Saturday, 23 August 2014

...And the Kitchen Sink

I wound up reading some comics that were a spinoff from a popular fantasy show that shall remain nameless. I had avoided this for some time but I finally checked out a couple of digital copies. I didn't make it to the end of them alas. It wasn't the characterization or dialogue that dismayed me; it was the sheer sensory assault of the plot. In addition to the original fantasy premise the comics had apparently thrown James Bond(the OTT Roger Moore era Bond), Star Wars, Back to the Future, and a large measure of soap opera. It had everything bar the eponymous kitchen appliance, and then as the title says chucked that in as well.
I've written fan fiction based on TV shows in the past and I know that one of the pleasures of it is being able to open out the universe. On the page you have more time to flesh out characters and you don't have to worry about the cost of effects, location shooting, and a huge cast. This of course can also apply with your own original works; you start off with a plot that's compact and a handful of characters and as you write the plot opens out and you start having to create flow charts to keep track of the characters.
This is no bad thing of course but the problem comes when, as with the comic, more and more ideas just get thrown in without any consideration for the effect on the reader. The first thing that happens is the author starts to break the rules of their own fictional universe; a character suddenly acquires telekinesis or the power to fly where there had never even been a hint such an outcome was possible, and then character number two suddenly becomes a vampire to offset the powers of character number one and then character three becomes a time traveling cyborg because now they look a bit bland, and so on and so on until you have a mad melee of plot elements all competing with one another for the reader’s attention.
In the end this will destroy the readers suspension of disbelief and involvement with the characters, they spend their time wondering things like, 'if the character used X to get out of a situation on page 100 why don't they use it to get out of the similar situation on page 200?' instead of getting involved in the intricacies of the plot.

Ideas are a wonderful thing but you do need to spread them out.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

No Fly List

So previously I dealt with the issue of why aliens haven't come visiting but reading this article at Cracked written by ISS astronaut Chris Hadfield(Note some NSFW language in the comments section) and I realized that there was one assumption that I hadn't addressed; that our eponymous aliens could actually travel into space to begin with.

It is in fact pretty astonishing that humans can survive in space, and I'm not talking about the machinery that provides air and water and heat to keep the astronauts alive. We are a species that evolved on a planet under 1g of gravity. When we travel into space that gravity goes away and somehow the human body puts up with the this. Your bladder may not work the way nature intended, your reflexes and instincts are all completely wrong and have to be relearned and yet somehow people manage.

Now barring miracles of technology an alien race is probably going to be following the same path as earthly space flight. That means chemical rockets launching cramped vehicles whose crews will have to endure zero gee on their flights. What if they simply can't endure? What if the myriad of symptoms that sometimes afflict human space travellers were endemic and permanent for our alien friends?
It maybe that with sufficiently advanced technology the aliens could overcome such difficulties but what are the odds they would ever make the necessary breakthroughs if they never take those first steps?

Perhaps the galaxy will belong to mankind not because of our intelligence but because of our cast iron stomachs...

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Logically Wrong

When it comes to designing characters for your story it's a bit like a jigsaw puzzle; finding all the pieces and making them fit together into a coherent whole. As I discussed previously you need to avoid making characters too 'good' or too 'bad' but the jigsaw analogy is also flawed; if someone tried to put together the jigsaw of your life I'm pretty sure they would wind up with several pieces that just refused to fit the big picture.

The thing is people are notably inconsistent and prone to irrationality; and that doesn't allow for the simple action of chance in everyone' lives. I've personally spent almost my entire working career in the electronics career, either repairing computers or working in technical support, except for the three fairly random months I spent selling pensions back in the 90's. It was the product of a fairly odd chain of events; the sort of thing that probably wouldn't occur to you if you were designing me as a character and that's the problem of course; when you design something you expect all the pieces to fit together and in real life they just don't.

The best way to avoid this unnatural consistency is try to be a bit random yourself; visit Amazon and pick through their departments and select some random thing to include in your characters life. or you could just go for a walk and match off people walking by into random, unlikely pair and come up with an odd reason why that you can work into your story and character design. However you go about it try adding a little randomness to your characters and it will bring them that bit closer to reality.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Lack of Faith

"I find your lack of faith disturbing' Darth Vader announces just before he chokes an imperial officer with a display of force power in 'A New Hope'. Now on one level Vader is completely correct; this is after all only 20 years since the Jedi were wiped out. The Force should be something that's still a matter of fact to the citizens of the Imperium even if its fading into history. That of course though is also where Vader is dead wrong; the force isn't a matter of faith its an objective reality no different from gravity or magnetism. Star Wars is hardly alone though in this misuse of the ideas of 'faith' and 'spirituality'.

Now its not to say that religion and faith aren't discussed in some works of science fiction in a serious manner; or even just assumed to exist without making a huge deal of the subject. In the 'Lost Fleet' series for example you have a form of ancestor worship being the dominant religion and we see the characters take it seriously but there's no treatise as to how this came about and I'm fine with that, not being remotely religious myself.

What is noticeable in 'Lost Fleet' is at no point do the ancestors turn up and intervene to help the good guys out; they are genuinely a spiritual concept that provides solace for some of the characters but there is nothing to provide evidence that they have an objective reality. This alas is not a courtesy always extended  to faith by other popular science fiction media; with Star Trek being one of the worst offenders.

In Star Trek: Deep Space 9 we encounter the Bajorans. They are a people with a pervasive faith in what the call the 'Prophets' who are gods by any other name. Much is made of the spiritual nature of the Bajorans and their faith; much like the Force however faith doesn't come into it as much as you might think. The fact is that periodically the Prophets send the Bajorans orbs possessed of fantastical powers(up to and including time travel). Call me cynical but how much faith is involved when your 'gods' periodically send you presents. If this wasn't enough in the very first episode of DS9 Starfleet find out where the Prophets live and meet with them. From this point on faith becomes something of a moot point; when the priesthood has god's address not believing becomes a delusional act.

This is hardly the only time Star Trek decided that 'faith' and 'spirituality' need a helping hand. Commander Chakotay in Voyager meets his ancestor's 'sky spirits', who of course are aliens that periodically visited Earth. Kirk met the gods of ancient Greece and blew up more than one computer playing god. Trek is hardly alone in this either; Stargate SG-1 built an entire series around the idea of gods being objectively real and even Babylon 5 had an actual demonic possession.

So why do writers keep trotting out this idea of 'real' gods? Well leaving aside simply lazy writing(and seriously this is such a tired cliché that if it forms part of any story you are writing you should start redrafting now) I can't help but think that for some of them it's a form of wish fulfilment. We live in age where the Red Sea stubbornly refuses to part and manna does not rain down from the heavens. At the same time science keeps chipping away at the space in which a god might still exist. Perhaps there's a vicarious thrill in having a religion where the believers can turn to the sceptics and heathens and say, 'I told you so'.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Hide and Seek

So this time I talking about that staple of science fiction; aliens. Specifically the questions of why haven't we found any yet? And of course if they are out there why haven't they come calling?

The simplest assumption is of course that the reason we haven't found any is there aren't any. Now this can't be ruled out based on the current evidence but I don't personally find it very likely since here on Earth we have a number of unrelated species who demonstrate at least rudimentary tool using behaviour and the history of evolution shows the same concepts reappearing time and again independently. Wings have developed several times in unrelated groups; birds, bats, and insects so I don't see any good reason to assume intelligence is some sort of singular aberration that only occurred here on Earth.

So lets assume the alien civilizations are out there, why haven't we found any trace of them despite scanning the skies with telescopes both optical and radio? I mentioned part of the answer in a previous blog, that is it's just over two decades since we first detected planets around other stars and we are just barely at the point where we might be able to detect the presence of an atmosphere around a planet. Trying to detect the traces of an industrial civilization; probably still decades away.
radio signal are apt to be even worse since as much as we think of it as empty space is filled with dust, gas, and radiation that makes picking up signals even a few light years away a lottery.

Of course the above assumes that the aliens aren't just going to turn up on our doorstep; or as the UFO believers would have it that haven't already done so. I must admit I was fascinated by the UFO phenomena when I was young; convinced that there had indeed been alien visitors to Earth. that belief crumbled in the face of the misrepresentation of so much of the alleged evidence and a greater understanding of the way in which human perception and memory can be so easily confused and deceived. On top of which there is the fact that with the rise of the cameraphone one would expect an upsurge in the quantity and quality of UFO image. Instead the number of UFO reports has declined almost in step with the increasing ubiquity of the cameraphone. So under the circumstances I'm putting UFO's to one side and assuming that the aliens haven't made contact with humans; at least not so far.

So assuming the aliens exist but haven't actually flipped any cows or carved up corn fields where the heck are they? Here's my top five possibilities:

You can't get there from here...

There may be a myriad of alien civilizations out there but there is no guarantee that they can cross the distance between the stars easily if at all. That dust and gas I mentioned earlier may be incredible tenuous but at the kind of speeds needed to travel to another star within a human lifetime they could be like flying into an endless series of concrete walls. There are ideas like generation ships that would travel far slower and avoid those problems but they would have to be vast and aren't likely to be cheap or numerous so our aliens might not stray far from home at all. Of course I write science fiction so I can't just dismiss the possibility of FTL out of hand.

A long time ago...

The simple fact is that a technologically advanced species might have arisen near to our own sun a 100,000, or a 1,000,000, years ago, come to Earth and colonized and we might well never know. The forces of nature have eroded the the cities of earthly civilizations to rubble in 10 or 20 centuries imagine what would happen over 100 or 1000 centuries? The species might well be extinct never mind their civilization. The galaxy might be littered with alien civilizations but they may be the province of archaeologists rather than diplomats.

...Far far away

Even if our aliens have FTL that's no guarantee that they will turn up and ask to be taken to our leaders; the galaxy after all is huge and liveable world may not be all that hard to come by. The vast interstellar empire (or Republic) spanning 1000's of stars might be out there right now; there could even be a number of them existing at the same time and yet in terms of the scale of the galaxy they would all be a drop in the ocean. The chances that they would interact let alone fight each other over territory is unlikely. Of course there's nothing to stop them having internal falling outs so there could be epic space battles being fought as I type and we will never know about; which is probably for the best.

Does it come in red?

There was a movie that shall remain nameless that had aliens visiting Earth who it turned out were 'allergic' to water. leaving aside the aliens stupidity it raised an important point; that is we rather assume Earth is a beneficent abode of life that other species would find every bit as appealing. I've mentioned the Asimov classic  'Nightfall' before and if the civilization from the world found Earth would they stop or hurry on by from a nightmare world that plunged them into darkness every twelve hours? There are so many possible variations in gravity, atmosphere, and climate that it's entirely possible our putative aliens simply find Earth an uninhabitable hellhole and have carried on to greener pastures.

Prime Directive

Yes it's a cliché but the aliens might not have come to visit for cultural reasons rather physical reasons. Now the Starfleet Prime Directive of non-interference might seem impossibly altruistic but such a directive needn't be so high minded; maybe the aliens are afraid we're going to start stealing their jobs and begging for aid if they make contact. It could also be that Earth is the interstellar equivalent of a bad neighbourhood and is off limits. Perhaps it's simply that the aliens have more in common with feudal Japan or ancient China and have no desire to meet other species and expose them selves to other cultures.

So there's my top five but I'm sure there's plenty more where they came from...

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Grit in the Works

'Gritty reboot'; the phrase has managed to become a cliché in a remarkably short time. In essence it means taking some well known tale that's generally told with clear black and white definitions of who the bad guys and good guys are and adding shades of grey to blur the moral lines; making the fictional universe more realistic

Now in theory this can be a good thing. A problem that is prone to be pop up in fiction is that anyone whose good at their job can't really be one of the bad guys; doubly so if they happen to have a sense of humour. What this means is that these 'bad guys' are really good guys forced to serve the forces of evil by some outside factor. Some authors can't seem to cope with the idea that someone could be smart, charismatic, and charming; a person who is the the life and soul of the party one night and then gets up bright and early to order the execution of thousands. So yes the theory is good but the practice is all too often abysmal

The reason for this seems to be that writers seem to assume that 'gritty' and 'realistic' means 'lets make everyone a mean, despicable...well lets say 'jerk' to keep this blog family friendly. I personally think this is every bit as unrealistic as the idea of square jawed heroes and moustache twirling villains. Instead of clear black and white these 'gritty' stories often reduce everything to the same tone of muddy grey. Far from adding nuance and detail they simply obliterate it.

History shows that people are seldom all good or bad; business men who ruthlessly crush all competition and make a fortune only to turn around and spend that one on philanthropy and charitable works. Conversely there is the good neighbour who is warm, friendly, always happy to lend a hand; and just happens to wear a hood and burn crosses on the weekend. People are complicated and its no more realistic to portray them all as devils than it is to have them all be saints.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

When Worlds Collide

So in a previous blog I railed against 'weird for the sake of weird' so this time I'm going to go in the opposite direction and ask; what do you do when reality itself turns out to be weirder than we imagined?

The realization that the sun was just one average star amongst many seems to have led to an assumption that the planets orbiting were also average and mundane, and that the nice neat arrangement with rocky bodies  close to the sun and gas giants in the outer was typical of the way in which solar systems form. Models were developed that described the mechanics of planetary formation and it wasn't just scientists who bought into this nice orderly image; writers of imaginative fiction were happy to go along with it.

Even where worlds were superficially exotic there was often that assumption of nice neat system mechanics overall; gas giants and rocky bodies knew their place and even if a world only saw night every thousand years (Nightfall) it was still relatively 'normal' in terms of the solar system it inhabited. The fundamental problem with all of this was it worked off a sample size of one; our own little solar system was the only one we could see. The best efforts of astronomers to find other solar systems met with no success; until 1992. Pulsar PSR 1257+12 was about the last place any one would have expected to find a planet since it was the remnant of a star that had long since vanished in a supernova. As it turned out this first discovery set something of a trend; what was a trickle of discoveries turned into a flood as we entered the 21st century and the Kepler space telescope added almost 3000 candidates and hundreds of confirmed new planets.

What became increasingly clear was that the nice neat ideas of planetary formation went out of the window almost overnight. Planets were found in all manner of bizarre orbits; worlds larger than Jupiter orbiting closer to their suns than Mercury does to ours. Some planets in fact orbiting so close that they are being slowly vaporized by their parent star; there's even a planet doing a fair impression of Tatooine out there.

So where does the dividing line lie between our bizarre universe and 'weird for the sake of weird'? Well the answer is that if you are adding something exotic and strange to give your story texture then that;s good; if you are adding it simply because you want to stuff in every cool idea that passes through your head or just to look 'cutting edge' then that's probably just WFTSOFW...

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Story so Far

So instead of pontificating tonight I'm just going to explain where I'm up to with my writing projects. Since I've posted up cover designs you can probably guess the 'Pioneer Wars: Secession Campaign' still hasn't reached a state fit to publish; or maybe it has but I don't quite know since the people who offered to proof read it never followed through. I've even started on the sequel 'Bridgehead Campaign'. This is not as dumb as it might sound; its helped me sharpen a couple of points in SC and it doesn't hurt to have the second book in a trilogy started just in case, you know, anyone ever reads the first one.

The first draft of 'Fourth Planet Problem' is finished. Only real snag in completing that was I chose a real island for the climax and got rather hung up on the geography so I had to rewrite a couple of scenes. Probably came together more readily because it had been so many stages of evolution before I started on the novel version. Now looking at some fairly painless revisions that are more about tidying up some elements that changed as the writing went along and then its just a matter of finding someone to proof read it and designing a cover; How hard can that be? Oh, right...

Friday, 18 April 2014

More Cover Art

So a lot of people deem to have problems with the plate/flag so I've done versions with and without. Comments appreciated as always.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Happy Endings

Once upon a time I was 13 (around about 1978 if you must know) and I started reading the 'Lensman' series by EE 'Doc' Smith. It was my first introduction to the big galaxy spanning space opera style of novels and being honest its shaped my tastes to this day. The worst moment of reading it was when I finished the last book and I had to face the awful fact that I would never know what came next; that I would have to part company with the characters who had come to mean so much to me. There have been other series I've been immersed in since but I was braced for the inevitable with those and of course from a certain perspective its a triumph for the author to have drawn in the reader and leave them wanting more. Alas these days it seems all too many authors in science fiction and fantasy can't bring themselves to leave that demand unfulfilled; they will give the readers more, and more, and more, until far from fearing the end of a series the reader is yearning for it.

The classic version of this is the series where the heroes have to beat some terrible enemy and after several volumes they triumph; except of course they don't. Soon enough there's a new book with a more powerful enemy, and then another, and another seemingly ad infinitum in some cases. If you want a good example try the 'Lost Regiment' series by William R. Forstchen; lovely books but with a massive power creep among the villains. By the last book it transpires that the monstrous but essentially nomadic and non-technological enemy  happen to have fully industrialized cousins on another continent who never came up in any of the EIGHT previous volumes.

Now this unwillingness to bring a series to an end is understandable sometimes; what starts out as a simple idea steadily expands and plans change. My own 'Fourth Planet Problem' story was exactly like that; it started as a short story and mutated into a full fledged novel. Where it becomes an issue that frustrates me as both a reader and a writer is where the books start to include great tracts of padding to spin out what might have one book in a series into two, or even three. This doesn't even address the current trend for branching off; that is where you have a main sequence of books and a veritable blizzard of off shoots focusing on minor characters or elements of the background of the universe but sufficiently entangled that missing one leaves you struggling to make sense of the rest, or worse they go over the same ground multiple times so the reader gets the same material again and again.

A writer has to care about the universe they are creating when writing science-fiction but there has to come a time when you write the last chapter and let it go; preferably before your readers die of old age.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Weird for the sake of weird

For those who don't recognize it the above is a quote from Mo the bartender in 'The Simpsons'. He explains that the new look of his bar is postmodern, and when this naturally draws a blank look from Homer he explains it as 'weird for the sake of weird'. This came to mind after reading a Jack Campbell short story the structure of which is a singe short scene constantly rewritten at the behest of a agent to make it more 'futuristic'. The effect is that a paragraph long lunch invitation becomes a page plus of impenetrable technobabble. So the question is when does 'futuristic' become 'weird for the sake of weird'?

Obviously when dealing with futuristic technology you need to offer up some explanation and a few made up words perhaps to describe it; you can't just have your spacecraft vanish from one star system and appear another with giving the process a name at least. The keyword here though is futuristic; do you really need to offer up and elaborate explanation of how a future phone works? Or a future gun? If you write 'the bolt of energy from the gun burned a neat whole through Smith's chest' would it really be better to offer a three paragraph explanation of the faux physics of the weapon. Sure you establish its futuristic credentials but by the time you reach the bottom of the page the reader may have forgotten that Smith was shot in the first place.

Language is another area where it seems some authors delight in inserting weirdness for the sake of it; one good example is in David Weber's 'Safehold' series. Set on a future colony long isolated from Earth everything is still described with nice comprehensible terms except for names; names use an odd spelling pattern that makes them very hard to read until you figure the scheme out. When you do you discover they are perfectly ordinary English names, now did this little conceit add anything to the book? I really don't think so. The focus needs to be the story and the characters, not having the reader trying to figure out why the author has used 'z' instead of 'j'.

Probably the worst example of 'weird for the sake of weird' is when an author changes human behaviour for their future society; often in the shape of some idyllic utopia where everyone lives in harmony, or in pursuit of some perfect society based on their particularly political ideals. The fundamental issue here is that people just don;t change. Their language and society may change but people remain the same. Archaeologists working at a fort called Vindolanda along Hardian's wall found what amounted to a collection of Roman postcards written by people at the fort. When these were translated did they reveal an alien, incomprehensible mindset? No; one of the best known turns out to be an invitation to a birthday party. There's also shopping lists and even a letter from a merchant complaining about the terrible state of the local roads. The better part of 2000 years later those Romans still come across as people like us and I don't seen any reason to pretend they will be 200 or 2000 years in the future. The author who writes his characters as 'utopian' or 'metahuman' is risking losing the suspension of disbelief needed for the reader to enjoy a story simply because they don't ring true.

So I suppose if there's a moral here its use your 'futuristic' elements sparingly and don't try to inject them into the human psyche.

Sunday, 6 April 2014


I've talked about this before but I'm coming back to it because it's of the great challenges of turning a piece of writing into a publishable manuscript and that's proofreading. Now there are basically three ways of approaching this; you can pay a professional to do it, you can get someone to do it for free, or you cant try to DIY.

Now I freely admit I have no experience of the first option for the simple reason that I haven't really had the cash to spare to do so, which I suspect is true of many aspiring authors. That being said if you can afford to spend a few pounds check out local writers groups or the various Google+ communities/forums that provide resources to writers and can help you make sure you are spending your money on the right person.

Option two may sound like a better bet; find someone whose willing to help out for free or maybe do a trade where you provide them with help on some aspect of their writing projects in exchange for a little proofreading. This has the potential to turn into a trap; if someone is prepared to volunteer to proof read your work then you can't really impose a clear cut schedule and time frame on what is after all a favour. This means that you are dealing with end dates like 'soon' and 'If I can find the time, maybe next week' and suddenly its months later and instead of a proof read manuscript you have an ex-friend or a family member who is no longer on speaking terms with you.

The simple truth is that most of your volunteers however enthusiastic they may be at the beginning of the process and insist that they know what they are doing really don't understand the tedium of literally making sure someone else has crossed every t and dotted every i and the process slowly grinds to a halt as the enthusiasm bleeds away. This doesn't necessarily make finding a volunteer a bad way to do things, especially if you can find someone to trade tasks with, but you need to be prepared for it to take a long time and involve a lot of prodding before its done.

Now you may by this point be thinking that the best solution is just do it yourself, you have plenty of motivation and you know how to write after all; so why not? BECAUSE IT WILL NOT WORK. I put that in capitals just to make it clear that this is a terrible idea. I've mentioned before that a common complaint about Kindle books is that they haven't been proofread properly and are riddled with typographical errors. I would be willing to place a small wager that if you could approach the author of one of those volumes they would swear that they had gone over every single line and correct every mistake in syntax, every spelling error and every missing word; and yet the errors are still there. This isn't because the author was sloppy or lazy; it's because they literally can't see the mistakes.

It's easy to illustrate the problem; your significant other gets their haircut and you don't notice for days or you can't find your keys only for them to turn up in plain sight on the table you had checked twice already. What's going on is that your brain is somewhat lazy when it comes to seeing; when dealing with the familiar it simply fills in details from memory rather than actually observing the world around you. Your brain knows the table is empty; it knows what your significant other's hair looks like so you see what you expect to see rather than what's actually there.

The same effect makes trying to proofread your own work an uphill struggle; you know what you meant to write and so more often than not that's what you see on the page rather than the errors and omissions that are actually there. One trick to get round this is to change the typeface and font size of your text if you are working on a computer but there really is no substitute for that second pair of eyes so really it comes down to either breaking out the cheque book or having a lot of patience and a talent for arm twisting.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Cull

And to mark my return here's a short story that really came out of left field and has no connection to any of my other work. It was inspired by this rather surreal claim:

Badgers moved the goalposts

and listening to another writer reading their children's tale of talking animals; not to mention Die Hard and Wind in the  Willows...


The Cull

 The sight of a group of weasels in suits wandering through Whitehall might have been expected to draw attention but in truth one group of shifty, devious looking characters was much the same as another so security took them for a committee of MPs and let them go on unmolested, no point risking another ‘Plebgate’ after all. 

Fortunately the weasels in question were all supposed to be in this particular suite of offices. Whilst the prospect of lording it over humans, and the fantastic pension scheme, normally made the weasels feel as if they had found the keys to a Bernard Matthews poultry farm at this moment they were all reconsidering their collective decision to seek employment in the corridors of power, well in truth given the location of the offices the sewers of power might have been more accurate. With some trepidation they approached the door of the meeting room they were looking for and knocked softly; hoping that the party inside wouldn’t hear and they could scurry away. Their luck wasn’t in and a shrill voice called out “Come in!”

Waiting inside was another weasel; this one somewhat bigger in height and girth as well as being attired in a much more expensive suit. He was sat at one end of a long oak conference table and he looked even more vicious than weasels usually do. He sat silently glaring as the others took their seats; each trying to avoid the chairs next to the head of the table without being too obvious about doing so; paste experience had taught them that their superior’s bite was far worse than his bark. Finally the manoeuvring was done with and the unlucky losers took their place within arm’s reach (and claws and teeth) of their unhappy chief.

When the last sounds of shuffling and creaking chairs had died down the senior weasel spoke once more, “I take it you have this week’s badger cull update?”

More nervous glances were exchanged before the weasel at the far end of the table opened a briefcase and pulled out a sheaf of papers that were passed paw to paw until they reached the head of the table. Again silence descended as the head weasel read through them without any sign or reaction. It was an act of deliberate provocation and finally one of the more junior weasels lost his nerve, “As you can see sir it’s a big improvement on last week.”

The other weasels around the table leant back to avoid the heat of the glare the head weasel was focusing on the unfortunate junior, “An improvement how how exactly?”

Somehow the junior found the nerve to answer, or perhaps he was more afraid of staying silent, “Well sir the hunters did shoot a badger this week.”

The head weasel glanced at the papers, “Yes they did and included in this report is a strongly worded letter from the Natural History museum and a bill for the display case.”

“But it is sort of an improvement.” The junior weasel squeaked; too deep in it now to back out, “At least there was no repeat of that incident with the Newcastle United fans.”

“I am seeing one report of a civilian casualty.” The head badger tapped one of the pages ominously.

“Well sir he was wandering around Hampstead Heath in a badger costume at midnight so frankly he was asking for it.”

The head weasel almost asked why the man had been there but decided there were some things a weasel was better off not knowing, “So besides those what do we have? More unfortunate zebra crossings filled with potholes by and a number of the posters of badgers we put up to try and improve results blasted to shreds. It’s just not good enough gentlemen; questions will be asked in parliament.”

“We’re still making more progress than HS2.” One of the mid-level weasels pointed out; and immediately regretted it.

“Everybody is making more progress than HS2.” The head weasel snapped, “and in the long run the high speed rail link will probably kill more badgers!”

He was prevented from launching into a full scale tirade by the door of the meeting room crashing open and a very un-weasel like character stormed in. The senior weasel looked from the figure to the papers, which contained one of the recognition posters, and back again just to be sure, “A badger !” He cried.

The badge drew himself up; he was clad in combat pants and a vest; his face was streaked with some rather redundant camouflage paint and he was clutching a pump action shotgun, “So you’re the weasels behind the badger cull eh?”

The head weasel managed to respond while trying to slide slowly from his seat and under the table, “How did you find out? How did you get in here?”

“Let’s just say you really shouldn’t have hired two individuals called mole and ratty to work for you if you wanted to preserve your secrets.”

“What are you going to do?” The junior weasel squeaked; trying to slide under the table and being unable to do so owing to the crowd already there.

The badger smiled, “let me answer you with an old joke; what’s black and white and red all over?”
“A sunburnt penguin?” The junior weasel suggested feebly.

“No, a badger with a shotgun.”

The junior weasel looked puzzled, “But you’re not…” were the last words he spoke before he was drowned out by the repeated boom and click of the shotgun…


BTW if anyone can think of anywhere else I could submit/post this story I'd love to hear about it...

It Never Rains...

...But it turns into a biblical downpour. Yes I have been gone for a long time and the explanation is fairly simple. Lost my job last Autumn, creating major financial issues and at the same time various parties who were supposed to be helping me out with proof reading let me down, and to cap it all I decided I hated the cover designs I had been doing for Pioneer Worlds. Suffice to say I wasn't really inclined to do a lot of blogging and if I had I would probably have been banned for use of profanity.

Anyway things have taken a turn for the better and so I have returned and hopefully will be able to find the time to post at least a couple of times a week.