Sometimes life is just a minefield. If there is a mastermind behind the cosmos, they have not only superlative time-management and plate-juggling skills, but a wicked and nasty sense of humour. I’m not remotely surprised when I read accounts from antiquity about the belief systems of the oldest civilisations, with their paranoia about ritual, black magic, sorcery and other superstitions to appease their gods, universally seen as capricious, vain and vengeful bastards, always ready with a thunderbolt or poisoned dart to visit judgement and death upon the hapless denizens of Earth. The formula wasn’t always consistent, but they seem to have agreed that a combination a certain social order, rituals sacrifices of animals or even humans, and conformal lifestyle choices seemed to stave off the worst the world had to offer.
Well it’s been one of those years chez Rackman. Not content to just assault us with the general privations of Covid-19 and Brexit fallout, whoever is running things (I suspect a kind of cosmic Liz Truss is at the controls right now) saw fit to pile on some ill health and mental turmoil on us. Me and my three have seen some incredibly unlucky reversals of fortune, some very carefully laid plans and preparations precisely torpedoed, and then I found myself temporarily jobless during the most punishing month of the summer.
If there is a mastermind behind the cosmos, they have not only superlative time-management and plate-juggling skills, but a wicked and nasty sense of humour.
I did find a new job and it’s better paid (hurrah! Just in time to pay the electricity bill!) but unfortunately it is a lot more stressful and over an hour’s commute each way on the M25, a notoriously unpredictable route probably managed by the same people who manage the cosmos (I haven’t quite worked out what particular ritual I need to perform yet, but I thankfully haven’t had to resort to animal sacrifice yet. Perhaps a few Just Stop Oil protesters might be enough!)
I’ve just discovered a medical issue exacerbated by this added stress and and have embarked on a crash course of dietary and lifestyle change which hopefully will be enough, but unfortunately not quick enough to avoid medical intervention. This is yet another most unwelcome addition to a year that I thought had delivered its fair share of blows already.
Life is pain. Pain is everything. You…you will learn.Peter Stegman, ‘Class of 1984’ (dir Mark L Lester, 1982)
So what better time to take up writing again! As everybody knows, the best writing comes from the pain of a tortured soul, and that’s where I find myself back again. My first novel Irex came out of a time of extreme mental and physical turmoil, and its dark, atmospheric bleakness and the seeming powerlessness of its characters in a situation beyond their control resonated from my own feelings of powerlessness and loss at that time. It will come as no surprise that I will be writing the third and final instalment of my Voyager trilogy from a similar position of feeling up against the odds in a loaded game with no rules.
Voyager itself was my first attempt to write a sparse, fast-moving technothriller of the type that was quite popular over the past few years; its follow-up Sentinel was more of a conspiracy-based thriller. The third outing for my poor characters has the working title of Dominion, and is set in a new world under the cosh of the Visitors, only hinted at in Episode One, and with a fateful first contact made in Episode Two. Episode Three finds the Visitors firmly established as the new Overlords of a depleted human race, and ruling unchallenged while our scattered heroes alternately lick their wounds or fall easily into step with the new normal.
I’m not going to lie – I like that I’m writing again after an almost two-year hiatus. But I’m not going to pretend that I like the circumstances that have brought me back. Pain, it seems, is the only way I can be creative, and the association isn’t fun.