Do you remember the ‘I told you so person’ of your youth? Glasses worn half-way down the nose to increase the angle of condescension, exhibiting a remarkable ability to predict future mis-happenings after the fact. Other favourite sayings would be, “Did I not predict this, young man?” with each word a bullet to my hopes, or even, “If you think that, you’ve another thought coming.” They were always right, whether discussing the world at large or any particular corner of it.
My response to this? Do it again and do it in spades. Like many young boys, I refused to learn from my mistakes, preferring to suffer each time around. I knew better than anyone around me and wore my arrogance with pride.
Recently, this has been brought into stark perspective through two directly contrasting activities during lockdown. I, like many millions around me, have turned to gardening, specifically vegetables, I suspect in some primeval yearning to return to our ‘roots’. With gardening, I have little control; nature and the weather are my masters. I can tinker, providing protection against an early morning frost, but it is operating at the fringes of the big, broad sweep in which we, as humans, are just scattered seeds in the wind. Of course, I rebel. I plant out early. I sow in April when the instructions say to wait for May. I plant too close to cram my crops into the space available, believing against reason that this will produce a bumper crop.
So where is the contrast? Well, my other activity is writing and here I am in total control. When writing fiction, nature becomes my servant. I can call up a storm with a few pen strokes, threaten it upon my hapless characters and then withdraw it when I choose. A fiction author controls their world totally; nothing happens unless I approve it. Yet it is not restrictive but wonderfully liberating.
Two worlds in contrast. In one, I am a pawn, a foot soldier. In the other, I am a King or a general, directing the vast hordes that make up my army. Why operate without control in one world and with total control in the other? What is the relationship between controlling and being controlled? Someone once said to me, “rebel by silently submitting”. I can’t pretend to understand it but am working on it.
As I work through the first draft of The Agent Within, book 2 of the Semblance of Order Trilogy, I realise that this is part of what the trilogy is about. But there is another ‘standing the ideas on their head’ moment to come, for in the Semblance of Order Trilogy, the whole point is the pointlessness of control for control’s sake. Hence the title of the trilogy, The Semblance of Order. During the course of these three semi-dystopian, semi-alternative history novels, order and control and the accepted way of doing things are turned on their heads, in fact are turned inside out so that order becomes a form of submission and submission becomes liberty.
Add in a healthy amount of action and suspense, some humour and romance and I think you have a cracking good read – I just wish I could order you to do so!
The Stuff of Heroes, Book 1 of the Semblance of Order Trilogy, was released in 2019. The 2nd book, The Agent Within, is due out in September this year. For more information on The Stuff of Heroes, go to: