Narrative Transport. The official Michael Pryor website.
  • Inspiration
  • March16th

    The best way to prepare for the future is to imagine it. In our imaginations we can anticipate where we’re going, where our lives might be, the shape of the world to come.Shiny!

    10 Futures is a very different book for me, a real departure from the wonderful Steampunk worlds of ‘The Laws of Magic’ and ‘The Extraordinaires’. I needed to abandon the gloriously formal and extended language of the Edwardian era and use language that is more clipped and direct. And 10 Futures doesn’t have much humour, which was a real wrench for me, but different contexts and different milieus require different approaches to writing.

    10 Futures isn’t just random speculating. Each story segment has been carefully researched, and this is one area that was consistent with my last ten years of writing. The only difference was that instead of researching history, I was researching current trends and then trying to find good, evidence-based extrapolation. I looked at societal and cultural trends as well as scientific developments and asked the classic question: ‘What happens if this goes on?’

    As well as this exploration of trends and wondering about the direction of humanity over the next hundred years, I was also considering the nature of ethical issues and moral dilemmas. Do morals change over time, or are some situations eternal? What affects our judgement of right and wrong? How could this change in response to a changing world? Should it change in response to a changing world? Read More | Comments

  • January17th

    I can finally divulge details of the top secret project I’ve been working on for some time. 10 Futures is a series of linked stories which explore humanity’s next hundred years. Ten story segments, ten possible futures, each with its own challenges and opportunities – overpopulation, worldwide financial collapse, medical miracles, the rise of artificial intelligence, virulent pandemics, global warming/climate change, greatly increased lifespans, religious fundamentalism and war.

    Shiny!

    What unites these stories is the presence of Tara and Sam, best friends forever, coping with the futures that we are setting up today. Every one of the story segments is based on a current trend or development – technological and sociological – with the assistance of a simple question: what happens if this continues?

    I spent a great deal of time researching these trends, and every item I uncovered was balanced by my need to work with the human aspect of these changes. the How do you grow up in 2050? In 2080? In a world where water is rationed? In a world where freedom is unknown? In a world where your partner is chosen for you by your genetic suitability? Much will stay the same – people will still be people in 2100 – but some new ethical and moral dilemmas will be spawned. What are the rights of clones? What is the punishment for water theft in a world where everyone is thirsty?

    I’m immensely proud of 10 Futures. Imagining the future is important. If we don’t think about it and talk about it in an informed and thoughtful way, we’re stumbling ahead blindfolded. Is that any way to proceed?

    10 Futures comes with an extensive set of Teachers’ Notes aligned to the Australian Curriculum and will be available in April. For more, including ordering details, see the Random House Australia site.

  • December22nd

    Penni Russon

    Today’s Guest Blogger is Penni Russon, one of this country’s most admired writers for young people, with works as varied as the lyrical ‘Undine’ trilogy and Girlfriend Fiction.

    I have just excised a 300-word introduction listing all the books I won’t be talking about – for to choose one favourite is to neglect several cherished friends from childhood. However, the novel I am actually going to write about is The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graeme. As an adult I can raise all sorts of ideological issues with this book, probably the main one being the almost complete absence of female characters (apart from a laundress who furnishes a cross-dressing Toad with his getaway gear). This is a motherless world; it is a narrative of masculine encounters. These are English gentleman loafing about the countryside dressed up as toads and badgers and moles and water-rats and otters, with the lower classes lurking in the wild woods: weasels and rabbits and stoats. Read More | Comments

  • December15th

    Holly Harper

    The first time I saw a Goosebumps book, I fell in love.

    I was eight, and the fact that the title was written in blood-like lettering and contained the words ‘Dead House’ meant that it was instantly the coolest thing I had ever laid eyes on. And once I’d managed to get past the hypnotic front cover, I found the story was even better – haunted houses, monsters, and everything that was scary-but-not-too-scary-for-an-eight-year-old. I was in horror heaven. Read More | Comments

  • November29th

    I visit many schools and libraries, and speak to a lot of young people about books and reading and writing. One of the (many) things I tell them is that history is a fantasy writer’s best friend. As a fantasy writer, I Nom, nom, nomlove what history can offer. As well as simply being interesting in its own right, history is a goldmine for anyone contemplating writing fantasy. Take any period in history, change a few names, sprinkle in some magic and suddenly you have an outline for a massive fantasy trilogy. At least.

    While that might be tongue in cheek, learning about history is a superb way to generate ideas for writing. Not just the great people and great events – although that sort of thing is valuable – but intimate details of social history, how people lived and worked and played.

    This leads to one of the central paradoxes of writing fantasy. Yes, it’s all made up and imaginary and strange – but it works best when it’s realistic. The aim of the writer of fantasy is to make the exotic into something believable – or plausible, at least. Read More | Comments

  • November15th

    I can see many things

    Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard

    One of the best (and most unexpected things) about being a writer in this interconnected world is that I’m in touch with people who are interested in books, reading and writing, and they live all over the place. When it becomes known that I have various research needs, these clever individuals come to the rescue, often pointing me toward the remarkable, the extraordinary and the outlandish – just the sort of thing I revel in.

    I’ve mentioned fellow bibliophile Stephen Bresnehan before, and he was the one who brought the imperiously named Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard to my attention. After some investigation, I’ve come to the conclusion that HHP was one of those people that would be difficult to make up. On the other hand, his life was so rich, so varied, so remarkable that it’s a lesson for a writer in how much goes into the making of a person.

    HHP was one of those Edwardian fellows who could have stepped out of the pages of Kipling. To know that he wrote Sniping in France as a guide to those chaps in the trenches who were going about it in entirely the long way is an insight into the man. The book is a sometimes startling look at other days and other ways, with an admiring foreward by General Lord Horne of Stirkoke, who begins with: ‘It may fairly be claimed that when hostilities ceased on November nth, 1918, we had outplayed Germany at all points of the game.’ Read More | Comments

  • October31st

    Almost forgotten today, Talbot Mundy was one of the great adventure writers of the first half of the twentieth century. It was fellow bibliophile and curiosity seeker Stephen Bresnehan who put me onto Mundy, sending me a copy of  ‘King – of the Khyber Rifles’, a thrashingly good tale of derring-do in the days of the British Raj. What struck me reading KotKR was the sense of place the story had, how convincing the description was of India, Afghanistan and its people. While some of the characters showed the casual racism of the time, this wasn’t universal, and Mundy’s portrayal of the Indians and Afghanis was positive, respectful and without condescension. It was evident, too, from the events of the novel, that Mundy was fascinated by the spiritual aspects of life in India and how these differed from Western practices.

    Intrigued, I went Mundy chasing – and found an extraordinary life.

    Read More | Comments

  • October27th

    Joan, your sword's broken!

    I know this article should really be called ‘Powerless Protagonists’ or ‘Powerless Main Characters’ but I couldn’t resist the nuance of ‘Powerless Heroes’. What I’m talking about is the tendency of many stories to have a main character who is helpless. Put upon. A loser.

    I was reading a book the other day – and it shall remain nameless – when I ran into a character like this. He lurched from disaster to disaster. Relationships soured as soon as he touched them, like that milk at the back of the fridge. Businesses went downhill as soon as he joined. Weather became inclement the moment he stepped outside. He was hapless, in the extreme. I think we were meant to feel sorry for him, to sympathise with him as an everyman, but I just grew more and more irritated – and then I had an insight.

    Read More | Comments

  • October11th

    hey presto!

    As a fantasy writer, I spend much of my writing time about magic, how it works and its effects on the people and societies in my stories. In ‘The Laws of Magic’ series, for instance, magic is a codified, rational endeavour which is explored and experimented with in the same way that happens with science. The integration of magic with technology and other aspects of life provides a fascinating backdrop for the narrative.

    After writing about magic so much, a few years ago I decided that it was time to stop being so theoretical. It was time to actually learn some magic.

    I enrolled in a Council of Adult Education short course in Close Up Magic. Six Saturday mornings, three hour sessions run by the astonishing Simon Coronel. This young man is amazingly talented, a seasoned professional in demand here and overseas. In the first session he opened by just running through a few basic moves in front of us. And I mean, literally in front of us. He wouldn’t have been more than a metre away while the twenty course participants (we all fancied ourselves as cluey individuals, of course) watched as hard as we could, looking for the methods he used.

    I couldn’t see a thing. Right in front of my eyes, he made coins disappear, cards turn into other cards, bits of rope pass right through his arms, the works. No doubt about it, this guy was magic.

    Gradually, with great good humour and endless patience, Simon taught us all how to palm coins and force cards, at a beginner level of course. That didn’t stop us from feeling mighty proud of ourselves when we went home and wowed the family. Or not.

    So now I can do a few bits and pieces when I do school visits, in between talking about my books. And after a while, practising with my Bicycle brand cards, it occurred to me that writing is actually a lot like magic or sleight of hand (or ‘close up illusions’ as Simon prefers).

    It goes like this. Sleight of hand basically comes down to a combination of applied psychology and diversion. The applied psychology is working on held beliefs, getting people to assume what you want them to assume. It’s also about the persistence of memory – and the faultiness of memory, and using this to its fullest.

    The diversion part is interesting. It’s the old ‘look over here while I arrange this rabbit under the table ready to be pulled out of the hat’. There are many methods to divert (and distract) the audience’s attention, and they’re all useful to a performer.

    So how is this like writing? Well, the applied psychology is pretty straightforward. Writers are always playing with a reader’s assumptions and expectations, confounding them or fulfilling them – or stretching them out via the favourite tool of suspense. We seed red herrings, we foreshadow, we create sympathy for a character by revealing characteristics common to readers’ experiences and then we heartlessly use this to propel readers forward.

    But diversion? That’s perhaps more subtle, and it goes pretty much like a magician getting you to look at that sleeve that he’s got nothing up, while he pulls something out of his pocket with the other hand. Writers get readers to concentrate on some breakneck narrative while we sift in some other stuff – background detail, character motivation, relationship indicators, weaknesses and fears, subtle details like that. We don’t want the reader to dwell on them, so we get them to look at the car chase, or the fist fight, or the heated argument between the woman and her no good cheating husband who is on his last chance and she means it this time. The reader is diverted, and doesn’t notice that their pocket is being picked while they’re at it. Or, rather, that something is being left in their pocket, something that will become very valuable later on.

    It’s magic. Writing is like magic.

     

  • September26th