Friday, 20 March 2009

A response to your comments and other news

Wow! Who would have thought that I had so many friends? First of all, let me thank you all for taking the time to write. In particular, I want to express my gratitude to those of you who contributed quite long and thoughtful comments. I have considered all that you have written with some care and I might pursue some of the practical approaches suggested. No one actually came up with my own preferred strategy of writing a new volume which is a bestseller and then having the old series relaunched on the basis of a new one. This of course is a wonderfully cunning plan that has just has one small catch in it: I need to write a new blockbuster. Well, I am giving it some thought.

What I have concluded from your comments – and please continue to send them in – is that much of my original dramatic instincts were right: it is better to start with the Assembly and let the shadow fall upon it. To bring in Azeras at the start is just too conventional. However I do think that I could probably bring in Brenito and his dream right at the start. Something on the following lines. ‘On a near perfect world a man woke screaming. It was the first such scream for over 10,000 years and it was heard across one thousand worlds.’ Vero too might be brought in slightly earlier with profit and this would also have the benefit of avoiding the slightly excessive ‘info dumping’ (as I gather it is called in the trade) when he talks to Merral. However, that is all some way ahead. For all I know, even as I write, a certain inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington is looking for something substantial to read on Airforce One. (I sense there may be a market for escapist fiction in the White House at the moment.) Anyway pray on and do what you can.

The main news for me this week has been that the storm clouds of the financial crisis that have so far been on the distant horizon have now swept my way. The institution that I teach at (Gorseinon College, Swansea) has been suddenly hammered with a massive budget cut from the Welsh Assembly and so we are now in voluntary redundancy mode which next week shifts to compulsory redundancy mode. By all accounts the science unit to which I am privileged to belong (and I mean privileged: there are some very fine teachers in it) should be secure but who knows? These are odd times and what is often described as rationalisation is often irrationalisation. Nevertheless I am angry about it all; ours is, by any standard of reckoning, a high performing and competent educational establishment in an area where mediocrity (and worse) is the norm. It is also a relatively ‘lean’ institution; there are barely a handful of people about whom I have wondered what they do to justify their existence. The cuts concerned involve a mere £800,000: a little over $1 million. I used to think that was a lot of money but in these days of billions and trillions it is nothing. So next week could be interesting…

Anyway here's a moral problem for you my fans. If I keep my job, then my financial welfare is more or less secure, at least for the considerable future. If I lose it I will probably have to start writing like crazy. Now do you see the moral dilemma you are placed in? What do you pray for? (The ideal would be a generous offer for film rights to arrive the day before I get given my notice but I suspect such happenings are rarer in reality than fiction.) I would simply suggest that this reminds us of the wisdom of appending to all our prayers that most vital of clauses: ‘Nevertheless, Lord, not my will but yours be done.’

Have a good week.