Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Instant Gratification Monkey Staring into the Funhouse Mirror of a Mobile Phone

“There is only now. And look! How rich we are in it.” 
― Vanna Bonta
Have you ever found yourself almost colliding on a pavement with someone walking straight towards you set on a collision course, gaze downturned. It is easy to recognise these victims of the zombie plague that has ravished our planet, because they are the ones with their whole attention locked onto the mobile phone clasped in their hands. If you are lucky, they spot your feet and veer to the side at the last moment, their eyes never leaving their mobile phones during the entire manoeuvre. If you’re really lucky you may get a mumbled apology, before they drop back into the compelling world conjured up within the silicon of their mobile device.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Solar Sail Craft to be the First to Reach Alpha Centauri

“We’re still pioneers, we’ve barely begun. Our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, cause our destiny lies above us.”
— Interstellar
Image credit: The Planetary Society
Solar sails used for propelling space ships across the vast distances of space, have always been a firm favourite of science fiction stories. I first heard of the concept back in the 1970’s in Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s book, The Mote in God's Eye. Also, concept images frequently adorned the pages of the science and science fiction magazines back then, such as in the wonderful OMNI (sadly no longer in print).

In September 2016, this technology will take a significant step forward, when a tiny spacecraft, Prox-1, will hitch a ride onboard the new SpaceX orbital lifter, the Falcon Heavy. And this will be a very important moment for the future of space exploration.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Harry Potter – A Masterclass in World Building

‘It is our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.’ 
– Albus Dumbledore – J.K. Rowling
Image copyright: Nick Cook
This week, at long last, and having heard so many glowing reviews from friends, especially other authors, I finally got to experience the Harry Potter studio tour in London, for myself. I’m delighted to report back that it really did exceed all my expectations. However, afterwards I also found myself reflecting on the books themselves and the magnitude of what J.K. Rowling succeeded in creating…

Sunday, 3 April 2016

To Travel is to Live

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” 
– Anais Nin
Image copyright: Nick Cook
I have always felt a pull at my heart to travel the world and experience far flung places. In fact I’d go as far as to say part of me lives to travel and always has done so. 

As I write this (in Zimbabwe), we have just visited Victoria Falls, spectacularly huge (the largest falls in the world), incredibly loud, but best of all, poncho or not, that will leave you soaked within moments of being exposed to its dense, monsoon like, water mists. Wonderful. And right there is the joyous nature at the heart of travel, that often throws up life affirming moments like this.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

A New Chapter In Aviation – Airlander 10 – A Hybrid Airship

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned upward, for there you have been,and there you will always long to return.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
Image credit: Hybrid Air-Vehicles
In the 1920s, when commercial aviation was still in its infancy, the main method of crossing the Atlantic Ocean was by steamship and ocean liner. However, there was also a luxurious alternative…the airship.

The mention of airships, for many, will conjure up an image of a Zeppelin, the archetypal airship with its elegant streamlined design. In 1929 the Graf Zeppelin managed to circumnavigate the globe. This wonderfully evocative video captures the end of its journey in New York.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Fractured Light – A Ten Year Creative Journey

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” 
― Ernest Hemingway
Sometimes when you start a journey you never know where you’ll end up. A case in point is when I have a creative writing project – WIP – work in progress, underway.

My writing process has evolved considerably over the years. These days I always start with a clear plan, with my key scenes, story arc events, and major characters, all worked out before I even begin. But there is one story that I have been recently working on, that was born in a very different way. 

Ten years ago, I left my job as an art director at a very successful games studio that I had helped co-found, to pursue a long held dream of becoming a full-time writer. 

It was the bravest decision of my life, but I was partly propelled to take it, by a story that was not so much book whispering into my ear, as screaming at me to be born. Enthusiasm is one thing, but I was a much less experienced writer ten years ago. However, with bright-eyed optimism, I began what was going to be a long creative dance, and  dived straight into writing that first book. No plan to guide me, no thought of the destination, just a burning passion to write… You can probably guess how that worked out...

Saturday, 12 March 2016

A Permanent Moon Base May be Realised Within Ten Years

“We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people.”
John F. Kennedy (Moon Speech - Rice Stadium)
Image credit: ESA/Foster + Partners

When I was growing up during the era of the space race, I clearly remember how it felt at the time that we were heading towards a revolution in space exploration. The film, 2001 – A Space Odyssey, neatly captured that vision...of an orbiting space station that you could take a domestic flight up to (courtesy of Pam Am – there was even an Airfix model of the craft) and then a shuttle from it on towards the moon base. And this really what we believed was just around the corner back then, but subsequent history, since those heady days of the 70s,  had other ideas.

A base on the moon rapidly became the stuff of dreams, the cost too great to be practical. As that dream and other crewed space exploration crashed around it, it wasn't long before some claimed that the moon landings were fake. But of course  there will always be a few who prefer to believe in conspiracies, rather than the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Regardless of the chequered past of human space exploration, we do now at last seem to be heading towards a new dawn.