Posts Tagged science fiction

When it’s too cold to go out…

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Excerpt from A Stirring in the Blood

Chapter One

INSOMNIACS do sleep, they just don’t get much of it, and Harry Paget was no exception. So, when he found himself awake in the middle of the night, he didn’t immediately look for a reason for his sudden wakefulness. It was just how it was and had been for the past 730 sleepless nights. Nor did he open his eyes straight away, preferring to keep them shut in the vain hope that he might, just might, against all the odds, drift off again.

When a floorboard creaked, he wasn’t alarmed. Harry had grown used to lying in bed just listening to the sounds his old house made in the depths of the night; the ticking of a cooling radiator or the creak of the woodwork as it contracted. Some nights he imagined himself alone at the wheel of a sailing ship in the middle of a dark ocean, with only the groan of the ship’s timbers and the crack of the wind in the sails for company.

As the seconds ticked by, he became conscious of the wider world beyond his bedroom; the sighing of the wind in the trees that lined the avenue, and the distant barking of a dog. A car pulled up to the junction and waited for the lights to change. Its idling engine and the muted sounds of the car’s radio carried up to him on the still night air – ‘You’ve got a friend,’ sang James Taylor – one of Annie’s favourites. The music took Harry’s mind shooting straight back to the 70’s when he and Annie were courting. That song had been their song, but he was abruptly dragged back to the present by the familiar sound of a dressing table drawer being slowly withdrawn.

Harry froze. That drawer couldn’t have moved by itself…

His mind racing almost as fast as his heart, he cautiously opened one eye to find a dark figure peering at him, the face a ghastly red, caught in the glow from the bedside clock radio’s digital display. In his gloved hands he held Annie’s jewellery box. Before Harry could say or do anything, the intruder brought the box smashing down on his face and made for the door. But he had to run round the bed to get to it and, with an agility that surprised both men, Harry rolled out on the opposite side of the bed and hurled himself at the fleeing burglar. The impetus of Harry’s dive sent the man crashing against the wall, dislodging one of Annie’s framed watercolours. All three tumbled to the floor. As the man attempted to get to his feet, Harry jumped on his back, wrapped both arms around his neck, and clung on like a limpet as the man sought to shrug him off.

‘Get off me, you dirty old bastard!’ growled the man, and Harry caught the whiff of stale cigarette smoke on his breath.

Harry hadn’t worn pyjamas for years and his pale limbs showed up ghostly white in the darkness. In any other circumstances, he would have found the situation amusing. His intruder was clearly more alarmed at the prospect of being buggered by a naked, middle-aged man, than he was of being arrested. The impression Harry had was of a young man and a strong one, and he wondered how much longer he could hold onto him.

‘I just want my wife’s jewellery box,’ he said, through gritted teeth.

‘I dropped it when you jumped me, didn’t I.’

Harry cast around. His eyes had grown more accustomed to the darkness, but his night-time vision wasn’t good.

‘I can’t see it.’

‘Fuck sake! I’m lying on it,’ snarled the intruder. ‘If you want it, you’ll have to get off me.’

Harry was quite prepared to let the thief go if that meant he got Annie’s jewellery back. But, and it was a big but, could he rely on this vicious criminal to keep his word?

‘Hurry up, this thing’s digging in me.’ whined his assailant.

It was risky but he would have to go with it. ‘All right, but you keep one knee on the floor. You hand me the jewellery box, and then you leave. OK?’ His captive grunted. ‘OK?’ Harry repeated, this time louder.

‘Yeah, yeah. Just get off me.’

Harry slowly withdrew his arms from around the man’s neck. He was half expecting a trick of some kind, but was still caught off balance, when the young burglar brought his head whipping back into Harry’s face, smashing his nose. He felt the warm gush of blood and his hands shot up to stem it. At that same moment an elbow was driven with great force into his abdomen. Harry rolled off onto his side where he lay doubled up, and gasping for air.

Bleeding and winded, Harry was defenceless as his assailant jumped to his feet and, accompanied by a stream of expletives, delivered a series of kicks to his body. The last thing Harry saw was a large boot coming towards his head, and then blissful unconsciousness; sleep of a kind, a rare event since losing his beloved Annie.


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The rise and rise of the machines


So, once again Sci-fi writers, often dismissed as purveyors of tacky pulp fiction, have turned out to be visionaries. All those stories by authors such as Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov, about machines in one form or another taking over, are fast becoming fact.  The creators of super intelligent computers, are becoming increasingly worried that their creations will soon be more intelligent than themselves. If the nerds can’t control them – what chance have the rest of us got? We all know what happens when superior beings come up against a less advanced species: it’s a case of ‘Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish!’

Of course it’s quite possible that in failing to control global warming, we humans will do the job for them, and exterminate ourselves. All the machines have to do is bide their time and, ”Lay their plans against us” as the Martians did in H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds.

Hollywood has enjoyed considerable success in bringing these sci-fi classics to the screen and created a few of their own. In The Terminator the machines send an Android assassin back through time to kill a young boy who, if he survives, will eventually save mankind. In the light of the boffins predictions, there is a young boy living somewhere in the world right now, who should be very, very afraid  . . .

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Back Dated has been updated!

Back dated has been completely revised and edited to eliminate the typos mentioned by some reviewers of the first edition.Only £1.99 ($2.99 in the USA) and for Prime members it’s absolutely FREE!

Back Dated has an original and interesting plot that engages the reader very quickly and holds them right up to the end. Niblock maintains tension and interest throughout and Ray Flaxman is a flawed but interesting character. This is a book from an author with great potential.”

Jill Murphy – The Bookbag

Synopsis: In the post crash Britain of 2009, the state of the economy is the least of sci-fi writer Ray Flaxman’s problems. His fiancée Francesca is pushing him to set a date for their wedding; an unknown admirer is bombarding him with love letters, and he’s not going to meet the deadline for completing the last of his Halgaar trilogy of novels.

Returning to London after a romantic weekend in Oxford with Francesca, Ray is dismayed to find his flat has been ransacked. When he discovers only the love letters and a photo of his fiancée have been taken he fears his little secret is about to be made public. Matters become even more complicated when a strange young woman claiming to have come from the future, turns up at the flat and demands Ray get her pregnant – again!

At first Ray dismisses her wild claims as the ravings of a deranged fantasist but then the girl mysteriously disappears. After a bruising encounter with her formidable mother, and her violent henchman, Ray begins to take the girl’s story far more seriously.

As the odds against him mount, Ray is forced to confront a future in which men are facing extinction and women no longer need them. A reluctant hero, Ray has to step up to the plate to save not only himself and the girl, but the rest of the male species.

Memorable Quotes

“In the lounge, the entire contents of a large bookcase had been thrown out onto the floor. Spines broken, dust covers ripped off, the precious volumes lay there like a flock of birds with broken wings.”

“She was so close, I could see the tiny beads of perspiration that had gathered in the notch at the base of her throat, the quickened beat of her heart pulsing in a vein in her neck. Our eyes caught and held for a moment, then each of us, embarrassed by this shared moment of intimacy, turned away and busied ourselves with other matters.”

“One look into their eyes and I knew I was in big trouble: there was nothing there. It was like gazing into the eyes of the dead. Testosterone oozed from every pore and fibre, reminding me of those Russian female shot putters and javelin throwers from the Cold War period, whose gender couldn’t be determined, even after exhaustive scientific tests. Bond got Pussy Galore. I’d got the ugly sisters, but there would be no pantomime play acting from these two: these ‘Ladies’ meant business.”

Just click on the links below the smaller pic of the book’s cover on the right  and it will take you straight to Back Dated’s page on or

Don’t have a Kindle? No problem, Amazon thoughtfully provide FREE App’s which enable you to download my eBook onto an iPad, iPhone and similar devices, or onto your laptop or PC. You can even read the first couple of chapters for Free before buying! So, what have you got to lose?

Now available in the epub format from Smashwords and Kobo.

If you are an author yourself, and you’re looking for someone to format your book for you, I can thoroughly recommend a fellow author and eBook formatter, Tim C. Taylor. You will find a link to his site at the foot of the list of links to my novel.

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Why men should be afraid of these mice . . .

‘Are you a man or a mouse?’ was given new meaning this week, with the announcement that scientists have created sperm in the laboratory and succeeded in using it to produce healthy offspring. True the ‘babies’ in this instance were mice not men, but the ultimate aim of the experiment is to aid fertility in humans.

Researchers at Kyoto University took embryonic stem cells from the mice and by adding growth factors, created ‘primordial germ cells’. These cells were then inserted into the testes of infertile mice – I wonder where they got them from – infertile mice must be  as rare as rocking horse shit, given the rodents’ prodigious ability to reproduce themselves!

The techniques used in this research would have to be modified somewhat if they are to be used in humans, as men don’t have embryonic stem cells which could be used to generate sperm in the same way. However, scientists are said to be working on a method which involves reprogramming adult cells so that they become embryonic cells.

This experiment and others like it, could eventually lead to a man’s role in the reproductive process becoming redundant. The sperm count has been dropping for years anyway, and along with it, the male’s traditional role in society. Some scientists believe that it will eventually be possible to create sperm from female stem cells, thus eliminating the need for men altogether.

I explore this last scenario in my debut novel Back Dated. Following a visit from a strange young woman, Sci-fi writer Ray Flaxman is pitched headlong into a dystopian future, where women rule the new Britannia and men are facing extinction. Feminists often claim that the world would be a better place if women were running things but I wonder . . .

In 1971, the then Education Secretary and mother, Margaret Thatcher abolished school milk, leaving many children without their daily pinta. Later, as Prime Minister she became known as the Iron Lady. It was often said of her that she was more of a man than any of the men in her cabinet. Under her premiership we saw the rise of the politics of greed and the me,me,me society which is with us still today.

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The man who invented the Time Machine

Herbert George Wells (1866-1946), along with Jules Verne (1828-1905) is generally regarded as the father of science fiction, though it could be argued that the young Mary Shelley beat them both to it with the publication in 1818 of her novel Frankenstein.

The novel came to be written as the result of a competition between herself, her lover, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, to see who could write the best horror story. Frankenstein nevertheless has at its core some of the basic elements of science fiction: the fanatical scientist who pushes science too far and in doing so, creates a monster he cannot control.

But it was H.G. Wells more than anyone else, who in four of his best known novels established the basic ingredients of the science fiction genre, though he preferred to call them scientific romances.*

Time travel and the dystopian future: The Time Machine (1895).

The egotistical scientist who overreaches himself: The Invisible Man (1897).

 Alien Invasions: The War of the Worlds (1898).

Space Travel: The First Men in the Moon (1901).

H.G. Wells wasn’t the first writer to feature time travel in a story but he was the first to use the term Time Machine. In a career spanning sixty years, he was a prolific and sometimes prophetic writer of both fiction and non fiction, novels, short stories and articles. But it is for these four novels that he will be most remembered.

All four have been adapted for the cinema but it was another Wells – American actor and director Orson Welles, and his radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds which had the greatest impact on an audience. On the 30th October 1938, Halloween night, Welles directed and performed an updated version of the work as a series of simulated news bulletins, which had a section of the audience convinced that America was being invaded by Martians.  Following the broadcast, Welles was castigated for cruelly deceiving his listeners but it made him famous.

*The term science fiction was coined in 1851 but didn’t really catch on until the 1930’s when it was popularised by the American editor Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the first science fiction magazine Amazing Stories in 1926. The Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards, the ‘Hugo’s’ are named after him.

If you enjoy reading about Time Travel check out my novel Back Dated. Just click on the links to the right of this page and they will take you to my amazon home page, where you can read the first three chapters for FREE!

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So, who’s got the God Particle?

An article in The Sunday Times the other week suggested that the elusive Higgs Boson, the so called God particle, may have been found 11 years ago. What’s going on here? Did an absent-minded professor put it down for a second and then forgot where he’d put it, or did some disgruntled employee steal it?

Scientists have been searching for this particle since the 1960’s, when Professor Peter Higgs first proposed its existence. So you can imagine the consternation at Cern, home of the Large Hadron Collider (a misnomer if ever there was one – it’s not just large – it’s enormous), when this oversight came to light.

Picture the scene: the head of Cern summons the entire complement of scientists and technicians to a meeting. Stepping up to the podium, he gazes out over the sea of expectant faces.

‘I think you all know why I have asked you here today,’ he intones sternly. ‘I don’t want to involve the police in this matter, unless I have to. So, if the Higgs Boson is handed in before the end of the day, we’ll say no more about it.’

Not quite how it was, but far weirder things go on in the world of physics. It’s full of strange theories, backed up by mathematics that ordinary human beings find totally incomprehensible. We just have to take the physicists’ word for it when they say that the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42, or whatever it turns out to be.

And the names they give to these things: quarks, gluons, worm holes (essentially short cuts to other parts of the universe), string theory and the rest. It’s even been suggested that there could be an infinite number of parallel universes where each of us has a doppelganger living out a different version of our lives.

What if one of these doppelgangers was to stumble into a worm hole and end up in the wrong universe: the same supermarket even as oneself. Bit of a shock coming face to face with an identical twin you never knew existed. Which begs the question: would it even be possible for the two of you to occupy the same cosmic space, or would it be a case of this universe ain’t big enough for the both of us?

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