In Tartarus & Shadow Lantern

These two short stories have been out a while in a couple of volumes of the Bestsellerbound Short Story Anthology. While on Amazon I can link these to my author profile, it’s not as easy with Smashwords and its affiliated retailers. So I’m publishing them separately there, and leaving them in just the anthologies on Amazon.

In Tartarus

In TartarusThe galaxy’s sixth greatest thief is sent to Tartarus, a prison orbiting a black hole. What could possibly go wrong?

A 3,000 word science fiction short story.

 

Available on Smashwords.

 

 

 

Shadow Lantern

Shadow LanternTrading in magic can be costly.

A 1,000 word, dialogue only, fantasy short story.

 

Available on Smashwords.

Devolution

So the Scottish referendum is over, and Scotland remains part of the UK. It might have been interesting to watch it become an independent country, but it wasn’t to be.

I haven’t commented on it earlier since it seemed crass when non-Scots commented on the subject, even though the rest of the country would’ve been affected. Now that its done, and the repercussions appear to affect all parts of the country, it’s fair game.

 

Referendum

I don’t know how much detail was available to the Scottish, but from what I gathered on the news there didn’t appear to be much of an actual plan outlined for what’d happen if they gained independence. Most of the news seemed to be getting opinions from Scots on the street, to the point where it became repetitive.

From those opinions it looks like there wasn’t much more information available to them, or it wasn’t being communicated. The Yes campaign seemed based around telling London where to go, while the No campaign focussed on everything that could go wrong. There was little in the way of detail, which it was on the Yes campaign to provide, to show they could govern a country.

Here in Wales we’ll never have a referendum like this. We don’t have the natural resources Scotland does to make it a viable option (most of ours having been seized when we were driven out of the lands now known as England). I don’t even know what Wales’ largest export is. Dr. Who?

 

Further Devolution

In the wake of the results, partly due to the last minute bribes the party leaders offered Scotland to stay, there’s talk of further devolution for more than just Scotland. The details are understandably sketchy, since it’ll still need discussion and agreement, but I have to admit I really don’t see the point. Devolving decisions on tax and spending on suchlike allows London to shift the blame for unpopular taxes they may have necessitated onto the regional bodies, so I can see what they’d get out of it, but does it really give much useful control to regions?

It doesn’t appear popular with international markets. The pound had dropped due to concerns over the referendum, began rising as soon as it was over, and faltered again as soon as regional taxation control was mentioned. Will instituting it cause further weakness to the pound?

And wouldn’t it all just mean more bureaucracy, and more needing to be spent to oversee the regions? When the economy is still in recovery it seems like a wasteful expenditure. By all means, do it in Scotland as promised, but wait to see how that works out before spreading it to the rest of the country.

 

Democratic Devolution

If it seems like I’m against devolution, it’s probably because broadly speaking I am. Not that I don’t think the public should have more of a say in things, but that devolution is being implemented within the framework of a representative democracy. Which just gives us more politicians, but not enough that any of them have a hope of knowing all the people they represent.

This is my main problem with representative democracies: once they reach a certain size it’s impossible for a representative to be sure they really know how the majority of his constituents would want them to vote (assuming they actually care).

The whole thing is reduced to a popularity contest, and we’re unlikely to get a politician with any actual skills useful for running a country.

A larger state is good in many ways – and I’m pro-EU to a certain degree – in that pooling resources allows for larger projects which in the long term allow the collective to do more, and cheaper, than could be achieved by smaller entities. At certain sizes they also develop bureaucracies that can slow the rate of efficiency, but they’re an unavoidable requirement to run such an entity, albeit one that needs monitoring.

The governance of the larger state is where I take issue, and I’d sooner we transitioned to a direct democracy, doing away with politicians. It wouldn’t necessarily be perfect (see Expressions of Freedom), and it’d require more involvement of the public, but it’d be more representative than representatives.

I doubt I’ll ever see a proper, large-scale, direct democracy. Too many interests would prefer the current system where it’s easier to influence power in a limited number of hands. And those are the hands which would need raising to see something like this implemented.

And I definitely don’t want to see a referendum for Welsh independence, but should it ever come to pass we’re definitely calling dibs on Dr. Who.

Doctor Who: Listen

I didn’t comment on the new series of Doctor Who in last weeks TV review as it’s still new, but this weeks episode (so possible vague SPOILERS) was just beautiful.

I liked the casual pace of the story, the lack of a real threat to give it momentum. It’s a refreshing change of pace, and it felt similar to some earlier Moffat episodes in its lack of a proper antagonist.

It wasn’t entirely satisfactory: Was the conclusion meant to imply there was no race of perfect hiders, that it was simply fear? Most incidents in the episode could be viewed in this way, apart from the thing on the bed (which could admittedly have been someone intending to play a trick on Rupert).

I don’t mind an ambiguous ending if I know it’s meant to be ambiguous, but this feels like it may be more due to Moffat’s occasionally flaky plotting. While I generally like his writing, especially when he plays around with the time travelling as he does here, his usually strong story logic does occasionally show possible plot holes that spoil my overall enjoyment – they may not be holes in the plot so much as my understanding of it, in which case it’s possibly the exposition that’s deficient (or my comprehension).

This doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the episode though (unlike the possible plot hole in the Christmas Carol episode).

It’s a beautiful piece that goes at its own pace and feels different enough from regular episodes while remaining consistent. I wouldn’t mind more episodes like this.

More TV Reviews

Some more TV reviews – because it’s something to do – following on from the last one, so some are no longer that recent.

 

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I liked the end of this, although I’m still not sure if I found it lacking something. I prefer ongoing stories to episodic stuff, though I can understand why many series start off episodic (as much because executive types seem to believe viewers need that stability as because the series is finding its feet). Still, the tail end of the season worked better for me, and I’m glad the main story was tied up in the season without any hard cliffhanger (some strands still dangling, but the main plot was tidied up).

Maybe rewatching it in one block will make it seem more cohesive (or tell me what’s wrong with it).

 

The Boss

Season two was unfortunately the last. And while it did kind of have a resolution, it didn’t feel like a proper one. While not happy, and with few laughs, the show was mesmerisingly dark, and I kept watching to see exactly how bad the mayor could actually go. While I’m in no rush for a box set, I’m disappointed something this interesting was canned.

 

Orphan Black

Season two kept up the quality of the first, with some interesting and surprising avenues. I’m not sure how well it would work with a different lead actress though, as Tatiana Maslany is the reason the show’s so good. I often find myself so engrossed by the performances that even with two of her clones on screen it can be easy to forget it’s the same actress. She helps the special effects do what they should do: disappear.

Will season three have more focus on the male clones? Hopefully not too much, since I didn’t find the actor as watchable as Maslany. Maybe he’ll be more interesting in different roles, but she should remain the star of the show. I just wish she was in more scenes.

 

The Honourable Woman

After the fact, some parts seem slow, but watching it was always engrossing. Despite a few plot strands feeling like danglers (unless I missed something, which is possible) it was generally satisfactory, with strong performances (particularly Stephen Rea and Maggie Gyllenhal [but since I’m currently rewatching The Fixer , I was longing to see Andrew Buchan shoot or beat someone]).

While I’m glad I watched it, the memory of how slow some parts feel in retrospect means I probably wouldn’t want to rewatch it again anytime soon.

 

Continuum

Just finished watching season two on dvd (so many US series we can only get on dvd). It builds on the promise of the first season, and while the episodic, procedural nature can sometimes feel a bit vanilla, I can understand why it’s (possibly wrongly) seen as a useful tool for getting some audiences to stick with a science fiction show.

Not that it’s that heavily science fiction, those element of the show taking a back seat to the characters and intrigue, and the shifting allegiances among everyone, good and bad, are interesting. The main thing that keeps me engrossed is the question of whether the protagonist is hero or villain, protecting the peace or enforcing the laws of totalitarian corporate rule, although admittedly that’s probably the wrong question. She’s both. They’re unafraid to have her skirt the line, and she’s constantly fighting to balance her desire to uphold the law against her desire to get home to her family.

There’s still a sense that it could be better, maybe if it dropped the procedural stuff (and from how the second season ended that may happen), but it’s still enjoyable enough to keep me buying the dvds (when they reach an appropriate price point).