Friday, September 23, 2022


Where do writers get their ideas? Anywhere and everywhere they can. In the case of Beyond the Burn Line, it began with something so slight it barely qualified as the ghost of a notion. A throwaway remark by a minor character in one of my earlier novels, The Quiet War, who wonders, as nations struggle to fix the damage to ecosystems caused by previous generations, if Earth might not be better off without humans. ‘In time, some other species might start to look at the stars and wonder. Bears, perhaps. Or raccoons. Perhaps they will manage things better . . .'

Something I more or less forgot, at least on the conscious level until more than a decade later, when I remarked on Twitter, during a brief to and fro about waves of galactic colonisation or some such, that by the time an extraterrestrial civilisation discovers Earth, the human species may well have managed to extinguish itself, and some other species of Earthling will have to deal with First Contact instead.

The fusion of these two notions was the inception of Beyond the Burn Line, and an early, fleeting interest in UFOlogy gave its first half development direction and purpose. It wasn't the novel I was intending to write. That one, set in the near future, was in the early stages of development when COVID-19 began to spread across the globe; because of the uncertainties created by the pandemic (still not settled), I set it aside, recalled the remark about post-Anthropocene First Contact, and began to tinker with what became, after a couple of false starts, the story of a scholar who doggedly pursuing his late master's research into glimpses of strange visitors and stumbles on a greater truth. As for my brief flirtation with UFOs and their cults, it involves summer thunderstorms, my aunt's boarding house, one of the first libraries in the UK to have an electronic ticketing system, and Joni Mitchell. But that's another story.


Blogger István B. said...

Both revealing and reaffirming about how the process works in most of us. Thanks for sharing!

Also, one of the Great Elders wrote an essay on the whole topic of creativity:

+TL;DR for today's readers:

September 25, 2022 12:49 pm  
Blogger Michael said...

Burn Line is one of the first SF books for years that has left me feeling genuinely dizzied by the the timescale/concept. It's hard to wrap your head around the post Anthropocene idea presented in it, but in a really, really good way. It has just enough familiarity to make it strange, but it all feels so real, as your characters so often do. Amazing work, as always.

October 07, 2022 7:08 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts