to the large number of intersections, traffic lights, and the wretched motorcyclists. (Which really ought to use the road. And be properly regulated: they are tremendously noisy and polluting.)

Finishing Thoughts

I hope you have found my update illuminating. I am, as you can see, very busy. Assignments, lectures, bureaucracy, and the toils of moving all fall on top of my writing commitments. Nonetheless I am making progress; and soon, with luck, you will be able to see the new version of the Necromancer up for sale.

Until then, do keep following.

19 Oct 2016

The Brexit Landscape

This article on the Brexit negotiations is out of date, but still relevant. It has been republished as part of my October series.

Here I shall present a two-part analysis. The first is about Labour; being a member I am inevitably deeply interested in party politics, and there is no doubt that Brexit has provoked significant upheaval in the party. The most dramatic of these was the fact that 2/3 of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet resigned—and the no-confidence motion, passed by 80% of Labour MPs, is almost as important.

Inevitably, the question is: what next for Labour?

The second part of this analysis will concern the fate of the country. I will of course refer to today’s summit of the EU-27, as well Nicola Sturgeon’s efforts to woo Brussels.

Anyway, to business.

What Next for Corbyn?

The most difficult and pressing question we face right now is of course Jeremy Corbyn. Loved by most of the members; loathed by most of the PLP. This contradiction is at the heart of the problem, and has been since Jeremy has been elected Leader.

But there is another element to this: the referendum. If you recall, most of the party prior to the referendum result was willing to work with Jeremy, and many were accepted into his shadow cabinet. And yet, we are now seeing a mass walkout of the shadow cabinet—not to mention the no-confidence motion. What changed? Could the Brexit really be the reason that Corbyn is facing a coup? Or is it just a handy excuse?

No doubt many Corbyn backers prefer the latter explanation. In all truth, however, they are almost certainly wrong. It is not true that the Parliamentary Labour Party is full of careerists and Blairites. Sure, there are the Simon Danczuks and Liz Kendalls; but these are a minority faction of die-hards. They can mouth off in the rightwing press all they like, but they alone are not enough to account for the revolt Corbyn is facing.

Because let us be clear: this is a revolt on an epic scale. It wasn’t a minority of the PLP that voted for the no-confidence motion; it was 80%. That basically encompasses not only the Blairites, but also what is commonly called the ‘soft-left’ or—more accurately—the mainstream.

The sad fact of the matter is, the only people who have any faith left in Corbyn are his closest friends and backers—McDonnell, Diane Abbott, etc. The others (let’s be honest) only voted against the motion in order to try and preserve the idea of order, however faint it may be.

So what is to be done? It is believed Angela Eagle—the Shadow First Secretary—will mount a leadership challenge. (EDIT: Owen Smith is also receiving support from the PLP.) If they do, will Corbyn make the ballot? The latter is likely; for Corbyn to not be on the ballot would not only be constitutionally problematic, but would deeply undermine the membership.

This is the crux of the problem Labour is facing. The membership are the ones who canvass and campaign; they are the boots on the ground. They give the party backing, money, and energy.

But the PLP is the body with the real power. They sit in Parliament and vote on legislation; they go on TV and defend the party’s policy. Without the membership the party is wearied and weakened. But without parliamentary presence it is not a party in any meaningful sense of the word—and certainly not a party that can lay claim to government.

At the end of the day, it is as simple as that. If Corbyn cannot keep the PLP under control (let alone on his side) then he is not fit to be leader. In its present state of conflict, the Labour party is unlikely to win a majority; and even if it did, it would not be a functional government.

We can rage against the PLP till the cows come home. It doesn’t really matter. The game is up.

We can, naturally, wonder why the PLP has turned outright hostile to Corbyn. Is it because he was not overly enthusiastic in the referendum campaign; because had he been a little firmer with his message, a little more ready to remind our voters of what the EU has done for Europe (promote peace, forge trade links, fight global warming and tax evasion)—then he might have swung the vote to Remain?

Our MPs seem to believe so. Are they justified? Ultimately, I think they are. While many voters wouldn’t have cared for what the Labour Leader had to say either way, there is no doubt that with a 2% margin, Leave’s victory was extremely narrow. If Corbyn had been more determined, he may well have stopped Brexit.

Even if you don’t agree with this, it doesn’t matter. Corbyn has proven himself terminally unfit to lead. He may have the right message; but he is not the man to sell it. He has the charisma of a retired university professor (a rather charitable analogy). He has too much baggage from decades as a CND chair and perpetual rebel. He has no front-bench experience.

Believe me, this is not easy to admit. I gave him my second preference in the leadership election. At the time, I gave him the benefit of the doubt—maybe he would prove a competent leader. Maybe he really would deliver. He had, after all, already confounded the political class when he became frontrunner and then leader.

Alas, it is not meant to be. This is not to be defeatist: the Corbyn effect has always been about his ideas, not about Corbyn himself. The members will continue to believe in those ideas; Momentum will continue to fight for them.

They might not, of course. But if they don’t, then this only makes my point. Corbyn is just a man—and not even such a great politician at that. If nothing remains after he leaves, then there was never a movement. It was always a personality cult.

So my message to Corbyn supporters is this: let Corbyn go. He can’t lead the party and his continued presence as Leader can only lead to heartbreak. Rather, Corbyn supporters should focus their attentions on changing the structure of the Labour party. They should do their best to influence the selection of parliamentary candidates. They should bring policy suggestions through the mechanism in place for that.

And perhaps most of all, they should stay on the lookout for an MP that can make the socialist case. For an MP that fights against poverty, inequality, tax avoidance, and privatisation—but who does this with charisma and pragmatism, not just with passionate principle.

Keir Hardie, after all, was never a successful Commons leader. The man who really got the Labour party somewhere—who turned words into deeds—was Clement Attlee. Corbyn supporters would do well to heed the lessons of history.

Labour and Brexit

Moving onto the second point of order, Labour must address the challenge posed by Brexit. For Brexit puts us into a tricky situation. Two thirds of our voters may have to Remain; but this still means a third voted to Leave. And what of the voters we wish to convince? More than half would have voted Leave.

To add further cause for concern, the Liberal Democrats may have awoken from their slumber. Tim Farron has pledged to undo the referendum result if his party is elected. Do not underestimate this: the petition to undo the referendum result has received 4 million signatures. This is unprecedented for a petition. And as the many memes on social media and the rally held at Trafalgar Square shows, there is actually a substantial number of people in this country who really don’t want Brexit.

Anti-Brexit Rally

Above: there are others like them. Do you think a party that pledges to undo the referendum using parliamentary sovereignty won’t get their support?

This puts Labour in a very awkward situation. If we take a conciliatory approach with regards to the European Union, we will lose the votes of the young and the metropolitan middle class to the Lib Dems. Allow me to be frank: without those votes we don’t stand a chance of getting into government.

If we take a firmly pro-EU stance, we may alienate the voters we wish to gain support from.

My take on this is that we should have a pro-EU policy framed by a conciliatory rhetoric. We will as a party attempt to keep Britain’s access to the common market (regardless of the immigration it will inevitably involve). Why? Because it would be disastrous for Britain’s working people if what remains of our industrial base moves to Europe. Recession would likewise be disastrous—for everyone.

We must however do our utmost to re-assure people when it comes to immigration. I would suggest we take the following line: the immigration we’ve seen in the past couple of years has indeed been high. But it won’t last much longer. Eastern Europe’s economy is growing; and many of the people who would have emigrated have already done so.

To counter the threat of those Liberals, my instinct would be to attack Farron. ‘We’re all sinners, Mr Farron’ sounds catchy. The people who want to remain in the EU most fervently are, after all, the young and the cosmopolitan. They will not approve of Farron’s rather dubious, religiously-motivated stance on gay rights. (I sure as hell don’t: his kind of thinking has caused immense suffering for other gay people like me, and indeed still does.)

‘But Alex!’ you ask: ‘Do you not want to undo the referendum? Surely you of all people would like that!’ Well, yes; I would like it. But I am no idealistic fool. Farron and his band of liars can promise whatever they want. But undoing the referendum can only be done with another referendum; to undo it through Parliament would provoke a constitutional crisis without precedence. It could literally mean riots on the streets.

And a second referendum, well; that’s plausible, but seems unlikely. Firstly, because can we really put it in our manifesto without alienating potential voters? But moreso, because I’m not sure it would matter even if the result came out for Remain. The EU has made clear that it wants the UK to invoke Article 50. Once we do that, the process is irreversible.

It’s strange, I will admit; to be so staunchly pragmatic at my age. But protest doesn’t change anything. Power does.

The Brexit Negotiations

The news regarding the UK’s negotiation with the EU at today’s summit is very boring. This is because it is completely unsurprising. Merkel says the UK will not get access to the common market without granting the four freedoms; Renzi, the Italian President, says being in a family requires taking the bad with the good; François Hollande says the same thing. Donald Tusk says no á la carte single market. In others words: as Remain said all along.

In more interesting news, Nicola Sturgeon’s attempt to woo the EU is a mixed success. Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian PM responsible for the Brexit negotiations, thinks it is quite plausible for the EU to cook up a deal with Scotland. Martin Schulz is open to the possibility. But Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish incumbent head of state, is opposed. (Unsurprisingly, what with Catalonia and all.) Tusk also declined to meet Sturgeon—claiming that it would be bad precedent for him to meet Sturgeon, and would provoke an avalanche of visits from other states. He seems to think Scotland’s position will be negotiated along with the UK’s.

So: what do I make of all this?

I think it’s too early to tell. But I do think Sturgeon stands a strong chance of keeping Scotland in the EU—either through some sort of deal with Brussels, or by becoming independent and rejoining (which would take about 5 years or so). This is because the EU leaders are for the most part sympathetic to Scotland; after all, Scotland is not leaving out of its own free will.

As for Rajoy, it’s not even certain he will be Spain’s head of state. (After all, coalition negotiations are still ongoing; Rajoy doesn’t have a majority in parliament.) Even if he’s still around, I think he will capitulate, because a) Scotland’s situation is not that of Catalonia; the latter is not being forced out of the EU and b) because vetoing Scotland would be unpopular in Europe, unpopular in the world stage, and unpopular in Catalonia.

He can also spin it off. Scotland is a unique situation; it can remain in the EU because of the exceptional circumstances regarding its departure.

Anyway, a lot of this is conjecture at this point.

Closing Thoughts

These are uncertain times ahead. The political situation requires further news and further analysis—which I shall be doing over the coming months. At present, Labour has to contend both with a bitter internal divide and a potentially dangerous electoral landscape: the Lib Dems on one side, UKIP and the Leavers on the other.

Anyway, one thing is for certain: I will be writing. I have already begun revising the Ark, with chapter two being mostly re-written. Wish me luck. I shall be releasing numerous progress updates on the Ark. The Magical Realm, after all, is chiefly a writing blog.

16 Oct 2016

On Chomsky, Socialism, and the Soviets

Once more, as part of my October series, I am republishing old essays from the archives of the Magical Realm. This essay on Noam Chomsky is one that was previously found popular.

Though I have promised more on the Ark—with excerpts, as in the case of my previous post, as well as beta reader feedback, analysis, etc.—I nevertheless felt compelled to address a peculiarly intriguing piece by Noam Chomsky.

Firstly, take a look. In the piece Chomsky makes numerous points; but the main, overarching thrust is that the Soviet Union was not a Socialist state, but a regime run by the intelligentsia under the pretence of Socialism.

This, along with other questions, I shall address herewith.

Was the Soviet Union Socialist?

As Chomsky himself admits, political terminology is often vague and subject to semantics. Because of this, we must actually define what ‘Socialism’ means.

Chomsky’s definition is simple: Socialism’s goal is to empower the workers and free them from the institutions of capitalism and the vagaries of the bourgeois class.

Which is great. But Chomsky’s has made a critical error: he failed to define how this lofty goal is actually to be achieved! For if you ask Marx, Lenin, or a Social Democrat (as best characterised by the 20th century movements in Sweden, Germany, Denmark etc.) you will get three rather different answers.

For Marx, the goal may really only be achieved once the workers have seized control of the means of production; a workers’ state, in other words. For Lenin, this seizure of power must be performed by the intelligentsia—they must then dictate the economy so as to be run in the interests of the workers, or else gradually give workers that power.

But ask a Social Democrat in 20th century Sweden (which would be around the same time as Lenin and co. seized power) and they would tell you something rather different. There can be no workers’ state; pure command economies don’t work. Granted—the kind of ‘socialism’ advocated by Chomsky is distinct from the command and control style Communism where production is dictated by state bureaus.

But a pure and genuine workers’ state is almost as dysfunctional as that kind of command and control economy. For the workers’ state seems to involve a curious contradiction: workers must be able to control production, but they must also have free choice in what they can buy and own. This is simply not possible. Either demand dictates supply, or supply dictates demand

Allow me to illustrate via example. Suppose you, as an empowered worker, labour in a factory producing cars. Now: you and workers throughout the rest of the Utopian Workers’ State have agreed to produce 10,000 cars, 10,000 tonnes of grain, 20,000 apartments and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, you and other workers find that you possess a fancy for vodka; and so you decide to spent your allocated money on vodka. Thus you cannot buy apartments and cars and so on.

What happens now is that lots of apartments and cars are produced—and are not wanted. At the same time, there is a dire shortage of vodka!

The naive economist may now say: ‘Ah! But why not just switch production over to vodka from grain?’

This sounds lovely in theory, but becomes rather difficult to implement in practice when you have to dynamically allocate an economy that produces everything from robots and cars; to grain and alcohol; and domestic services, teaching, and art.

Moreover, even if such a state were able to adapt reasonably well to the demands placed upon it, there would still result some of the same maladies found in capitalist economies. Case in point: frictional unemployment. You may want to start producing lots of vodka now, but maybe you’ll then find that the workers have had enough vodka (perhaps they tired of being drunk) and instead decided to buy computers.

The question presented to you now is: how does one turn farm labourers into computer scientists?

(In fairness, there is one difference between this and capitalism. The state will keep the workers making stuff until they can be re-trained. The goods they produce won’t be very useful, but it’s still better than having the workers unemployed and not making anything—as would be the case under capitalism.)

So it seems that we have to make some sort of compromise:

  1. A perpetually dysfunctional economy where worker possess both free choice in goods and control over production;
  2. An economy where workers have very little choice in goods, but control production; or
  3. An economy as run by the Social Democratic movements of the 20th century. Both markets and worker-run production act together in a hybrid model; the virtues of both are inherited, along with some of the vices.

So it seems that, either way you cut it, command economies are suboptimal: either they severely limit individual choice, or they fail to be allocatively efficient.

But Chomsky seems to be getting at something different here: political power. Regardless of the economic system, he argues, workers are disempowered by the political system—which is firmly under the control of Lenin.

And it seems a fair enough criticism. But it merits more consideration.

So was the Soviet Union Let Down by Politics?

Before I answer this, I must clarify a point that may elude those of you less familiar with Russian history. Stalin, as I’ve covered previously, was not a Socialist in any form. He was a murderous paranoid despot with a ruthless desire for control and less interest in the wellbeing of his people than even the Tsars. He ran a command economy to satiate his hunger for power, not to emancipate the workers.

With that out of the way, let’s consider Chomsky’s central point: Lenin brought a poor excuse for socialism because he was, like Stalin, ultimately more interested in power than emancipation for the working classes.

This sounds superficially credible, but is really deeply ignorant of history.

This is because, in Russia at the time, the workers themselves simply had neither the desire nor the means to organise a revolution. Sure—there had been isolated protests. Well before 1917 peasants had seized estates belonging to local nobles; and there had been a number of protests in the cities, which ended badly—see the Bloody Sunday.

But really, until 1917, the workers did not possess a collective, Russia-wide notion of worker emancipation. Yes, they had unions which quarrelled with factory owners—and sometimes succeeded in improving conditions for the workers. But these protests were concerned with the wellbeing of workers in a particular factory, or region, or industry.

Some thinkers (of Marxist persuasions) believed Lenin acted too soon: he should have waited for these incipient movements to spread through a process of osmosis. The revolution should have been bottom-up, not top-down.

But this strikes me as naïve. Russia was a huge empire stretching all the way across Asia, into North-Eastern Europe (Finland was a close ally of Russia well into the 19th century), Eastern Europe (where Russia variously held power over Poland, the Ukraine and the Baltic States), and even the Middle-East. It had native Russians of various religions (see: Old Believers), it had Muslims subjected by conquering Tsars (indeed, as Geoffrey Hosking notes, some Russian serfs were under the domain of local Muslim lords), and it had a significant divide between peasants and urban workers.

The Tsars, for their part, had been autocrats for centuries and were now beginning to panic (of which Bloody Sunday was an unfortunate manifestation).

The disparate peoples of Russia only came close to unity in the first World War, largely owing to the military—soldiers were effectively adopted into a military family, where they called men from the other side of Russia their brothers—and the collective impact of the war on the Russian psyche.

But such an event was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If Lenin had waited, the underlying factors making revolution feasible would have faded. The Tsars could have re-asserted themselves.

In short: it was top-down or nothing.

Top-down then Bottom-up?

If we accept that change was necessary, then the question really becomes: did the Soviet movement lose sight of its objectives? Did it, in other words, become corrupt? Or was it ever well-intentioned to begin with?

There can be little doubt that the purges, pogroms and paranoia of Stalin were a parody of what the early Bolsheviks desired. Yes, the Bolsheviks figured political power was necessary to bring about improvement for the working classes. But no, they certainly didn’t desire a regime worse than the Tsars they were trying to replace!

And call me naive, but I think it common sense that the Soviets were well-intentioned. Remember: the Soviets were the intelligentsia. They were middle-class and well-off (sometimes even very well-off) and they could have gained power in the political structure that was already present. They didn’t need to start a revolution; in fact, you’d think a revolution would be more likely to wrong their desire for power.

It seems that the mistake of the Soviets—besides attempting an overly command-driven and dysfunctional economic system that should’ve been closer to what was going on in Europe—was in becoming that which they sought to overthrow. They became too self-righteous, too autocratic. The pigs started running the farm, and the pigs became men. (There’s a bit of Orwell for you lot.)

Chomsky and Propaganda

Chomsky also makes the point that Western scholars produced propaganda when they attempted to a) claim the Soviet Union was socialist and b) claim whatever they were doing was bound to fail. Western scholars were not interested in debate; they wanted to keep the rich, rich, and the poor in their place.

The Soviet Union they saw as the embodiment of all their fears—there was a nation where the workers seized power! It was a nightmare situation for their masters.

Or at least this is what Chomsky would have you think. I myself am sympathetic to this view (and certainly some of what was published was propaganda guided by vested interests) but I think Chomsky is giving too little credit to Western scholars here.

There were, as Stalin proved, reasons to be skeptical of how the Soviet movement would turn out. There was indeed autocracy and violence being committed by the Soviets.

And, to be fair, there were valid economic problems as well.


As you can see, life is complicated. I agree with the thrust of Chomsky’s article: the Soviet Union, in its later years, was not Socialist; and Western scholars, or at least some of them, were the acolytes of propaganda.

But Chomsky is wrong to think that the Soviets were badly intentioned, or even wrong to wage their revolution the way they did. Their historical circumstances gave them little choice.

Ultimately, the Soviets went wrong because they attempted the wrong kind of Socialism (which ought really have been something closer to 20th century social democratic movements) combined with an overly authoritarian and dangerously power hungry approach.

It is also fair to say that Western scholars did write genuine criticisms of what the Soviets were trying to do, and what they came to do.

Anyway: I’ve written enough. I hope my essay has been illuminating. Now, I must address my attentions towards the Ark. Books don’t write themselves, after all.

15 Oct 2016

On a Chill October Day...

In case you missed it, here is what Alex is doing this October. Some of the information is out of date, but the details regarding the Necromancer remain correct.

It is a chill October day today, but in a way that is fitting. It was on a chill October day that I first began writing the Necromancer—it is now, very nearly, the fourth anniversary. I shall use this post to make a few announcements, some overdue, some minor, others important.

To begin with, a more minor, but overdue announcement: here is the link to my Google Photos album containing photos of my time here in Amsterdam. It is not finished, but that’s okay; you can sign up to receive notifications when more photos are added.

Now, onto business. As I already mentioned, it is almost the 4th anniversary of the Necromancer. This is a good time to announce that I have decided to do a new marketing push for that fantasy book of mine. This will not be a huge undertaking, but it is an undertaking nonetheless: I will be uploading a new version of the Necromancer, with details about all of the writing I have undertaken since its publication, and maybe even with bonus content. It will be republished exclusively to KDP. And I will be marketing it differently—different categories, different keywords, and a push to get more reviews.

When will this republication happen, you wonder? I have not yet set a deadline, but consider Halloween likely. That will signify, to the day, two years since it was published. (Yes, I am an old nostalgic.)

And why, you may wonder, have I decided to undertake this? A few responses spring to mind. Firstly, I have received some excellent marketing advice courtesy to Reedsy (thanks, Reedsy!) Secondly, I feel... somehow up for it. Writing the Necromancer exhausted me. Marketing it exhausted it me. Now I’m feeling up for the challenge again.

The third and final reason is that it could bring me some money, which would be most helpful in my efforts to market the Ark.

Speaking of which, I have a few more announcements to make. I have previously mentioned that I was commissioned to write a piece (a review of Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century) for the student journal, Scriptus. I have finished the piece, sent it, and will be working with an editor in order to meet the October publication.

I have also used this opportunity to spring me onto bigger fish. I have offered to write a contribution for the Guardian. I do not know whether they will be interested, but it would prove quite an opportunity if they are.

I will use my journalism to promote my writing; it will be an excellent way to drive traffic to the Necromancer, and interest in the Ark.

In between all of this, I am still busy writing the Ark. I have begun work on Part Three, after finally completing the edits suggested to me by my Reedsy editor. Progress is relatively steady, but fairly slow; in between blogging, university, journalism and my new plans for the Necromancer, writing the Ark has to fit somewhere.

This leads me onto my final announcement. For the course of this month, I have decided to work less on the Magical Realm in order to focus my efforts into the Ark and the Necromancer. This is not to say that the Magical Realm will stay static, and certainly not to say that normal activities won’t resume in November.

Rather, it is that for the course of this month, I won’t be writing any new long read essays on politics, art, or other favourites of the Magical Realm—although I will be releasing updates on my progress.

And do not despair; there are 160 posts published on the Magical Realm, many of which are intriguing long reads. I shall be reposting these old essays, saving me time and allowing you to discover more of my output. I have, after all, been writing the Magical Realm for over two years.

Very well; onto work. Keep following, do keep an eye out on the Guardian, and if you haven’t already—sign up to the mailing list for the Ark.