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

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 Alternative Apocalypse


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image copyright BBC Television

In April 1975, a Television series written by Terry Nation (creator of The Daleks) hit British TV screens. It wasn’t like anything I, as a sci-fi-loving 16-year old, had ever seen before.  Over three seasons, it told the story of a group of people who had survived a man-made plague which brings humanity to the brink of extinction.  I was enthralled.

So… you know what it’s like when you remember a show/film/book you loved as a child/young adult, and you wonder if you should revisit it, or keep it as a fond memory, because just perhaps it won’t have aged well?  I decided to be brave and take the plunge, and invested in a box set of all three seasons (thank you, Amazon). No wonky VHS tapes, thank goodness! “We’re re-watching ‘Survivors’,” I told my long-suffering husband. He didn’t argue.

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image copyright BBC Television

Would it stand the test of time?  Gentle reader, I am here to tell you that (mostly) it does! Production values were different in the ’70’s, of course, and I have to say there are a few cringe-worthy moments (mostly involving dialogue), and the pacing is rather slow compared to today’s sometimes frenetic drama. It was also slightly strange without the sometimes omniscient music we are accustomed to (and occasionally complain about), but there is no doubt but that music does help to heighten emotion.  Without it, the action can sometimes feel a bit like a fly-on-the-wall documentary!

As I write this, we have watched Seasons 1 & 2 (I have no memory of watching the second series when it originally aired, but I’m sure I must have. My husband is certain he didn’t) and are about to start the 3rd and final season.

Overall I think ‘Survivors’ has aged well – the story is as engaging today as it was then, and still as thought-provoking. What do you do when you think you’ve caught a murderer but there is no legal system, no police, anymore? Should all women of child-bearing age have children to ensure the survival of the species, even if they don’t have a permanent partner and may not particularly want to be a mother? How do you learn survival skills when the nearest library is miles away and in a rat/wild dog-infested state? What do you do with power-crazy individuals who want to set up a protection racket in your vicinity? What do you do without medicines, antibiotics, electricity?  An awful  lot of people would die; certainly anyone who relies on regular medication for good health (I am one). People living in cities would very quickly run out of food, sanitation would very quickly become a problem.

The one area where ‘Survivors’ fails to be completely realistic (apart from occasionally rather clunky/dated dialogue)  is actually the very thing which would have insured a very short series, and throughout our re-watch my husband would make remarks about it. It got a bit annoying!  After a year, the survivors are Getting On With It and managing subsistence farming pretty well. Except, as my husband says, in reality they would probably soon be dead or dying of radiation exposure…. Think about it:  Britain today has seven active nuclear power stations, and about the same number of inactive ones. All fourteen need constant monitoring to ensure they don’t dry out and explode (as happened in Chernobyl in 1986). In a ‘Survivors’ scenario, where the majority of the population have died of the plague, it would not be more than a year before the UK’s nuclear power stations became instruments of death. Radiation would enter the water table and the atmosphere – after the Chernobyl disaster, sheep in North Wales were found to be contaminated with fall-out which had been carried on the wind. Are you scared yet?

Having said that, I can understand why Terry Nation decided (as he must have done) to ignore the nuclear threat – it would have made for a very depressing drama if his characters survived the plague only to be wiped out by radiation poisoning a few months later!

So if you like post-apocalyptic drama, and don’t mind it being slightly dated (but what fun to be reminded of Life Before the Mobile Phone!) then I would recommend having a box-set binge. You can pick up used box sets on eBay or buy it new on Amazon.

Thanks for reading!

 

Post Script:  It is now January 2019. I wrote this in September 2018, and it has languished in my ‘Drafts’ folder ever since. Oops!  So, we did finish the third series, and enjoyed it. Truly a classic.

 

 

 

 

What’s In A Name? Novel and Trailer Update


‘The Methuselah Gene’ is now ‘The Methuselah Paradox’

This book has had more titles than I’ve had hot dinners!  Well, not really… but it started life as a short story titled ‘The Journey’, before becoming a full-blown novel called ‘All Our Yesterdays’; then it became ‘All Our Tomorrows’.  Following a massive rewrite during which the secondary plotline took over,  it became ‘The Methuselah Gene’ – however, I hadn’t done my homework properly, and it turns out there were already two books out there with that title! Cue much gnashing of teeth and pulling out of hair… finally we have ‘The Methuselah Paradox’, which I have come to love and which I realise does better represent the story… hurrah!  I’m now at the editing stage (harder than the original writing in many ways!) and still working on the trailer…. talking of which:

Kickstarter

Putting a book trailer together is a fascinating process, and one that I am thoroughly enjoying! However, it has also been a very steep learning curve; an important part of which has been the realisation that quality does of course carry a price tag (in this as in all other things)…  my initial estimate of what it would cost to make my own three-minute trailer was woefully inadequate!  Having got as far as an initial script idea and having found a cast and composer, I quickly realised that if the end result was going to do the artists and  the material justice, I would need some proper funding.

So now I’m working on a Kickstarter treatment,  which will very soon go live.  Please do watch this space! And if you know of anyone who might be interested in learning more about it, please spread the word!

Thank you,

Elaine Jackson

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