Patrick G Cox

Life imitates art?

Around fourteen years ago I began developing my ideas for the Harry Heron adventures. The idea arouse out of my reading an article which suggested that with our modern lifestyles, we were rapidly losing old skills, some of them key to survival should we find ourselves deprived of some of our modern 'conveniences'. That started me wondering what would happen if someone from the past was projected into the future. Okay, there would be a huge knowledge gap, and there'd be other problems for the character as well, but the key question is what would he or she bring to the future that might have been lost, or perhaps was simply no longer the way people responded?

That, in part, proved to be the easy part. A story needs at least three elements, one a 'hero', two a 'villain' and the third is a reason why 'one' and 'two' are in conflict. At first glance it seems easy to create a reason for a conflict, after all, human history is riddled with them.The problem is to invent something that is plausible, and, in SciFi, preferably not just a rehashing of something that has either happened already, or tied to a particular moment in time. So, after quite a bit of thought, a lot of research and reading, I decided the perfect future villain and 'enemy of freedom/democracy' would be a consortium of super rich individuals, families and corporations using their wealth and influence through a single co-ordinating body to control and direct elected governments. 

It seemed like the perfect 'villain' at the time, and, of course, provided lots of opportunities for all manner of rogue individuals and organisations to get up to some pretty nefarious activity. All fine and dandy, except recent events in the international sphere suggest it wasn't just a 'plausible' idea, but pretty close to a reality in some aspects. Maybe I should demand royalties.

At the time I started developing the stories, Artificial Intelligence was very much in its infancy. That is no longer the case. It sometimes seems that the sort of AI I envisaged will be with us sooner than I thought. Something similar is also happening with the concept of android servants, and I am definitely looking forward to the day someone comes up with the means to create artificial gravity that doesn't involve rotating sections of the ship's hull, and, of course, the sort of drive that would make possible realistic interstellar travel. as an engineer I knew some years ago used to tell his students, "don't tell me 'it's impossible'. Prove it." His point was that almost all major strides in engineering have come about through efforts to prove something couldn't be done.

Writing in the SciFi genre certainly gives an author's mind plenty of exercise. Your plot, your characters, your engineering and your science have to be within the bounds of possible - and you want it to be readable as well. A tall order? Not necessarily, and I'd like to think the Harry Heron adventures achieve it.

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