Unfortunately, as many, many other Star Wars fans would agree, things went pretty much downhill from there. The Empire Strikes Back was a good movie. The Return Of the Jedi was so-so but after that… I'll say no more. Simon Pegg's brilliant rant about 'the Phantom Menace' in the second tv series of Spaced summed the whole thing up very well. What was particularly odd for me was that he did it in my local comic shop, 'They Walk Among Us', in Richmond upon Thames, which made his lament even better.
This blog article isn't going to be a rant about what's happened to Star Wars. Instead, here's a very good documentary about how the first production version of Star Wars was a mess, and how the film's editors, in particularly Lucas's wife Marcia, changed it into something taut, dramatic and brilliantly honed. I think there are lessons to be learned here for anyone writing any story, whether it's a screenplay, a short story or a novel, and especially for anyone writing science-fiction. Enjoy!
I think It is true that such dark scenarios are part of human nature but we have had periods in our history when there's been an admirable collective effort to reduce the glorification of violence. Post-war Britain and America made a big effort to stop dark content but unfortunately that has been eroded. It's very worrying to me now that very violent content is now becoming the default form of entertainment in mainstream culture. When I was growing up, films such as 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre', 'Make them Die Slowly' and 'The Evil Dead' were regarded by most people as fringe entertainment for morally dubious people, but they're now staple entries in our multiplexes. I think it is a concerning development. I don't want to sound too puritanical when it comes to screen violence. For example, I thought 'Evil Dead 2' was a brilliant movie and I still do, but I've personally moved away from watching any violence, something I've blogged about in the past, and so to me, from where I'm standing now, this shift in our popular entertainment looks seriously awful.
From a social-programming perspective, flooding a society with a constant stream of dark, visceral stimulation does have its uses. Firstly, it's an addictive distraction. If everyone's too busy getting their kicks from watching an orgy of violence, they won't be thinking about other matters, such as the state of their planet, the behaviour of their ruling elite, the possibilities of human mental development and other important topics. An endless orgy of visual violence is also useful as it can train the general population to become increasing willing to be violent towards those seen as 'the enemy', or to be unconcerned when others in their society are callously violent to 'the enemy'. The far-right would certainly welcome such a cultural shift.
Because of my concerns, I decided to write my play 'the good plague'. It is set in a society whose citizens are well-behaved, industrious professionals but their society has no morals Instead, the society functions because every behaves themselves in order to comply with contractual agreements. Neighbours don't shoot each other because they both have insurance. If one shot another, the victim's insurance company would send a hit squad to kill the murderer, as this was part of the insurance coverage. In this way, everyone in the society is a law-abiding citizen, not through some moral code but out of self-interest. The biting satire is that such a callous, self-serving society can, on first view, seem indistinguishable from a supposedly moral society.
Self-interest isn't the only reason for the citizens of the society to hold off killing others. The citizens are free to kill uninsured people (nobodies in the eyes of that society) as they do not have to worry about retribution for their actions, but if they become too bloodthirsty, it will affect their character profile. Their CVs are very important to them and their psychology profile is part of their CV. If they're marked as being 'out of control', this will affect their careers. They therefore literally have to hold off killing 'nobodies' to protect their job prospects.
The play is set in one room, a 'hunting' lodge in a poor part of the city. The play's four protagonists meet up there, preparing to go out and help their society. A twist is soon revealed to the audience. The group's planned 'help' is actually hunting and killing the uninsured, 'culling' the population of 'inferior and tainted members'. One of them is doing it as a civic duty; two of the others are doing it for fun and the fourth is doing it to avoid being seen as a coward, or pacifist.
Soon, the main focus of the play is revealed, for increasing numbers of the out-group, the 'vermin' that the 'noble' citizens are trying to eradicate, have developed something that scares the death out of the 'noble' citizens; selfless love. The citizens are petrified of this plague, this spreading disease, for if they become infected with selfless love, they might give away all their money and become poor! But at the same time, some of those citizens notice what selfless love does to those who convert to it, or contract it, and realise that it offers something that their society lacks. They want to have that too. This split amongst the citizens creates conflict and death, and leads to another twist, revealed at the end.
Historical buffs may spot that the way this play unfolds reflects the way the Roman Emperors first bloodily suppressed Christianity, then switched tactics and made it an official religion.
This play is a new version of an earlier idea I had called ' the serial samaritan', with some key changes to make it work as a stage play. I also played with the idea in my graphic short story 'The Serial Samaritan', which had a dark, fantasy flavour. All in all, I think the play version works best.
As I've no expectation of selling this play to anyone, I thought I'd attach it here for anyone to download. It is still my copyright but I don't plan to charge any amateur performance if they stage it. If you like it and plan to perform it, please let me know as I'd be fascinated to hear how you got on.
Here's the first three paragraph:
One million years ago, in the Western Spiral Arm of the Milky Way, there was a beautiful solar system consisting of a golden sun, circled by ten majestic planets. On the system’s third planet lived a race called the Floo. They were highly advanced and had reached the stage in their development where they no longer cared about technology. Instead, they spent their days thinking deeply about about life, the universe and the very nature of existence.
After a century of thought, the Floo came to a sobering conclusion; life was fundamentally about suffering. To exist was to feel pain, cold, hurt, loneliness, heartache and misery. As the Floo were a compassionate and caring species, they were very upset at this state of affairs. They wanted to end that suffering and help all creatures enduring such torment. Eventually, after much discussion and analysis, they decided what they needed to do; kill everyone.
The Floo went over their reasoning many times, but they could see no flaw in their logic. If they truly cared about the endless suffering of all other living creatures, they should do their best to limit that suffering as much as possible, by ending all life in the universe. They therefore built ten-thousand highly-advanced, near-invulnerable machines known as the Amber Robots of Loving Death, all equipped to travel rapidly through the galaxy, annihilating all life as they went, while doing it in as caring and painless a way as possible. The Floo did accept that some living creatures might not actually want to be killed by homicidal mechanoids, and so they programmed their robots to only kill unhappy people. Unfortunately, this didn’t help much as once everyone in the galaxy had heard about the Amber Robots of Loving Death, the sight of one approaching invariably make the person concerned feel very unhappy indeed, which was exactly the wrong way to be.
One interesting pattern so far in the feedback is that readers will read the whole of the book but then take issue over a minor point, rather than discuss the book's core points. For example, readers have taken issue over the idea that the Ancient Egyptians actually sent their pharaoh god's spirit to Thuban on a ray of light. I do make it clear that such an idea cannot be proven with science and remains simply a supposition, a reporting of the Ancient Egyptian belief. The actual solid evidence on that topic shows only that the Ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramid to beam a ray of light at the star Thuban in 2787 BC, the moment in history when it was actually, physically possible to send a ray of light successfully to another star from a fixed structure located on Earth.
Even though the 'Great Pyramid, Thuban and 2787BC' theory is solid and significant, it's not the truly important element of the book. I'm going to describe, below, THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE BOOK in just three statements. These statements are entirely scientific but their conclusion is profound. Here goes:
1) Everything physical in the universe, if left to its own devices, becomes more disordered over time. This is known as the Law of Entropy or 'the Second Law of Thermodynamics'.
2) But there is a problem; Life becomes more ordered over time. Life turns simple matter (gases, water) into highly complex structures (DNA, proteins, cells). The phenomena of Life cannot be explained away as a result of the sun's energy, as energy and order are not related; a hot gas is no more ordered than a cold gas. In fact, increasing energy invariably increases disorder, not the other way round. Life's ordering effect therefore cannot be coming from a purely physical cause.
3) Therefore, since Life is increasing order in our universe and everything in our universe, if left to its own devices, decreases in order, then Life must be being influenced by something outside of our universe, outside of physical reality.
It's definitely worth reading the third statement more than once, to get one's head around it. Once one has done that, the statement's consequences start to take shape and they are extensive and profound. 'How science shows' explores some of those consequences but not all (there's too many to fit in one book!).
Although the above, third statement may seem controversial, in many ways, science established that conclusion decades ago. In cosmology, the riddles of the Baryon Asymmetry Problem, the Fine Tuning Problem and Boltzmann's Well-Ordered Universe Problem can only be solved by accepting that an intelligence created our universe and that intelligence continued to exert a positive, organising influence over the universe. For more on that topic, do please read this earlier blog post.
Therefore, it can be scientifically proven that Materialism, the idea that only physical things exist, is wrong. Materialism is impossible in our universe. Our universe has to have been created by an organising intelligence, originating from outside of physical reality. In addition, all living things in our universe have to be physical manifestations of organising influences originating from outside of physical reality; that's the only way they can exist and defy entropy, according to our scientific understanding.
What's fascinating is that once a person accepts the above three statements, then everything about our lives and reality becomes profoundly different; that's why I chose such a provocative title to the book. All the extra stuff in 'How Science Shows…' about pyramids and Atlantis and corn-on-the-cob is fun and valid, but of secondary importance to the third statement written out above. It's that statement that is so important, as it is the Galileo's Telescope that brings the Holy Church of Materialism and Atheism crashing down to the ground. Viva La Revolution! ;-)
Adrian Ellis, 12th Oct 2016
“Nowadays, our scientific establishment makes out that they've pretty much understood all the important bits about reality, life, death, ourselves, the universe and well, everything. Unfortunately, this isn't true. In fact, many very important physicists in the last century pointed out that a fundamentally different view of the universe was needed to solve major paradoxes in science such as Schrödinger's Cat and the very nature of the Big Bang. This book describes what they discovered and more, thereby explaining the true nature of reality, life, death, God, ghosts, the brain, the Big Bang, evolution, aliens, pyramids, particles, Atlantis and, most especially, corn-on-the-cob. It also has lots of appealing illustrations and the odd joke, so you won't get bored half-way through.”
For more information on the book, check out its section on this website's home page.
This blog article is related to my new book; ’How science shows that almost everything important we’ve been told is wrong’, which will soon be ready to buy from the FeedaRead website and available to order from large booksellers as well. It has an ISBN-13 number (9781786970916). More info on the book is available on its web page.
While thinking about the ideas in the book, I realised that the ideas in the book could be used to create a thrilling drama about a group of talented individuals up against a powerful and secretive elite. I thought it would be good to blog ideas about it on this website, as a sort of on-going production diary. I’m currently focussed on completing a science-fiction comedy novel, but it might be fun to develop and blog about another novel story, with its accompanying ‘alternative Earth’ theme, at the same time. I’m going to call this ‘alternative Earth’ Psi-Earth, after the Greek letter Psi (which looks like a three-pronged fork), which is traditionally associated with extra-sensory or paranormal abilities.
Psi-Earth is just like our Earth now, our current-day situation, except that Psi-Earth is a place where the ideas put forward in ‘How science shows…’ are both correct and are being successfully used, akin to the Ancient Egyptians or the Tibetans. Just to recap, if the book’s ideas are correct, then human beings can potentially (with a lot of effort) develop the following abilities:
The ability to gather information and perceive places, events and details remote to one’s location, both in space and time. This is currently described as ‘remote viewing’ but was also called ‘scrying’ in the past.
The ability to sense or be aware of potential events in the future. This is currently described as ‘precognition’, while the word ‘prescience’ is more associated with calculated anticipation.
The ability to move one’s mind and ‘spirit body’ to another location, separate from one’s physical body. This is usually referred to as ‘astral projection’ or ‘spirit travelling’.
The existence and potential ability to communicate with other minds that are not currently connected to a physical body, or minds existing at very remote locations.
The ability to generate power and create material using mental manipulation of energetic phenomena at a quantum level.
(Note: For readers interested in the historical and modern evidence for people actually possessing these skills, I recommend the books ‘Magic and Mystery in Tibet’ by Alexandra David-Neil. For a more recent study of people developing skills in this area, I’d recommend 'Margins of Reality' by Prof Robert Jahn, ‘Psi Spies’ by Jim Marrs and almost any non-fiction book by Ingo Swann, who worked as a remote viewer for the U.S. Military).
It doesn’t take much thought to imagine that Earth would become an incredible and amazing place if such paranormal abilities were possible and also that the majority of people on Earth could use them. Our civilisation would become filled with super-druids, Tibetan Masters and Buddhist Bodhisattvas all making use of zero-point, cold-fusion technology, It all sounds extremely cool but it would be almost unrecognisable compared to our current situation, which isn't really the idea of the Psi-Earth story, so I won't be writing about that.
Instead, the Psi-Earth story would be a darker, everyday, 'almost like normal' story based around the idea that certain powerful and secretive groups had known for some time that reality was a light-energy pattern and that our minds influence and shape reality. These groups have, by the present day of the story, developed mind-assisted zero-point energy generators, mind-assisted cold-fusion units, telepathy skills, remote viewing, out-of-body journeying, prescience etc. Not surprisingly in the story, these groups have, as a result, gained a huge advantage over everyone else, all the ordinary people who continue to believe that only physical things exists and that our minds are nothing more that the side-effects of chemical activity. These secretive, elite groups are the real Lords of Psi-Earth, the people who really control the planet and everyone on it.
In comparison, nearly all the ordinary people of Psi-Earth believe something fundamentally different. They all believe in Materialism or in some irrational religious belief-system. These belief systems keep the ordinary people blind to the true situation, that they all have the potential to do amazing things, to do things that they think only belong to the ‘gods’ or fictional wizards. The ancient Hermetica tellingly said that; ‘a god is an immortal man and man, a mortal god’ but the ordinary people of Psi-Earth are blind to this fact. They have been hobbled by believing falsehoods. This makes the Psi-Earth story darkly oppressive because everyone on Earth is in a prison of their own beliefs. They are not being subjugated through brute-force by oppressive overlords putting up huge billboards threatening punishments or sending gestapo-like-squads hunting down perpetrators, but by a more powerful and subtle obstacle; the widespread adoption of a convincing false belief, which is a far more effective barrier.
In Plato’s ‘Critias’, the Egyptian Priest states:
“In the days of old the gods had the whole earth distributed among them by allotment… They all peopled [populated] their own districts; and when they had peopled them they tended us, their nurselings and possessions, as shepherds tend their flocks, excepting only that they did not use blows or bodily force, as shepherds do, but governed us like pilots from the stern of the vessel, which is an easy way of guiding animals, holding our souls by the rudder of persuasion according to their own pleasure; thus did they guide all mortal creatures.”
The Psi-Earth story is a 21st Century version of this very situation; of a small number of elite groups controlling all the ordinary people of Earth through clever persuasion. In the story, Earth’s history can be re-interpreted. The strategy of the Catholic Church to violently suppress all shamanic and wicca practices for two thousand years was not part of a Christian ideology but simply a plan steered by secret groups within the Catholic Church to eradicate any development of psi-skills among ordinary people. In addition, the development of secular science was also infiltrated by secretive, powerful groups who steered that movement to promulgate a mistaken belief in Materialism. That establishment then pushed a secular message, that ‘paranormal’ abilities were a waste of time, indicative only of stupidity or insanity. In that way, the secret power groups of Psi-Earth used both the religious and scientific establishments to keep the ordinary people ignorant and powerless.
At this point in the Psi-Earth story, we need a hero or two enter the stage. Just as in any thrilling drama, we need a group of people who find out the truth, find out what they can do. In that way, it’s like the TV series ‘Heroes’, except that these people in Psi-Earth realise that everyone can have these abilities, not just some select few.
At the beginning, most of these individuals are naive; they think that everyone will want to know what they’ve found and the good it will do to humanity. They don’t realise that the secret elite don’t want everyone to know because if that happened, the secret elite would lose their advantage over everyone else, their power and control. The secret elite groups may fight each other sometimes but they are united in one goal; to stop all the ordinary people of Psi-Earth discovering what they themselves are capable of.
Our heroes, freshly aware of the truth, are immediately in great danger. As soon as they begin openly talking about what they’ve found, the secret groups spot them and close in. The secret groups can spot them quickly partly because they've set up organisations that pretend to help develop psi-skills as ‘honey traps’. These organisations draw the newbie psi-people in, thereby uncovering anyone with strong abilities so they can target them specifically.
The only thing that prevents our heroes dying at this early stage in the hands of the secret elite's assassins is that the secret elite don’t want to kill our heroes blatantly. If our heroes are clearly assassinated then that would draw attention to them and what they were working on, which is the last things the secret elite groups want. The secret elite therefore do want to kill our heroes but at the same time, they want the deaths to look like suicides, accidents, unlucky illnesses etc.
All these elements should make for a darkly dramatic situation that has an element of black-humour; a modern-day world where some curious people are putting forward ideas that are actually true but are officially said to be rubbish and generally laughed at. Our heroes face ridicule, crises of confidence and disinformation even before the lethal dangers appear. Then, they are embroiled in a life-threatening but paradoxical situation where secret and powerful groups (who don’t officially exist) are trying to kill them while making sure that the murders will be regarded as suicides or some sad twist of fate.
I’ll blog again on this topic soon. In the meantime, it's back to the science-fiction comedy.
The video is lots of fun and it does a good job of celebrating how many predictions such science-fiction authors as H.G.Wells, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Douglas Adams got right about our modern world. As the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Nils Bohr once said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." :-)
I’ve popped a cartoon from the article here as a taster. Hopefully, they won’t mind. Enjoy! Read More...
The amazing Blackstone came to town when I was seven, and I saw how he came alive onstage and thought, God, I want to grow up to be like that! And I ran up to help him vanish an elephant. To this day I don’t know where the elephant went. One moment it was there, the next — abracadabra — with a wave of the wand it was gone!
In 1929 Buck Rogers came into the world, and on that day in October a single panel of Buck Rogers comic strip hurled me into the future. I never came back.
It was only natural when I was twelve that I decided to become a writer and laid out a huge roll of butcher paper to begin scribbling an endless tale that scrolled right on up to Now, never guessing that the butcher paper would run forever.
Snoopy has written me on many occasions from his miniature typewriter, asking me to explain what happened to me in the great blizzard of rejection slips of 1935. Then there was the snowstorm of rejection slips in ’37 and ’38 and an even worse winter snowstorm of rejections when I was twenty-one and twenty-two. That almost tells it, doesn’t it, that starting when I was fifteen I began to send short stories to magazines like Esquire, and they, very promptly, sent them back two days before they got them! I have several walls in several rooms of my house covered with the snowstorm of rejections, but they didn’t realize what a strong person I was; I persevered and wrote a thousand more dreadful short stories, which were rejected in turn. Then, during the late forties, I actually began to sell short stories and accomplished some sort of deliverance from snowstorms in my fourth decade. But even today, my latest books of short stories contain at least seven stories that were rejected by every magazine in the United States and also in Sweden! So, dear Snoopy, take heart from this. The blizzard doesn’t last forever; it just seems so.
Until then, here's the emblem/logo I came up with for the collection: Read More...
The staff at New Scientist have brought out a new digital magazine called Arc. It's a mix of articles about the future and short stories and is available on the iPad (which I don't have), Kindle (nope, don't have that either) and Mac (hooray! I have one of those).
They've also asked for short story submissions for the next issue. The theme of submissions is 'The Future always wins'. Being a big fan of science fiction, I've put together my own contribution. Initially, I thought about writing a serious narrative story describing loss of identity, invasive technology, the sort of stuff elegantly described in books by William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and Philip K. Dick, but I didn't really come up with much.
Instead, I decided that it would be fun to write a dialogue exposing the banality of peoples' use of technology and how it still can't help them understand their partner. We have incredible kit at our disposal, such as the modern smartphone, but most of us have no understanding of how it works and we use smartphones for the dumbest of reasons. It's a strange world where a GPS satellite network, thousands of gigabit processors, clocks that lose a second every billion years and other marvels are employed so someone can pass around a video of their mate throwing up. The future, I think, is highly unlikely to be like Star Trek. As Scott Adams perceptively pointed out in 'The Dilbert Future' and Terry Pratchett has stated in various articles, it'll probably be a lot more cringeworthy.
If you'd like to read my short story, ''18% happier' then click on the link.
Share and Enjoy.... share and enjoy...
I'm in the process of self-publishing my non-fiction book, The Golden Web. I'm following the self-publishing route for the book because the standard non-fiction publishing route isn't really available to me. Since I'm not a television presenter or senior scientist or academic, it's unlikely a publishing house would want to commit funds to try and sell my book. I also don't have any personal connections in the UK publishing industry so I can't call on any favours or phone any ex-school publisher friends asking them to add The Golden Web to their list. That's okay though, because you don't have to be well known person to get a non-fiction book published and sold nowadays. Hooray!
I thought it would be good to write about all the writing mistakes I’ve made. When writing is done well, it looks simple and effortless. Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ is a good example, along with anything by John Steinbeck. The problem is that a fledgling writer can easily think that excellent prose is simple to do because it looks simple. I made that mistake. In fact, I made so many mistakes that I’ve lost track of all of them. Writing good prose is like having a slim, fit body. A lucky few can develop one with even seeming to try. For the rest of us, it’s an endless effort to keep off the flab.
Here is a list of my most memorable mistakes. If you’ve read about them in an earlier blog of mine, I apologise. I also mistakenly repeat things.
Write a lot: If you haven't written a lot of prose before, you'll need to write a hundred thousand words of prose and get that prose regularly assessed before you even start writing the prose for the novel! I know that sounds terrible, but that's what I effectively did in the end - write 100k of text and then write the whole thing again. Read More...
Here's what I produced: Read More...