Neil and Me

Thursday, 18 October 2018


I was born within a month of the first historic moon-landing on 20 July 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down in the Sea of Tranquility, watched by an estimated audience of 600 million people – an unprecedented moment of global consciousness and the culmination of nearly a decade of effort, sacrifice and tragedy: JFK’s 1961 dream come true. And perhaps being in utero, when Armstrong spoke those immortal words: ‘One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ and the global interest and excitement caused by the Apollo mission was in the zeitgeist left some kind of impression on me (an idea once known as the ‘maternal impression’). Maybe not (that theory has long been discredited) but I certainly grew up with more than a casual interest in the ‘Space Race’. This was in no small part due to by my big brother’s obsession with it all – he used to draw designs for rockets. One Christmas he received a model of a Saturn 5 rocket, which he proudly put together. Sadly, it was placed upon a first floor window sill and, after a sudden gust, experienced a temporary, but catastrophic flight. It was also the result of being weaned on science fiction – the 1978 UK release of Star Wars (as it was simply called back then) had a massive effect on me, and on SF in general. Suddenly, everything was robots and rayguns. Imprinted with this, like a young duckling, I had attached myself to anything with Special FX in: TV shows, movies, movie tie-ins, comics, toys… I was hooked. The development of the Shuttle reignited mainstream interest in space flight and I watched the first Shuttle missions ‘live’ with great excitement. The interest started to wane throughout my own voyage from childhood into early manhood as the strange, celestial bodies of the female species started to dominate my attention. Nevertheless, my love of SF lingered in my reading and viewing habits. I inevitably discovered subgenres and favourite authors and directors as my taste developed. But the awe and wonder of space, of the possibilities it offers, has not gone away. And so it felt like finally ‘coming home’, writing my first ‘full fat’ SF novel, Black Box (although I had dabbled with dystopia, steampunk and counter-factual SF in a previous series). It was a blast to write – if you could excuse the pun. To play with such ‘toys’, on such a vast (intergalactic) scale, was thrilling. I have a very visual (and cinematic) imagination, and imagining the mise en scène of the novel was effortless. It was like watching a DVD in my head. I simply had to press ‘play’.

Now you have the chance to press ‘play’ by making a pledge today to support the publication of Black Box. There are loads of great rewards on offer. Be part of the journey. And if you already have taken that ‘one small step’, then encourage friends to do the same. Together we can reach for the stars.

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