…. and should you write in more than one under the same name?
I don’t know if there is a correct answer to that question – I think it’s pretty much down to personal preference, really. Certainly JK Rowling writes in different genres, and uses different names for each. Although, since (I believe) most people know they’re both the same author, I’m not sure if it has made any appreciable difference! I was at an event in 2012 where the line of readers clutching Ms Rowling’s first ‘non-Harry Potter’ book and hoping for an autograph, was easily the longest in the building (and it was a BIG building with a very long and windy staircase…) which made getting anywhere in said building quite difficult… I wasn’t in the queue by the way.
I’m best known for writing speculative science fiction (usually, stories which have some basis in known science, and in which I explore themes and consequences and how they might affect people, whilst (hopefully!) entertaining. I do try not to moralise – if my stories get people thinking about where science might be taking us, that’s good enough! ) – ‘The Journey & Other Short Stories’ and ‘The Methuselah Paradox’. But two years (ish) ago, I released a romance story, ‘New Leaf’. I wrote it because (a) I was curious to see if I could and (b) I had a particular story in my head which was fun and relatively easy to write – it was one of those which almost seemed to write itself and I didn’t spend months/years agonising and editing it. I’ve been told it’s really good by people who wouldn’t fib just because I wrote it, which is lovely! I’m very bad at blowing my own trumpet, however, so you’ll have to take their word for it!
I used my own name (having briefly published it with a different cover under a pen name when I thought I might get into writing erotica – it wasn’t sci-fi and it wasn’t erotica but that’s about as reasoned as I ever got about it!) but for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, I haven’t really promoted it very heavily – perhaps because I’d rather be known for writing my first love, sci-fi. So perhaps I should have stuck to a pen name… too late now, though. It’s out there. With my name on it.
If you’re a writer who crosses genres, do you use a pen-name(s)? How has that worked for you? Do you think you made the right decision (to use -or not use- a pseudonym)? I’d love to know!
… Or to go bravely to! Indie Comics are uncharted territory for this author. So why would I leave my comfort zone (long-form novels) and venture into the unknown? The answer is pretty simple: I wanted to see this particular story visualized in glorious colour. Preferably, with moving characters – animation or even (the holy grail for me) live action. But I also love art – used to dabble a little bit myself many years ago, but didn’t think I was that good and got out of the habit. Although I came to them late via back issues once I was earning, I do remember the ‘Captain Scarlet’ strips in TV21 – Mike Noble, Ron Embleton, Frank Bellamy… names familiar to many of you, I’m sure. I would stare at the pages for hours, enjoying the detail and colour. Since we (like most people then) only had a black & white TV, the printed adventures were the only way to see Spectrum and its personnel in colour. On our TV, Captain Scarlet was Captain… well, grey, Captain Blue was also grey… ) I had a Captain Scarlet annual, I remember, and I looked at it so much the front cover came off!
So… A couple of years ago, I penned a short story about a post-apocalyptic vision of Earth in which the ozone layer had been all but destroyed by decades of intense solar flare activity, forcing humanity underground. This scenario had really captured my imagination because, as I discovered some time later when revisiting my first draft, there is more than a kernel of scientific fact in the premise. It could happen. Let me explain…
In October 2016, the then-US President Barrack Obama issued a Special Executive Order requiring that the nation be prepared for ‘Space Weather Events‘. Whether this mass education of US citizens about the perils of Space Weather ever happened, I don’t know. But I do know that the release of this Executive Order seemed to be very providential – almost as if it was confirming my decision to write the story. The premise chilled me to the bone. What kind of world would any survivors of this mass-extinction scenario inhabit?
Well, actually it would be a horrible world. We already know that UV levels are higher than in the past; when I was a child (in the ’60’s and ’70’s), we could stay out and play in the sun (often without any kind of sunscreen, either because it wasn’t available or my parents didn’t think to get any/couldn’t afford it) for hours before getting sunburned. Nowadays, if you happen to forget to apply sunscreen, it doesn’t take very long at all before you begin to feel that ominous prickling warning you your skin is under attack. Imagine it magnified many times as the ozone layer thins; people, animals and plants would all suffer terribly. Even undersea creatures and plants would not be safe. Incidences of cancer (especially of the skin) would likely rise many times their numbers today. Without crops to feed livestock, humanity would also likely be deficient in the protein derived from meat, as well as green leafy vegetables.
So, I did a lot of research, and began to world-build (one of my favourite parts of the writing process – I can lose myself for days, weeks…).
The result was a tale of small, fragile communities struggling to grow enough crops to feed themselves; a society splintered and reliant on old technology to grow anything at all underground; a society desperate to find a way to return to the surface without dying from UV-induced cancers; a society probably deficient in vitamin D, and a society increasingly reliant on robots (specifically, FarmBots) to create new strains of food crop which could be grown on the surface. Incidentally, the precursor to my FarmBots already exist – check them out here .
After almost two years of research, world-building, finding artists who also saw the potential in this post-apocalyptic tale, developing the idea from my initial idea to create a short animated feature into a comic-book series, building a crowdfund campaign to enable us to create a live-action trailer to head up the main campaign to help fund the production of Issue One, we are on our way! On 27th August, our main campaign went live on Kickstarter, but we already have an ongoing campaign in place on Patreon, which we’ll use to help fund future issues and (who knows) maybe that animated feature I originally envisaged!
With a week to go on the first Kickstarter campaign (we used Patreon and Go Fund Me to raise funds to make the live-action trailer with Kate Davies-Speak and David Learner as Mama and Cyril) I don’t know if we’ll meet our goal this time… but it has been and continues to be an education and if we don’t make it, we won’t be the first (or the last). But we won’t stop – one way or another, ‘Minding Mama’ will see the light of day!
Our official ‘Minding Mama’ poster by Amanda Fullwood. Not ashamed to admit it brought tears to my eyes. Can I imagine it as a movie? Oh, yes…!
Eminent scientists – among them Professor Stephen Hawking, who may have a brain the size of a planet – have been warning us for some time now that the advances made by AI could turn out to be the writing on the wall for mankind. I mean, extinction. Hoist by our own petard, no less.
Now we learn that Facebook decided to shut down its very own AI program after it created its own language. It wasn’t done with malice aforethought, or because the two Negotiating Bots (apparently named Will and Alice) wanted to take over the planet… they simply found it a more efficient way to communicate than using the English they had been taught.
Will our desperate race to create better and faster ways of doing things using AI (artificial intelligence) really be our undoing, as posited by Professor Hawking and a myriad of movies such as ‘BladeRunner’ (in which a group of artificially engineered and physically superior humans called Replicants returns to Earth to demand a longer lifespan from their creator – before killing him) – or are we all basically just AIs anyway, seeded by aliens who thought it might be interesting to see what happened… Whether we are truly indigenous or not, did the life-forms who were subsumed and/or destroyed by humanity’s rise from the primordial soup have the capacity to worry about it? Or were they blissfully unaware of the ticking time bomb in their midst until it was too late? And would they have been able to do anything to stop it, even if they had realised what was going on? You can read the original article here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I’m just going to swim back into the primordial soup and pretend this isn’t happening…
Elaine Jackson, July 2017
P.S. If you’re interested in the topics raised here, you might enjoy my next project, a graphic novel titled ‘Minding Mama’, which my team and I will be crowdfunding very soon. It’s a dark tale which takes place amidst a ruined eco-system. Humanity has fled underground, leaving the surface to wither and die. Only the FarmBots can survive above ground…
Visitwww.mindingmama.org to find out how you can help bring the project to life (if you dare) and earn some unique and very cool rewards!