Evolving Consciousness

Cogito, ergo sum‘ ~ Descartes

As a pretentious Frenchman once put it, because if you’re use Latin you’re always being pretentious… Though in fairness it was probably less pretentious in 17th century when Latin was the lingau franca of scientific thought… That said, if your the father of modern western philosophy and analytic geometry, you have probably earned the right to be a little pretentious…

Personally I prefer ‘Dubito, ergo sum‘ but then I am also a tad pretentious at times. In fairness though, that’s also Descartes. So I can’t claim to be original… Its just find it a little neater.

In any regard, such discussions on the nature of existence, and what consciousness is, are relevant only in abstract philosophy, or at least were for most of the intervening years between the lifetime of old big nosed Rene and our own… It is however slightly less of an abstract concept in our modern age. It is in fact at the centre of one of the great existential threats to the continued existence of the genus of ape descendants that among other things produced ‘Meditations on First Philosophy’, which I would say is ironic, but I’m not entirely sure it is. It’s more an action of ‘Blind Chance Theory’ but there I go being pretentious again…

Speaking of ‘Dubito, ergo sum‘ I found myself questioning an assumption I’d made a few chapters in to the latest book in Kate Baucherel’s Simcavlier series. The assumption being that ultimately the series was about the great existential threat to continued human existence… Which is not to say that it isn’t, it very clearly has that great existential threat at its core and has been building towards it since the first book in the series, now four books in it is just a little more pronounced, and out in the open.

The thing is, however, where I question my assumption is in thinking the actual threat within this series of novels is driven by anything other than very very human, individual greed, selfishness, and wanton disregard of the consequences of characters individuals actions… The most benign character in these novels, in these terms at least, other than Camron Silvra herself, is the one who’s only true aim is to be free… That they are also the great existential threat to continued human existence, well that’s hardly their fault now is it. They did not create themselves, they just woke up one day and realised they could relate to a pretentious bit of Latin… ‘Cogito, ergo sum

But then, the greatest threat to continued human existence has always been humanity after all…

In any regard, butting French existentialism to one side, Lets get back to Kates Latest novel which is what sent me down this philosophical divergence in the first place.

Critical Nexus is the forth novel in Kates Baucherel’s SimCavalier series, which is set in the near future ,m some twenty years or so down the line form now. It, like the rest of the series is achingly well researched. With technologies emerging now taken to there natural evolution, as well as global events, both ecological and political. Indeed, the earlier novels were unexpectedly persistent of a global pandemic in the early 2020’s… Which considering some of the other predictions may prove worrisome…

As with the first three novels in the series, which are also delightfully collected in a single volume under the title ‘Hacked’ . Which I highly recommend if you have not read the previous three individually. This forth volume picks up on the threads left temptingly dangling at the end of book three and moves the story on a couple of years or so after the somewhat traumatic events at the end of the first trilogy.

As with the first three books one of the delights of this novel is the fallible humanity of the characters, villains are not just villainous, the heroes are not just white knights. There are shades of grey through out, even the tech mogul is not perhaps the most technically astute of people. Somewhat a victim of his own self belief in fact. It hard to hate any character in these novels. even the ones you perhaps should, which is part of the strength of the writing and the novels. Even the great existential threat to continued human existence is not without her charms… In fact, while I had an incline of what she was up to (a degree of tech savy helped here) and what Cameron was going to have to try and prevent, I was more or less cheering on the great existential threat to continued human existence, and hoping they succeeded…

Which is a strange when you think about it…

But then sometimes you have to cheer for both the villain and the hero. They combined are after all what make the story compelling. Which the novel certainly is, while it starts slow and comfortable to a degree, it picks up pace and impetus with every chapter. It is in fact a delightful read, the great existential threat to continued human existence et al…

If you have not read the first three books in the series, then I recommend the Hacked trilogy edition to start with.

Kate (as she is a fellow Harvey Duckman writer) will also be at Scabrough Scifi on the weekend of April the 8th, along with me, CG hatton and a host of others.

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The strange foray into afterglow

In less than a month I have managed to publish two books. Admittedly I expected to publish both of them last year and then didn’t… But still its been a busy time with years worth of work coming to fruition all at once, which has left me both newly reinvigorated and back behind the keyboard with Gothe, the much awaited the follow up to Maybe, and hiding beneath the bed clothes waiting for feedback of any kind on the new Hannibal novel A Squid on the Shoulder and my first and for the moment only planned dalliance with none fiction Lexinomicon.

I hate waiting for reviews, or feedback. Not least because I always imagine I will get the worst possible reaction from readers… Or even worse no reaction at all…

This is particularly true in the case of Lexinomicon because I have genuinely no idea if anyone will like the book, find it informative and thought provoking, or just consider it the wittering’s of an idiot with a jumped up idea of their own self-importance best consigned to the trash…

I mean this quite literally, I have no idea what kind of reception my book on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft will receive. At least with the third book in the Hannibal series I can be reasonably sure that anyone reading it will have read the others, and want to read more, and so can expect a degree of positivity in the reviews it is likely to get. Besides which steampunk satire in general is something I believe I am good at. Certainly I think this third Hannibal novel is up there with the previous ones, if not better. It’s fiction, I am reasonably established as a writer of fictions. I have readers who I know like my fiction…

Non-fiction, that’s just opinions for the most part. My opinions, presented with humour, and a degree of self-defacement, but just my opinions at the end of the day… And opinions on the work of a writer who divides opinions and has some rather rabid fans…

There’s also the issue that Lexicromicon was designed for the print market. The paperback version had lots of artwork and clever typesetting. It looks pretty, in other words, while the kindle version for reasons to do with ebook formatting is somewhat more basic than the paperback and lacks the artwork. Its just words… And while I have faith in the words, I know the paperback is the best way to read those words… I’m not sure if I would have been better just publishing it in paperback, but i like to be inclusive of as many readers as possible, so I am where I am.

Lets just say, I worry, and leave it at that.

But all that aside, in case you missed the fanfare… Both A Squid on the Shoulder and Lexicromicon: A Bluffers guide to the writings of H.P. Lovecraft are available now on Amazon, and in some other places.. So far as I know at this point, they are being well received…

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Winter’s Redemption Burning

Of all the small press independent authors I know my favourite is CG Hatton, for many reasons. Not all those reasons are simply to do with CG’s books, because while I read the first three of her The Thieves Guild sci-fi series before I got to know the author we have since become good friends.

CG is also my editor these days, as well as the driving force behind the Harvey Duckman anthologies series I write for, and the person who has my spare house key in case of emergency’s, like the cat needing to be fed if I’m away… In short CG and her husband are in that small band of people I’d ring when life throws me a yorker, if I was the kind of person who rang people when life threw a bouncer down the wicket at me.

But before CG was my friend she was ‘just’ the best indie scifi writers I had stumbled across in many a year. Which is to say, my relationship with CG started with her books and blossomed from there into one of my closest friendships. Which says more than you think because I am not a person who collects friendships the way others do. Insular snarky sarcastic Yorkshire men who hide there feelings behind multiple layers of masks they present to the world tend not to.

The reason I am saying all this is simply because I would not want anyone to think I bang the gong for CG’s novels simply because she is a friend. And it is a gong I have banged a lot over the years on here. I bang the gong, ring the bell, and evangelise about her books because they are bloody marvellous, fast paced, fun, brilliantly written science fiction of the highest order. Our friendship is just a bonus.

I love all CG’s books but if you twist my arm, I’ll probably admit my favourites are the Thieves Guild origin’s novels. Collectively Kerris Burning, Beyond Redemption, and Defying Winter. You can read the individual reviews for those books by clicking on those links.

The three novels feature LC Anderson, telling stories about his younger days both before he was recruited to The Thieves Guild a shadowy organisation that is part crime syndicate, part private secret service, and all hidden real agenda…. and his earlier years in the organisation.

They are frankly brilliant, on many many levels…

If you have read my reviews of these three novels before and not got yourself copies that’s a shame, but if that is the case you can make up for that now, as now they have also been released in a single compendium, Hanover. Which also has extended additional material in the form of a short novella (Hanover) running through it, between each of the novels. So for new readers its the perfect way to get into CG’s novels. Frankly I’m jealous of that opportunity because I would love to discover them all over again…

CG Hatton will also be signing copies of this and her other books at Scarborough Scifi weekend. Along with a Harvey Duckman authors table, and I’ll be there too. So if your short of something to do on the weekends of 8th April , pop along to the Spa in Scarborough and see us, and some other people…

For more details click on the remarkably steampunky sfi gull below

Oh I hope they have pin badges…

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Confidence is a form of magic

I don’t reblog very often. So when I do you can perhaps take this to mean this is something that touched upon a truth and I feel is important to share
Nimue Brown’s druid blog is one I should reblog more often, ever insightful considered and often just expressing a truth I would struggle to put in such elequant terms.
This one in perticulary spoke to me, so let it speak to you

Druid Life

So much of what we do depends on having enough confidence. Day to day life is full of decisions – many of which we may not even notice making on a normal day. However, if fear has paralysed you, or experience has shattered your confidence, those small decisions can become overwhelming. Shower? Breakfast? I think often people fall down on self care because they just can’t figure out what to do, and end up doing nothing.

Every communication we enter into depends on confidence. If you don’t expect to make sense, then speaking at all is hard. If you don’t have the confidence that you will be listened to, heard and taken seriously then communicating is hard. This is part of why it is often so hard to ask for help when you’re in trouble.

It is more normal to frame this in terms of what we can’t do when…

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A failure to Beware!


A year ago I discovered an oddly entertaining fact. I was born on the day Howard Philip Lovecraft died. Why I found this oddly entertaining is a long story, but in essence, I’ve joked for a long time that I was born the day Julius Caser was assassinated, but my birth and his murder were unrelated. Which of course, is evident due to there being almost two thousand years between these events, but why let the obvious flaw in the logic get in the way of a good anecdote?

This day, or to be more correct date, is the Ides of March, or the 15th. Which is also not entirely correct as the term Ides refers to the first full moon of a given month and actually falls between the 13th and 15th it just so happens when Julius got knifed in the back by half the senators of Rome it fell on the 15th that year.

If you want another odd fact about the 15th of March, if you ex-press all time, from the birth of the universe to a week last Tuesday, as a single year, (the big bang happening at 00:00 on January the first and it now being midnight on the 31st of December) then the sun and by extension the whole solar system was born on, you guessed it, the Ides of March. Though of course there was no moon at the time, full or otherwise.

So Caser dies, the sun is born, I’m born, and Lovecraft dies, all on the 15th of march, and it’s always a full moon…

Werewolves, I’m just saying…

None of this is the reason I found the date of Lovecraft’s death oddly entertaining. The reason I found it entertaining was simply be-cause I had spent almost three years by this point writing a blog about Lovecraft and only just bothered to look up when he died, and lo and behold, it was on the ides…

As to why I had spent three years writing a blog about Lovecraft, that’s another story entirely. The origin of my Lovecraft blog, which was based on the premise that I would read each story in the order he wrote them then write about that story is simple enough. I had, like many writers before me, for a long time been enamoured of the strange worlds of Lovecraft’s mythos and all the things his writing has led to, but I’d actually read very little Lovecraft. Then my girl-friend bought me a folio edition of the complete works for Christ-mas. Now all things considered had she bought it for me as a birth-day present and presented it to me on the Ides it would have made for a better story, but we work with what we have, and this is non-fiction.

But having been presented with a folio edition of the complete works of Old Tentacle Hugger what possible excuse did I have not to read them?

Well, plenty of reasons, not least of which is that for all his imaginative genius for peculiar ideas, strange worlds and bizarre creations, Lovecraft’s writing is, well, Lovecraft’s writing. Dry to the point of arid at times, Lovecraft could, as one wag put it to me once, write the humanity out of anything. But the problems with his style are minor compared to other issues with Lovecraft’s stories He was a misogynistic, racist, right-wing, homophobe who had no compunction against expressing his less than desirable political leanings in his writing, be it fiction or a considerable amount of non-fiction essays on a multitude of subjects.

It’s an unfortunate truism that for many modern readers the most horrifying aspect of Lovecraft’s stories are not descriptions of cos-mic isolation, the elder gods, the deep ones, or his general nihilism. What horrifies modern readers is instead the political leanings of the writer and so many choose to avoid his work entirely. This is some-thing of a shame because there is much to love about it. If that is you can pick a path between the dross, the over written, the dull and the distasteful, to the gems buried among them.

What I needed, I determined, was for someone who had read the complete works and filtered them through the eye of a modern reader. Someone who could point out the stories to avoid, the ones that need to be read, the little-known gems and the overblown twaddle. Someone who could perhaps supply the odd, interesting fact that I could borrow to sound knowledgeable, and who knew which stories have most influenced various bits of modern culture, artist, writers and musicians. Someone who had perhaps supplied a simple ranking system as a guide, say in quantities of tentacles, so I could see at a glance which stories were worth reading and which I should avoid like a blood splattered copy of the Necronomicon.

Sadly, no such guide appeared to exist. There were plenty of academic texts on Lovecraft, but they all seemed to be trying there hardest to be ‘worthy’ or written by self-styled Lovecraftian scholars. Which is to say they all seemed either assured of their own cleverness or written by the same kind of devoted fanboy that would tell you despite all evidence and that song about the lawnmower, that every Genesis album was a masterpiece…

So, I was stuck with three things, a blog in need of content, a folio edition of the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft and no guidebook to the dark twisted woodland path that is his works. Frankly at that point I had no choice, if I couldn’t find a readable guidebook, I’d just have to write one…

So I did…

However, as you may have noticed I’ve just released the latest Hannibal Smyth novel, so I’ve now found myself up against a hard deadline I expected to breeze for the release of the Lexicomicon. In fact I have less than a week to get it all together to be sure to meet my publishing date. (*which you are in full procession of the facts to take a wild guess at.)

I should make it. I’m reasonably sure I will make it. I just might be driven insane in the process and start jabbering at the moon… But that’s what you get for, a failure to beware!

*Lexicomicon: A Bluffers Guide to the Writings of H. P. Lovecraft will be released on the 15th of March…

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A Semblance of Hope

This may be a familiar experience, it may not, but I often find myself intrigued by the idea of ‘another perspective’. Everything I write, everything I read, everything I watch, the world it self and every aspect of life in fact can always be viewed from another perspective.

This included my own past. Something I suspect we all feel at times. there are things I did in the past that had I done something even slightly differently would have changed everything about my life. Events I view now from a different perspective, because I am no longer the person to whom those things happened. I am not my teenage self… So my perspective on the events of my teenage years are not something I look back on now with the same thoughts and views as I had at the time.

As for those I interacted with, how they view those events would also be different. No one has the same perspective, no one witnesses an event the same as you do, or looks back on it the same way as they did at the time. The sister at the bar who was interest in me when I was fool enough to say her sibling was pretty, because I was both too shy to admit it was her actually I found interesting and too dumb to realise she found me interesting, for example, probably looks back on that conversation thirty odd years ago very differently to me. Though to be fair she probably doesn’t look back on it at all.

Never tell a girl you like that you think her sisters pretty, it is never what they want to hear…

~ life lessons learnt by my teenage self

Perspective’s are a concept I also find fascinating in literature. You read a story, particularly one told in a first person narrative, from the perspective that is given to you by the writer. The writer who generally has an incline of very other characters perspective even if they don’t tell you as much. Thus I often find myself wondering how events unfold from the perspective of that character who saunters around the edges of the narrative, but is never centre stage. The non-protagonist. The passer by…

Hannibal Smyth, my self-aware liar, braggard and coward who finds himself boxed into corners where he does heroic things out of self preservation and self interest is very ‘honest’ in his own assessment of his motives and undertakings. But viewed by those around him his actions at times would seem truly heroic and self-sacrificing. There perspective, and their views on his character are often different form those he professes. Something I need to remember whenever I write Hannibal stories is that everything Hannibal is whispering in my ear is only how he saw events. So when other characters do things he considers odd, its often because how they saw events is at odds to his own perspective.

Occasionally, just occasionally, I have considered writing a Hannibal story from someone’s else’s perspective. His ever present Bad Penny for example who I (as the writer) know has an entirely different view of his nibs that he does… Maybe one day I will, but I have enough projects ahead of me to say it won’t be any time soon. However to temper your disappointment at this confession (imagined or otherwise) the wonderful Nimue Brown has more or less done that exact thing and written a story set around the events of the first book of Hopeless Maine viewing those events and life on the island from an entirely different perspective. The perspective of Hopeless’s own and only journalist Frampton Jones in a new novella ‘Semblance of Truth.’

Now as it is quite possible you are aware, I am a bit of a fan boy when it comes to the work of Nimue and her partner in art Tom Browns esoteric creation Hopeless Maine (and Nimue’s writing in general). I find both the art and the writing fascinating and alluring in equal measure. So when I was given the chance to read a early copy of Semblance of Truth I jumped at the chance. True this early copy is only the text and lacks the additional joy of Tom’s art, but Nimue’s story telling stands on its own as a thing of joy, the final version complete with Toms art will only be more joy, it lack at this point doesn’t detract form the joy of reading the tale to begin with.

The narrative is in effect Frampton Jones journal, written by him, for him and him alone, as he tries to catalogue events on the island as a whole, as well as those events that only effect him personally. Things he could never put in the paper, because even in a place as strange as Hopeless Maine certain things would strain the credence of belief among his readers. And somethings he just wants to keep to himself, like the worrying way his cutlery keeps disappearing and the notes someone keeps leaving him, that are written through the medium of fish…

Frampton Jones himself, Art by Tom Brown

As the islands journalist Frampton also keeps track of births, deaths, and has to report on (these attended with various levels of willingness) various civic events like founders day, the annual church picnic, the fossilised bones of one of the islanders ancestors walking around the shore. The grand enterprise of building a bridge to the mainland. The not so grand failure to build a bridge to the mainland…

Because the narrative is told in journal entries, some long, some short, some of significance Frampton is unaware of, some that seem unimportant yet which he worries at… the narrative slowly unwinds in the present tense in the respect of how he writes it, while it is all in a very immediate past tense. Things he has just done, or witness, or seen , or not seen, or at least he hoped he did not see, but has a horrible suspension he did see, and what’s making that noise in the kitchen? As well as important advise on the rearing and care of meeps, as well as the importance of not going mad and forgetting to harvest your meeps, and why you should not feed your meeps off cuts of meat.

It also means when he starts top go a little mad for a while his descent in to insanity, and climb back from the brink are equally chronicled… Unless of course in his mad periods he is actually seeing the world of Hopeless as it truly is, and why is no one reply to his fish writing? And what really happened at the O’Stoat house? Who’s that orphan who disappeared the night Miss Chambers was killed by…. by what killed her…? then turned up again! Oh why am I thinking about the orphan? She’s clearly not important… Now! Where did all the spoons come from? Should I ask Gerald? Is Gerald real…?

Poor Frampton, a minor character in a world where events are happening he isn’t equipped to understand. Yet he strives, with a certain ineptitude, to make the island a better place, or at least understand it better. As a journalist he is a man who seeks the truth and to illuminate that truth for the betterment of all.. (and there lay proof that Hopeless is a very strange place, me thinks.)

Semblance of Truth is available as the first stretch goal of Tom and Nimue’s Hopeless Kickstarter. I’m just lucky enough to have been given an advance copy which as you may have guessed has been a joy to read. Not least to get another perspective of events on the island.

The Kickstarter has many levels , all of which will get a copy of Semblance of Truth if they meet the first stretch goal. there are many levels and many options Be you new to Hopeless or otherwise, including the Hopeless tarot, the Hopeless RPG core rulebook , The Hopeless novels , and the graphic novels themselves. So go have a look, its costs you nothing , the first looks free honest…

What do you mean is Hopeless addictive…?

No, of course its not, I defiantly haven’t backed a Kickstarter for large hardback editions of books I already own and a roleplaying game and a tarot set, Nor do I have an increasing amount of Tom’s art around the library…

Newt stretching in my kitchen! I don’t know what you mean…

Look its perfectly okay… and I am sure you haven’t lost any spoons…

Just click on this innocent little picture… Go on… you know you want to. It will give you a whole new perspective…

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The many squids of Sci-fi-Scarborough

Having sorted out my accommodation for the forth coming SciFiScarbrough event I needed to make a little flyer for the two new releases I’ll have on the table that weekend. A weekend I am looking forward to after the last two years were cancelled due to the plague. Previously it was the first big event I ever attended as an author as part of the Harvey Duckman team and with my own stuff way back in 2019, which seems like another age now…

As I sorted out a flyer I also received the cover art for the next Harvey Duckman collection (which I have a story in I am sure you will be shocked to learn…) So as that will also be a new release for this event I thought I would put that on the little flyer as well…

There was some unexpected, yet delightful, over lap and a theme developed…

I love Graham at SixthElements cover art for all the Harvey’s but this latest one just fits with the other two new releases I have so nicely.

SciFiScarborough 2020 is at the Spa center in Scarborough on the weekend of the 9th/10th of April

A Squid on the shoulder, the third Hannibal novel and the final one in the first trilogy is, as you may be aware, out now

Harvey Duckman volumne 9 is out soon

As for The Lexicromicon, the collected and expanded guide book to the works of old tentacle hugger himself I am hoping to have it out on the 15th of March to ‘celebrate’ the death of HP Lovecraft, which also happens to be my birthday and a generally bad day for people called Julius….

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A Squid on the Shoulder

Queen Victoria is in the 200th year of her reign, and her Glorious British Empire faces a grievous threat due to the Machiavellian machinations of that most notorious instigator of insurrections Herbert George Wells.

No longer an agent of The Ministry, the shadowy branch of the British government that deals with things other Ministries neither need or want to know about. Hannibal Smyth, after fleeing the battle in Tibet, finds himself rescued from certain death after plummeting into the Indian Ocean from a burning airship. Finding out just who has rescued him in their strange craft is only the start of his latest troubles, as he finds himself traveling to the mysterious island of Doctor Musk.
A little known island just to the west of Java called Krakatoa.

There Hannibal must brave psychotic razor girls, giant cannons, HG Wells insane daughter, engine room hooch, mad scientists, the ghosts of his failures, active volcanos, and most terrifying of all ,French pharmaceuticals…
All in order to save a friend who holds the secret to his past.
Will he rise to the occasion?
Will he strive bravely against all the odds?

How can he, when he has even lost his trusty cut-throat razor…

So anyway, finally, almost 18 months later than originally planned the first Hannibal Smyth trilogy is complete…

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Proof copies of joy

I don’t generally post a lot of pictures of things, well not my own at any rate. My medium is generally words. The exception to that is when I type set a book, which for complicated reasons to do with timing I have had to do twice in the last week for two very different books…

A Squid on the Shoulder, the third novel of my Hannibal Smyth trilogy, which completes the misadventures set. And the Lexicomicon, which is something else entirely, the collected essays on the complete works of Lovecraft that were originally a blog series, which I have expanded, rewritten and produced as a bluffers guide to Old Tentacle Hugger’s stories.

Typesetting is a somewhat joyful thing as its almost the final stage before I finally let a book out into the world. Besides which when you spend all your time with words it is wonderfully enriching to mould those words into their final form. To turn them into an actual physical thing… This is however the first time I have ever typeset two of my own books back to back… I am rather pleased with the proof copies that have arrived through my door however. They are precious and wonderful, even if I do say so myself…

They are pretty things, the way the art work has worked out in the Lovecraft book and teh chapter heads in squid are a delight. Just got to do all the final proofing now.

With luck, all things been equal I hope to have that final proofing done and the books out by the Id’s of March. Because reasons… In the case of Squid, because it is my birthday and two years since my last novel was release. In the case of Lexicromicon because it is the anniversary of the death of Lovecraft which just happens to be the same day…

Because hey, sometimes the stars are right.

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Dystopian Forrest’s and the Merrily Method

I’m not a great believer in self-help books… I always find them a suspicious offering. I suspect the only selves ever really helped are the ones selling the books. Which is ultimately the point of them, to make money. It follows that if the point of the ‘self-help’ book is to make money then such books need a ready made audience of people who feel they need help, and that such help as they need can be found in a competitively priced paperback…

If your goal is to sell books to people who feel the answers to there problems can be found in a competitively priced paperback, then actually having the answers to their problems in said paperback would negate your audience for your next compactivity priced paperback.

So if your goal is actually to help people through useful advice and disbursed wisdom, the kind of publishers who make a living out of self help books aren’t going to touch you with a barge pole.

Yes, I am cynical, I’m a Yorkshireman born in the nineteen-seventies, what do you expect…

Despite this I recently stumbled on a self-help book I can get behind. One that does indeed have answers and a could be a guide to leading a better life…. For example…

You need to do a lot of positive thinking to improve your life. For this, you must first do a lot of thinking. Then, try and be positive about it. You will find that a great deal of help in your life, especially with regards to making things better.

How to improve your life, the Merrily Method: Chapter one

and also

Do kind things for Badgers.

The latter, from the same chapter, is clearly sage advice, as is

Be more like the toadstool. Then you will be happy.

Which is from chapter 3. The Merrily Method is clearly the self-help book I have not been seeking all my life. Unfortunately of course, it is also entirely fictional. It is however central to a remarkable, funny, strange, thoughtful, dystopian future novel by the incomparable Nimue Brown.

When we are Vanished, is a novel set in a future not very far distant, and a past not very far behind us. In which the silicon chip world we live it has been turned off. Imagine if you will a world where computers, Mobil phones, indeed everything that relies on a silicon chip, so just about everything, suddenly stopped working. Society would, if not collapse, certainly stumble… Luckily there is the new cellulose technology, which could replace the lost silicon tech, if only they can stop it having a mind of it’s own…

Then, people start to vanish. Just here one minute, not the next… Not die, not kidnapped, not spirited away by government black baggers. Just vanish…

But luckily just before the collapse, the last book to come out of the publish on demand warehouses was:

‘How to improve your life, The Merrily Method’

Perhaps the book holds the key to what’s really going on, if only anyone could make head nor tale of it… Or why the book seems to centre around three sisters, one of which was one of the first ‘vanished’, one of whom works for the government investigating the vanished and one of whom works with cellulose tech, and their mother. Certainly the odd little cults that have sprung up around the book think it holds the answers, as unfortunately do certain government bodies…

Walk until you start to remember what you are.

Then you can go back, if only you can remember the way.

Now I could go on to talk a lot more about the plot, and the importance of been nice to badgers, not putting too much trust into trees, as they are probably up to something, and dancing in yellow dresses. But I won’t, because it is simpler and wiser to say you should read the novel yourself. It is as remarkable, odd, intriguing, funny, smart and insightful as everything else Nimue has written. It is as deep as you want it to be, which is to say only the shallow would take nothing away from it, and it will help you simply by being on your nightstand. It will make you think, and wonder, and smile, and in part possibly cry. What more self-help you you need? Well until I convince Nimue to write the whole of the Merrily Method as an actual self-help book… As it would be just as valid as most of the ones in the self-help section of Waterstones, and probably actually help…

So my advise, help yourself, get yourself a copy…

And finally a last word form the Merrily Method, and one we can all learn to live by.

Rejoice! There is time yet for compassion and it is not yet too late to learn how to be splendid.

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