Category Archives: What if

General speculation on story topics

New project

While trudging away on the ‘A Falling of Angels’ manuscript, Angie and I took a little time out. We’ve been working every day of the week solidly for the last two years and are trying to reclaim our weekends. As part of this process we were out discovering some of the more interesting places in Victoria on foot and I had a little flash of inspiration which has turned into a minor project overnight.

With the working title ‘The Great Book of Everything’, I came up with the framework for a comic novel about a boy, his sarcastic pet Hamster and the Quantum nature of everything. And Squirrels. As soon as I get the web pages organised, I’ll post what I write online. This site needs reorganisation.

New short story sample and minor anxieties

New short science fiction sample posted here. It’s bit rough round the edges and in need of further editing. Just something to keep my mind off the possible disruption to air travel over Iceland. Eldest Stepdaughter Laura is flying back from Tanzania to the UK this Sunday and I’m mildly concerned in case the authorities completely shut down European airspace like they did with the Eyfjallajokull eruption.

Trying to look on the bright side, at least Badarbunga is easier to pronounce. Webcam of eruption progress here. A very useful Icelandic geology web site run by a local geology student. Icelandic Met office site here. The whole saga is surprisingly gripping.

Update: The good news is that Laura is safe back home in the UK, and this eruption doesn’t look like it’s going to cause major European air traffic disruption like in 2010.

New short story and a word on comments

Just posted a short sci-fi story fragment here. If anyone’s interested, drop by and let me know what you think. Insightful comments are always welcome. Inane or obtuse nonsense with spam advertising links attached go straight into electronic oblivion.

Back to work on ‘A Falling of Angels’.

Today’s ‘what if’

This morning I’m busily rounding off a 3000 word short story. Essentially it’s about a brand new anti-terrorist technology so good it not only eliminates individual threats, but also cannot be traced back to its source. Just another tale set in the not so distant future. Called ‘Keyhole’ it’s not part of my main story timelines, just one of those oddball tales that pop out of the woodwork between my ears every now and then.

Don’t know what I’m going to do with the story once finished. Despite what I think is rather a deft and savage twist in the plot, I don’t really think it’s that commercial a piece of work. Maybe I’ll do nothing. Perhaps lump it with a few others as part of a short story collection eBook at some stage.

Research and random directions

While researching the ‘Freemen on the land’ movement for ‘A Falling of Angels’, I’m beginning to see where they derive their philosophy. This is an incredibly complex world, both politically and financially, and I don’t really think that anyone outside of a few obsessive actuaries and lawyers really understand how and why it works, and exactly how fragile our western socio-economic structure actually is. And how dependent we are on it from a global perspective.

I also appreciate that there are people who can ‘game’ the system to increase their wealth, and use their subsequent economic leverage to obtain even greater power. It has always been thus. This competitive urge is part of human nature, hard wired, so to speak. Likewise, there will always be those who resent domination. This too is part of the human condition.

Therefore todays random story direction came from noting that arch economic manipulator George Soros is getting married, and how the guest list was going to be packed with the ‘great and good’. This kicked the ‘What-if?’ generator in my head into gear, and out popped a story idea. What if ultra high definition ‘Keyhole’ satellite coverage was available like in the movies, and ‘what if’ there was a weapons package that could be dropped from Low Earth Orbit into a guided trajectory which could hit and destroy a target within a centimetre? A system specifically created to eliminate specific ‘Terrorist’ threats without the bad publicity created by massive collateral damage. Too small and fast to be detected or intercepted. A literal ‘Sword of Damocles‘ to be used to eliminate threats to the greater public. Now let’s extend this conceit. What if said technology was hijacked? What if an event like a high society wedding, packed to the rafters with high level politicians and the ultra rich, was targeted? What if, despite multiple layers of protection, the great and powerful became as vulnerable as the rest of humanity? Their own weapon systems turned against them?

Oh, I’m going to have a lot of fun with this one. Amazing what random story ideas a little research kicks off.

Just as an aside, I first used a variant of this concept in ‘Falling Through the Stars‘ where a President who tries to tries to buck the ‘system’ is targeted by an anti aircraft missile meant to protect Washington DC from an airborne attack. This concept has a similar flavour. In ‘Falling’ this protagonist isn’t a rather mindless Terminator like ‘Skynet’, set to destroy all of humanity, but a non-human intelligence which is simply selectively protecting itself and the philosophy it is programmed with.

Blink part 1; an experiment in story telling.

Nice sunny day. Have decided to play a little this morning with this thought experiment. I may graft it into something bigger, but while Landlord is jarring my concentration with heavy duty brushcutter in overlush garden, and cold callers (Is anyone dumb enough to buy stuff from a telemarketing cold caller?) derail my mainline trains of thought. Here it is in first draft format.


Sometime in the not so distant future. In a midnight data centre far, far away, something routinely trivial happens. A file, a data stub is corrupted during routine upgrade and transfer. The record attached is missing one key field. A simple pug ugly data entry fault. Missed keystroke. Typo. A box not ticked correctly. Record dumped as ‘corrupt’. Nothing to sweat about. One record. De nada. Everyday stuff. Fill in the forms. All be good.

Update: Corrupted backup gets dumped into cyber oblivion with whole bunch of inane Tweets, Picture and vid files, Pokes, Emails and message updates. Global impact is; Huh? Lots of inane stuff reposted. No harm, no foul, right?

Update: A small apartment, anywhere city in a brave new electronic world of Iris and retinal recognition.

Blink: Hey. Lights aren’t working. Oh, power’s out. Jeee-sus.

Blink: Kettle won’t switch on. Okay, no power. No crappy morning hot drink. Look out of window. Yay. Local cafe got power. Open and serving goodies. Treat for breakfast. Fine. Not so bad. Can see cute Barista on shift, the one with nice smile and taut package. Drool.

Blink: Clothes in closet look a bit stale, want to look good for the cute Barista. 3D print bling, and new shizzle from autocloset. Ten minutes and you’re lookin’ dangerous baby. Dress to kill. Look out world, here I come. Party starts here.

Blink: Shit! Power off. Autocloset 3D print not working. No new shizzle and stuff. Have to wear rumpled old crap from last night. Cute Barista maybe not such an attainable life goal today. Too much VPL.

Blink: Hmm. Blood sugar needed. What goodies in the Autofridge? Something sweet maybe?

Blink: Autofridge panel reads: ‘Retinal & Iris print record not recognised – Have a great day’. WTF? What’s this ‘Conserve Power’ crap?

Blink: Power standby light on phone is cool. Hey all little red lights are on standby. Wall screen, Web terminal, Mealcooker, Autofridge. Even toaster and coffee machine. Power not out. Glitch or what? Pull on rumpled clothes. Feel and look like like crap. So yesterday.

Blink: Come on, work will you? Blink. Blink. Blinkety frigging blink! Gotta call repair guys. Means three hours in a call centre queue so late for worky stuff. Sit down. Swear.

Blink: Hey. Not all lost. Call work with a brill excuse. Spend rest of day ogling cute Barista. Maybe date, get horny and grunty. Look on bright side. Miss boring meeting. Hey. Things looking up already.

Blink: Shit. Door sticking. Hate it. Junky moronic door. Open up. I wanna go get coffee an shizzle. Wassallthis ‘No known record’ crap? Kick door. Hah! Emergency override. Red button. Door opens. Ta-daahhh! Suck it, techno crap. Call tech support when get home. Call centres always jammed in morning. Genius me got all the answers. Better do worky thing first. Dull, dull-de-dull-dull. Major yawn. Get credit to fix crap techno stuff.

Blink: Bus won’t let me on. Hey, what is this? I ain’t no low-life. Got job. Got credit. I am not nobody. Homeless guy with empty coffee cup laughing at me. Big blush. Walk away. Humiliation. WTF is happening?

Blink: Walking sucks. My life is crap. Least not far.

Blink: WTF? Worky place door not working. Oh shee-it. Securi-bot software’s locked door. Hey. How come? Hey fuckwit, I work here. Let me in. Got big important meeting thing. Hey flunky ap. You get you’re worthless ass upgraded to electronic hell, pal.

Blink: Ow! The door Tazered me. People laughing. Manager from upstairs knows me. I’m on her team. Says she’ll contact security. Gotta wait at door. Aw bitchin.

Blink: Security guy with Manager in lobby. He’s shaking his head. She’s pointing. Yeah, right, flunky. I key team player. Hot shot on way to top. You better let me in or, or….

Blink: Manager at door says no go. Security glitch. Go home, full pay. Not your fault. All fixed tomorrow. Can’t let me in or security doors will tazer my ass. Everywhere. See you tomorrow.

Blink: No bus. Gotta walk. Blisters! I got pigging blisters! Hurts. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Rain. Hate that too. Junky, shitty rain. Don’t like wet.

Blink: Coffee store. Go ogle cute Barista. Yay. Mocha Latte heat drive the cold out. Brill.

Blink: Watcha mean, no credit? I got credit. I live there. That block, that apartment. See? You seen me before. I’m someone. Not nobody.

Blink: Cute Barista firm head shake. Get out bum. No Mocha Latte. Pram pushing bitch behind tells me to get lost. Walk away, head down, hot tears, cold rain.

Blink: Apartment block won’t open. WTF? I live here crissake! Lemme in! Slump. Cry. No one stops. Why won’t anyone talk to me?

Okay. That’s all for the moment. Just an hours messing around with a story thought. I foresee three possible endings. Like I say, just one of the many ideas I get to mud wrestle with. May be finished for release in volume of short stories and novellas some time later this year. May grind to a halt to live forever as one of my many story fragments. Who knows. Blink: and it might just happen. Or not.

What philosophical questions do you answer when you write?

Angie is reading Thoreau’s novel ‘Walden‘ at the moment, and we’ve taken to discussing pertinent passages over breakfast and during work breaks. Although a lot of Thoreau’s sentences and paragraphs always leave me feeling like I need to take a damn good run up before launching into them. He packs a lot of idea into his words. That said, I tend to take such works with a very large proverbial pinch of salt. I’ve done the whole close to nature thing, and have come to appreciate the comfort and convenience technology affords.

Nevertheless; today’s thought train was kicked off by one such reading, and came laden with the question, what are stories for? Why do we write and tell them? Are they simply for entertainment, or can they serve a deeper, more significant purpose? Does addressing a hypothetical question give a story a more rewarding depth?

For my part, I write science fiction to examine ideas and premises like; say you genetically engineer a ‘perfect’ alpha male, where would he find his role in life? What destiny could he carve out, and how would it affect his relationships? Or perhaps; almost fatally injured in a terrorist incident, one of my not-so-heroes has part of his brain rebuilt using a new variant of stem cell technology. Where does he fit in? How does being able to read people’s thoughts alter your relationships with one time friends and family? Or, what if immortality was a near symptomless disease? What are the larger implications? What good is luxury if you lose your freedom? All of these questions are woven into the underlying themes of my current projects. Like I’ve said before, it’s interesting and even fun to get down and dirty with these concepts and wrestle some sense out of them. I think that’s why a lot of people who write fiction do so. Because the ‘Big what if’ game of writing fiction is so absorbing.

Playing with immortality

In between shifts and running errands, and delving into the darker aspects of book and eBook distribution, I’m currently playing the ‘what if’ game with a story concept. It’s just a short at the moment and I’m only a couple of thousand words in. Set in my ‘Association worlds’ timeline some three hundred years after Earth has abandoned her one time colonies. It may even sprout a timeline branch of its own. Depends on what I do with the characters. It could go one of three routes to the final line, but I know exactly how I want the story to end.

Now I’ve been working on this story on and off for a couple of months, and every time I pick up the file end up hurdling cliché’s like some literary obstacle course. The ‘what if’ for today Mr Phelps, is what if someone discovered how to switch off all the mechanisms which cause cell mutation and ageing? What if they discovered a self perpetuating delivery system for this vector? What if they were bright enough to A) Develop the mechanism, and B) Foresee the possible consequences?

Without giving anything further away, a lot of science fiction authors have been here before, but I genuinely feel I’ve developed a new twist on the theme. Dark as Belgian chocolate, and almost as rich and bitter sweet.