The Darker Side of Time Travel


If you thought Time Travel was confusing… spare a thought for the characters in ‘Dark’…

“Time is an illusion…lunchtime doubly so.” (Douglas Adams, ‘The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’)

A spoiler-free review of Netflix’s dark sci-fi thriller, ‘Dark’

by EJ Jackson

If you think ‘Doctor Who’ is “wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey”, then prepare yourself for the mental gymnastics of Netflix’s first German sci-fi thriller series, ‘Dark’. If you enjoyed ‘Stranger Things’ (which is actually much lighter in tone) and ‘Fringe’ then you will, I am quite certain, enjoy ‘Dark’.

Netflix describes Season One thus: “A missing child sets four families on a frantic hunt for answers as they unearth a mind-bending mystery that spans three generations.” 

You may, like me, be slightly concerned at first to learn that the series was recorded in German and dubbed in English; but don’t be! The quality of the writing, the exceptional cast, amazing music and beautiful cinematography very quickly won me over. I hardly noticed that the dialogue didn’t always quite synchronise with the actors’ lips after a few minutes, and in fact, I think the quality of sound the recorded dialogue – plus sound effects- lends the show an even more surreal ambience.

One thing I did notice about ‘Dark’ is that it doesn’t have the frantic pace of many shows. Which is a good thing, because of those mental gymnastics I mentioned earlier. ‘Dark’ is not an ‘easy’ watch; you will need to pay attention.

Hooked after the first two episodes, I found myself binge-watching ‘Dark’ (at least two episodes most evenings over approximately a week) because quite simply, I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next! I challenge you not to do the same. The first series aired in December 2017 and comprises ten episodes. Series 2 followed in June 2019 and is slightly shorter at just eight. The third (and apparently final) series has already been commissioned, but no airdate is known as yet. On past history I’d imagine it may grace our screens sometime in 2020.

I won’t give too much away (NO SPOILERS HERE!) – but according to the Wikipedia entry, Dark is a German science fiction thriller web television series co-created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese. Set in the fictional German town of Winden, Dark concerns the aftermath of a child’s disappearance which exposes the secrets of, and hidden connections between, four estranged families as they slowly unravel a sinister time travel conspiracy which spans across three generations. Throughout the series, Dark explores the existential implications of time and its effects on human nature.

And on a final note, those of you (like me) who pay attention to soundtracks, the music (some of which was written for the show) is a very important element. You can find out more about that here – but you might want to watch Season 1 first, as there be spoilers…

‘Dark’ in which the ‘interconnectedness of everything’ reaches new heights…

Enjoy!

E Jackson, July 2019

I Like Trucking!


I mean, just look at that sunset!

fabulous sunset

Of course, it’s not a real truck… I don’t have a license to drive HGs (Heavy Goods Vehicles, for those unfamiliar with the acronym) and I have never sat in the cab of one in my life.

So let me explain…. For my birthday in 2017 my son gifted me a driving simulation game on the game platform Steam, called Euro Truck Simulator 2 (or ETS2). I’d seen him playing it on his PC and had admired the graphics, which looked very realistic. I’d never been much into computer games so although I was pleased with the gift, I wasn’t sure if was really going to be my ‘thing’.

Well, a year and a few months later, I am hooked. At the present time I have 9 small (3 bay) garages and 1 large one (5 bay) which means I ‘own’ 32 virtual trucks based all over the UK and Europe, and ’employ’ 31 drivers (myself being based in my London garage, from which I drive a Volvo. I also ‘own’ a flat-bed trailer, but when I had it ‘delivered’ one of the other drivers in London nabbed it for a job, so I have never used it myself (the cheek of it).

a heavy load!

As you can see from the second image, I get to carry some interesting items! Most challenging on the narrow roads of Europe are the oversized loads. In ATS (American Truck Simulator) the loads I have most problem with are the double-trailers – I have yet to master reversing one without getting into a complete pickle! The earnings are lower in this game but the roads are much wider and easier to navigate, even with a double trailer (unless you’re reversing).

What I like most about ETS2 and ATS is the realistic quality of the graphics – the detail, especially in ETS2, is AMAZING and I can barely imagine the hours of coding it must have taken to get to that level of detail. If you have your graphics set to ‘high’ then you can see the grime, the road texture, and after rain, the spray coming up from the wheels of the vehicle in front. On my current ‘job’ I’m really enjoying the way the light changes as clouds race across the sky, momentarily obscuring the sun. It really is amazing. As are the sound effects – obviously I’m no expert when it comes to real trucks, but all the truck models (Volvo, Scania, Iveco, Man, Mercedes, DAF) have different engine sounds (apparently SCS, the makers, record real engine sounds – and they also use real peripheral sounds like air brakes, the noise a truck makes as it goes over an uneven road surface… the sound of a truck driving over gravel or snow is to die for! Yes, I know I’m weird…) which adds to the realism. You even get the sound of other vehicles driving in the opposite lane as they fly past you.

I’m not sure if the towns and cities in the game are exact replicas of the real ones – some generic views are almost inevitable, given the complexity of the virtual world. One day I will look up a town from ETS2 on Google Street View to see if ETS2’s version is accurate… until then, I can still enjoy travelling right up to Scandinavia and even parts of Russia. I’ve even been to St Petersburg, and without a passport!

somewhere in Europe!

If you set your options for ‘roadside incidents’ to mid or high, you have the added challenge of crashed trucks and cars to contend with, which can loom up on you around a blind corner with little or no warning – I’ve totaled a few trucks that way! You can always get your truck repaired, though, however bad the damage – but you will most likely lose the cargo you were transporting at the time and, of course, the payment you would have earned for the job!

My son also gave his father the same gift, because he loves vehicles and driving. However, it turns out he much prefers real vehicles. He took his truck out and crashed it almost straight away…. Apparently it is still lying there, blocking the road and annoying the other virtual drivers! I would like to go and retrieve it for him, at least put it back safely in the garage, but he’s forgotten his password. Ah well…

Although each game is single-player, you can go onto the Multi-Player version and engage with other players. My son and one of his Uni friends meet up online from time to time and have their own little convoy. I’ve been invited to join them, but until I can work out how to install MP (or my son can help me) I’m confined to my own version of the game.

You can also sign up to ‘World of Trucks’ and get a wider range of job opportunities – the pay is often better, too! As you expand your trucking empire you can ‘buy’ trucks online. I drive a Volvo (I like the throaty engine sound – the Scania is very popular but I think it doesn’t sound nearly as powerful).

It does take time to get used to using the W A S D keys to control stopping, starting, braking, etc, and using the mouse to control turning and indicating. The first time I tried the game, it took me ages to even drive the truck off the Eurostar and I almost gave up…. but I persisted, and I’m so glad I did. It has given me a whole new appreciation of the skill of real truck drivers, and it is a great way to relax. I also find it useful for thinking about writing – I often come up with ideas when driving to my day job (not so much coming home) and the same is true when I am driving a virtual truck. (That’s how I justify spending time on the game when perhaps I could be writing…)

In case this rather rambling post has made you curious about ETS2 or ATS, there is some info (and links) here. Do let me know if you take up ‘truck driving’ and what you think of it!

Elaine, March 2019

high-value cargo!

How To Create a Program Booklet


With so much informative content available online, it can be hard to sift through it all to find something really useful that won’t take an age to learn to implement (I’ll be writing a seperate post about that quite soon). And having multiple email subscriptions which, let’s be honest, most of us never have time to read, can feel like so much clutter in your inbox – even though you must have thought they’d be useful because you signed up!

But every once in a while, something really, really useful pops up in my inbox, and the latest one from Theaterish has just landed in mine. Thank goodness I didn’t cancel the sub!

Theatreish is primarily aimed at – yes you guessed it – those in theatre production. But they have some really useful stuff for writers and creatives generally, and their blog post on How To Create a Show Program in Google Docs is exactly that. If you are looking to create a program for your book fair, convention, book signing event or even an advertising brochure, look no further! They even have a downloadable, editable template for just $5, bless them.

http://www.theaterish.com

I haven’t tried it out yet, myself, but just glancing through the instructions and at the downloadable content, I can see this would be very useful if you are running a book fair and want to produce a printed program to hand out at the door, or if you want to create a publicity booklet promoting your own work. Trying to create any kind of booklet in Word is a bit of a nightmare (for me, anyway) – I always end up with the pages in the wrong order, or it won’t print in the required size/format. I will try it out (I have a project for which it may be just the thing) and report back. Watch this space.

In the meantime, a big Thank You to Theatreish for being such lovely people!

Elaine, February 2019

How Many Genres do You Write in?


…. 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!

Thank you for reading!

The Questions…


Now I hope I’ve understood this correctly… I just came across a really interesting blog  classicsandcraziness  and a series of questions people could use to introduce themselves. The idea is to tag the last person who answered the questions, and then answer them yourself…. I think.  So here’s my version: 

 

THE QUESTIONS

Appearances!

 Name: Elaine Jackson (writing as EJ Jackson)

 Nicknames: I don’t really have one; our parents apparently named us Elaine and Jean because they didn’t want people to give us nicknames (no idea why!) but one of my managers found a great way around that – he used to call me MissElaineious and I loved it! When I married he briefly toyed with MrsElaineious but it didn’t trip off the tongue quite so easily…

 Birthday: 9th October – I do it the other way around because I’m in the UK and we put the day before the month! I’ll be *ahem* 60 this year (eek). Mostly I don’t feel it… if I could find an anti-ageing pill/machine/gene I’d go for it. As the Tenth Doctor famously said, “I don’t want to go”.

scales-vector

Hair colour and length: My hair used to be dark brown, but these days I’m silver/grey. I’ve had it in a chin-length bob for years now – and I try to keep it trimmed, because (a) it looks better and (b) I love the scalp massage you get when you go to the hairdresser’s!

Eye Colour:  hazel.

 Braces/Piercings/tattoos: Nope. I did have my ears pierced in the 1980’s (I was okay until they put the stud in and twisted it, and then I fainted dead away – very embarrassing) but I kept forgetting to put earrings in and the holes closed over. I can’t bear the thought of getting it done again, so…

Righty or lefty: I’m right-handed

Ethnicity: Caucasian.  British – Scottish, Irish and Welsh roots and, according to a DNA test, a link to the Caucuses area of Russia…

First…

 Book Written: a short story collection, that I published on Amazon in 2014. I’d written lots of fan-fiction (mostly Dr Who with some crossover with Torchwood, Sherlock and (don’t ask) Crime & Punishment, some of which will never see the light of day…. But in 2011 I decided to write original fiction and haven’t stopped since.

 Journey Cover

Novel Completed: A time-travelling detective mystery set (mostly) in present day about how gene therapy might go horribly wrong… published it in 2016. It represented about four/five years of writing off and on, and hair-tearing out (time-travel really messes with your head).

 TMP_Cover1awithstrapline_medjpg.jpg

Award for Writing: None. Somehow or other I never get around to entering competitions, even though I know it’s a Good Thing to do.

Publication: Oops, I think I jumped ahead with this one. So, they’re called ‘The Journey & Other Short Stories’ and ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ (both sci-fi) and ‘New Leaf’ (a romantic novella, because I felt like it). All available on Amazon and other platforms. 😉

a new leaf.jpg

 Conference: If by that is meant have I been to any writing conferences, then yes!  Went to The Festival of Writing at York in 2013 (where I met a lovely lady I’m still friends with today, although she’s shy & doesn’t do social media so I can’t give her a Shout Out here). She was a huge help with my magnum opus (the time travel/gene therapy story).

 Query/Pitch:  My motto is ‘Imagination is the highest kite one can fly’ and it was said by Lauren Bacall.

 Favourites!

Novel (that you wrote): ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ is very close to my heart, partly because it took so long to write and partly because the core premise (is it okay to tweak genes so people live longer) is of Great Interest to me … but my current project is a post-apocalyptic comic book series which I’m SO excited about because I think it has Potential (and I say that with a cringe because, being a Brit, I’m not good a blowing my own trumpet – at all. It’s like pulling teeth.

Genre: science-fiction – first, last and foremost. I grew up watching Dr Who, Captain Scarlet, Star Trek, Blake’s 7 – the idea that there might be life Out There has always captivated me. Although these days I’m quite likely to run for cover at the first sigh of an alien spaceship. I saw ‘Alien’ and quaked in my boots. I also saw ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ a ridiculous number of times (I was working in a cinema at the time) but it’s sods law they’ll be of the ‘Aliens’ variety!.

Author: Oh goodness, too many to remember. Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury, Carl Sagan… Philip K Dick… Douglas Adams  (oh yeah, I founded the official HHGTTG appreciation society in 1980 – and it’s still going strong!  One of my proudest achievements) and lots and lots of newer writers. It would take forever to list them all, honest.

 

Writing Music:  I wrote a LOT of my Dr Who fanfic listening to Avantasia, Eryon, Tangerine Dream (still got a vinyl box set somewhere in the loft)… but also love Mike Oldfield, Jean Michael Jarre, Muse, The Moody Blue…. And loads more.  I tend to prefer instrumentals for writing. But I don’t always listen to music when I write, it depends.

Time to write:  Whenever I can get time on my own, so it could be early morning before work or late at night before bed.

Writing snack/drink: Coffee.  Tea (usually peppertmint) but I can’t eat and write at the same time. Or even drink, really – I’m Queen of the Undrunk Tea.

Movie:  ‘Blade Runner’, ‘I, Robot’, ‘Avatar’ and, perhaps bizarrely you might think, ‘The Remains of the Day’.

 

Writing Memory: My first ever fanfic – a Star Trek story titled ‘The Berengaria Dragon’ when I was in my teens. It was pretty dire, and the illustrations I did to go with it even more so. But I still published it in our local Star Trek group fanzine and nobody threw things at me, so maybe it wasn’t so bad.

 Childhood Book: ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’, various ‘Noddy’ books and ‘Black Beauty’. I still have the ‘Black Beauty’ I was given for my 9th/10th birthday. I drew horses on all the blank pages in it…

 

 

Currently…

Reading:  ‘The Quartet Murders’ by J.R. Ellis. I like detective stories, too!

Writing: My blog, updating my websites and a kickstarter campaign for my current project, ‘Minding Mama’ – the post-apocalyptic comic book. My art isn’t anywhere near good enough, so I’ve got a brilliant artist, Dan Schaefer, who’s illustrating it.

Listening to: nothing, for a change! (well, my son sneezing)

 Watching: Well, not right at this moment, obviously, but currently hooked on ‘Gotham’, and looking forward to the new John Simm drama, ‘Strangers’, which starts on the 10th. Also partway through ‘Sense 8’ on Netflix. Oh, and will get to watch Season 2 of ‘WestWorld’ eventually…

Learning: All the time! Studied creative writing at Faber Academy in The Writer’s Workshop in 2013/2014 and screenwriting and self-editing with The Writer’s Workshop in 2014; I’ve got a couple of Udemy courses I signed up to and can’t find time to complete and I’m learning the art of marketing as an Indie Author the long way round… also taught myself how to make book trailers. And although I’ve got a dear friend who records and edits my live-action trailers for me, I still love learning how to make them using a program called Filmora. I’ve made a couple of book trailers myself and one for a friend, I love it.

 Future!

 Want to be published: well, I’m self-published, but I’d be fibbing if I didn’t admit that the idea of getting traditionally published doesn’t have some appeal (mainly, the advance, so I could maybe give up the day job – I have another 6 years to work before I’m eligible for the State Pension!).

Indie or traditional: Oops, I’ve skipped ahead again! Done the first, would love the second. It’s unlikely I’ll be the next JK Rowling, but it’s useful to have a dream! The idea of my stories reaching that many people is quite mind-blowing.

 Wildest goal: To have one of my books made into a TV series or film. If I can achieve that, I’ll go happy. Well, maybe not happy… fulfilled. I don’t want to go!

 

MM TRAILER END CREDITS 20.7.18.png

We’re up and Running – ‘Minding Mama’ Trailer goes live on Kickstarter!


mama poster2 internet copy
art by Amanda Fullwood

The trailer is finished – and our campaign to crowdfund production of  Issue 1 of our comic book series is now live! 

There’s no denying it’s been a long haul – fitting in the creation of a four-minute, part-live action trailer around busy workaday lives has been a constant challenge for everyone on our team, with members living far apart: the Hampshire/Surrey border, the south coast, Nottingham and Oregon (USA) but we finally got there: and the result is even more exciting and spectacular than I could ever have imagined when we began the process!

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while may remember that this isn’t my first trailer – back in 2015 with the help of my good friend Sue Turner of www.elephantinscarlet.co.uk , artist Catherine Archer-Wills , composer Matthew Thomason and lots of other very lovely people, I created one for my sci-fi novel, ‘The Methuselah Paradox‘.  Whilst that trailer did have real, live people in it (take a bow, Simon Bugg, Richard Oliver and Amelia Wray) there were no costumes, props or special effects to complicate things … just some very nifty video-editing by Sue!

As you’ll see from the finished trailer if you click on this link,  the ‘Minding Mama’ team managed to create a small corner of future Earth in a drama studio in Surrey on a very small budget. We used polystyrene packing, old electrical equipment, as well as a prop robot.  We had a brilliant Mama in Kate Davies-Speak, and the voice of Cyril the FarmBot (and our narrator) was none other than David Learner, who has played Marvin the Paranoid Android on stage and TV, and was one of our very first celebrity guests when I ran the official appreciation society back in the early 1980’s.

We’ll be running a series of interviews with the team over the duration of the campaign (which ends September 23rd), so please do check out the campaign

Neon Sky Books will also be at Reading Comic-Con on Saturday & Sunday October 13 – 14th, so please drop in and say ‘Hello!’!

MM TRAILER END CREDITS 20.7.18.png

 

A Tale of One Duckling…


little-cute-yellow-duck-standing-1115byClassroomClipart
(c) Classroom Clipart

After Thursday’s Road Rage incident, it was nice to see a retweeted post this morning showing some kind people in the US of A rescuing a mummy duck’s babies after they fell down a drain. Went some way to restoring my (slightly dented) faith in humanity!

It reminded me, too, that my husband and I carried out a similar rescue in Midhurst, Sussex, in the summer of 1990. We’d taken my old Mini Clubman out for a spin and decided to stop off for a meal before making our way home.

AUSTIN MINI CLUBMAN ORANGE
   Classic Mini Clubman   (not mine  -it was never that shiny!)  with thanks to Pinterest

We arrived in the car park and noticed a crowd of people gathered around a drain (the picture below isn’t the actual drain (in fact this one is from Vancouver, but it’s very similar) and joined the throng to see what was going on.  It seemed that a mummy duck had been leading her kiddies back to the river Rother (you try saying that in a hurry) which runs through the town, and one of her ducklings

UK STREET DRAINS

had fallen through the grating and was now sitting miserably on the bottom, calling for his/her mummy.  Various discussions ensued, which ran along the lines of ringing the RSPCA to see if they could send someone out, ringing the council to see if they could send someone out (to open the drain cover) and so on. Because there was quite a big crowd and it all seemed to be in hand, with people donating a handkerchief and shoelaces to improvise a sling, we went off and got something to eat. When we got back about an hour or so later, it was late in the afternoon and we were surprised to see that the crowd had dispersed but that one chap was still there, with the duckling in his hand!  He said he didn’t know quite what to do – he lived in North London and had to get going, so hubby told him we didn’t live too far away so we’d take the duckling and see if we could reunite him/her with his/her family.

Because this was way before people routinely carried mobile phones, no-one had known the local RSPCA number, but we thought if we couldn’t find the duck family we could hopefully drop it off at a local RSPCA or veterinary practice in our local area.

By that time the mother duck had long given up on her stray child and had waddled off towards the river with the rest of her brood. I suppose when you have half a dozen babies you have to consider the family as a whole – ‘the needs of the many’ and all that!  We decided to follow the path down to the river and see if we could find the Mother Duck and her family.

We were younger and fitter in those days (!) so what looks like quite a long walk on the map didn’t take too long. We found the river, and after following it along for a little while, found a duck family.  The duckling tweeted but there was no response from the mother duck. Wrong family! We walked a bit further and found another family  – the duckling heard them and tweeted loudly; again no response.  ‘We’re going to end up taking him home with us!’ my hubby worried.  Then we found another family – ‘our’ duckling started tweeting loudly again. This mother duck stopped paddling and quacked back – we’d found the right family at last! Hubby went as close to the water’s edge as he dare, and as soon as he opened his fingers, the duckling tumbled out of his hand and down into the water, then started paddling. He was quickly rounded up by his mother, who seemed to be telling him off, then away they went. Our good deed for the day!

Below you can see the car park (on the right, near the bus station) where the duckling fell into the drain, and somewhere between the right angle of the river near the Cowdray ruins and Midhurst Castle is where we finally caught up with Mrs Duck.

Thanks to my hubby’s prodigious memory, I’ve been able to tell our little rescue story with reasonable accuracy. I often wonder if the other people (those who donated a handkerchief and their shoelaces) remember their part in the rescue. It would be lovely if any of them were to see this and realise that all was well in the end!

Thanks for reading!

DUCK RESCUE MIDHURST.png
Midhurst – site of the 1990 Duck Rescue! with thanks to Google Maps