Yesterday I went into the city to see the stage play “Yes Minister”, based on the British Political comedy series of the same name. To my surprise I discovered the Greeks were having a street festival in Lonsdale Street. There were stalls selling Greek Yogurt, all the Greek restaurants were doing a brisk trade, and a large stage had been erected with guys playing bouzouki etc. So, a Greek lunch then off to the theater.
The Play involves a British PM, his Principle Private Secretary, his head of Civil Service, a political advisor and the ambassador for Kumranistan, an mythical country which is prepared to loan Britain 10 trillion pounds so it can buy oil from Kumranistan. Unfortunately, the Kumranistan PM wants a school girl to have sex with that night or he won’t sign the deal. The characters twist themselves into knots trying to work out how they could do this without breaking any laws.
The play had brilliant one-liners in it.
“I don’t speak to ordinary people, unless there’s an election going on.” – Jim Hacker, the Prime Minister.
“Memoirs are not the truth, they’re the case for the defence” – Claire Sutton, the PM’s political advisor.
About environmentalism: “The Germans have a big Green Movement. ” Response: “You make it sound like dysentery.” (I didn’t get down which two characters said that.)
About ethics in politics: “You’ve been sliding down a slippery slope since you were elected. It’s the price of power.” – the Kumranisatan Ambassador.
When the Kumranistan Foreign Minister wants a school girl for the night the actors discuss how they could make it sound good if it ever leaked to the press. “We have to make it sound good, like the yanks did with torture. Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.”
It’s got some good lines. I’d give it four out of five stars.
Melissa Donovan has an excellent piece on writing setting in fiction. You need a couple of sentences at the start of each scene to tell the reader where we are. (I made this mistake numerous times in the first draft of my book. The reviewer kept writing, “Yes, but where are we?”)
Melissa’s blog is called “writingforward” and the article I’m referring to is at
Jesus on Mars, by Philip Jose Farmer, has an astonishing plot premise. What if humans landed on Mars, and, in a hollowed-out mountain, found a human community who followed orthodox Jewish teaching? The humans were picked by up a space ship in AD 50, which rescued them from some dangerous situation. (We don’t get to learn much about the situation.). The space ship in which they landed on Mars is just near the hollowed-out mountain. Along with the Jews, they picked up the resurrected Jesus.
Although this book was written in 1979 there is nothing that “jars the reader” because Farmer tried to predict the future and got it wrong. The four earth crew who land on Mars include one Baptist, a Muslim, a lapsed Jew, and a woman who has been an atheist for many years.
They undergo a lot of internal conflict as they try to come to terms with Jesus’ apparent miraculous powers: making things levitate, having the head cut off a ram and then restoring the head to the animal, after which it walks off quite happily.
The Jesus announces that he will be coming to earth in the space ship that has been lying outside the mountain . This is broadcast directly to earth TV stations. That’s when the fun starts, but I won’t give away any more of the plot.
Science fiction is sometimes divided into ‘hard’ and ‘soft’. Hard scifi gets all the technical and scientific details right, in great detail. ‘Soft’ scifi is mostly about the characters and their relationships, like ‘soapies’, Star Trek Voyager’ and ‘Star Trek the Next Generation’ were soft scifi. I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes “soft” science fiction. Some copies are available on Amazon.