Inside Out




As I've been invited to participate in a discussion panel at The Oakwood Literature Festival in Derby on the 18th, this month is all about WORLD BUILDING. And the main question which needs answering is: Outside In or Inside Out?

I’m very proud to be an Inside Outer, especially as I’m in very good company it seems. Other Inside Outers are JRR Tolkien and Tad Williams. Inside Out and Outside In are terms used to describe methods of Fantasy and SciFi world building. As an Inside Outer, Tolkien focuses his attention on Bilbo and the hobbits then creates a world around them.

In my very first fantasy novel, written when I was approximately 12, it turns out I couldn’t settle for just one process. I remember spending hours drawing and colouring maps of a world for my central character Panthra to inhabit. As a man who could instantly transform himself into a panther when the need arose, he spent a great deal of time in desert terrain and the odd cave or two. Sadly the drawings were lost when we moved from South Africa to the UK but the manuscript is lurking somewhere in the loft.

It’s no real mystery that I’m an Inside Outer when you reflect on my earliest fantasy influences – The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Dragonbone Chair. So as I’ve aged, I’ve settled for this method in particular. It’s fairly easy to see this in both my fantasy and SciFi series.

While Long Upon A Time World of my Dragons & Witches series is a crazy world where anything magical is possible, it is in fact the imagination of my central character, Clarissa Henry and therefore any child’s imagination.

I have however cheated in my Rainbow Quest SciFi series. The world of the first 2 books is in fact London, albeit a future one where the city is encased in an environmentally controlled dome. To make the city feel futuristic I’ve employed several small devices.

  • In the first book I tell the reader the city is encased in a dome (this is based on a real environmental scenario which goes back as far as the 50’s. In 2018, Dubai Square was launched as part of a larger project being built.) Science Fiction is fast becoming the now.
  • Computers which interact with humans feature (not unlike Alexa and Siri but displaying more human characteristics)
  • I mention the use of autonomous vehicles such as air cruisers and space ships at any given opportunity
  • Other planets also feature as holiday destinations

In book two the central character, Petra Sucher, spends large amounts of time at home and school so it was important to make elements in these settings feel familiar. The main way I've done this is by the use of interactive services as well as identifying products we use now as being retro.

To stay abreast of futuristic ideas:

  • I watch a great deal of science fiction film and television (I can highly recommend Channel 4's Humans for ideas on how tech will work in the future) – research is a great excuse
  • I watch the BBC tech programme Click - even the bits on gaming which don't interest me in the slightest
  • Read online articles and follow science features on space travel and new inventions
  • Follow climate change news

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