Author Archives: debooker
Eric Brown on Chris Beckett’s Mother of Eden; Becky Chambers’s The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet; Stephen Palmer’s Beautiful Intelligence; Ian Sales’s All That Outer Space Allows; SL Grey’s Under Ground; Alex Lamb’s Roboteer
by Eric Brown
Chris Beckett won the 2013 Arthur C Clarke award for his novel Dark Eden, about the survival and adaptation of human colonists on a world without light. The sequel, Mother of Eden (Corvus, £17.99), begins generations later, charting the growth and political divisions between the colonists. It follows the rise of Starlight Brooking, a humble fishergirl, and her quest to bring equality and revolution to Edenheart, a settlement ruled by a conservative patriarchy. Beckett doesn’t do traditional heroes and villains: Starlight Brooking is contradictory and flawed, at once brave and vulnerable, and likewise his villains are portrayed with sympathy and understanding. He also eschews easy answers and formulaic plotting; where a hundred other writers would have Starlight triumph over her enemies, her victories are on a more profound and personal level, and not without tragedy. Mother of Eden is a masterpiece.
When the captain of the Wayfarer starship is offered a job travelling to a faraway planet that could make him and his crew financially secure, he agrees despite the dangers involved.Such a precis might suggest that Becky Chambers’s first novel, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99), originally self‑published and shortlisted for the Kitschies awards, is an action-adventure space opera. But this is a slow, discursive novel of character as the motivations of the diverse and likable crew, comprising humans and aliens, are laid bare for the reader’s delight. It is a quietly profound, humane tour de force that tackles politics and gender issues with refreshing optimism.
Stephen Palmer’s marvellous ninth novel, Beautiful Intelligence (Infinity Plus, £8.99), posits a beleaguered 22nd century in which oil has run out, water is scarce, and in a neat inversion of the contemporary world order, Europe is an economic ruin and Africa the promised land. Two techno wizards abscond from a Japanese laboratory, each attempting to develop artificial intelligence according to their own philosophies – one based on the social intelligence theory of consciousness, the other on a linguistic approach – but billionaire tech-mogul Aritomo Ichikawa will stop at nothing to get them back. What follows is a thrilling chase across a ravaged Europe, a burgeoning North Africa and balkanised US, interleaving excellent action set-pieces with fascinating philosophising on the nature of consciousness. A gripping read to the poignant last line.
by Carina Wolff
Ever notice how some days you’re brimming with ideas, while others you’re staring at a blank canvas or computer screen and wondering how you ever found inspiration in the first place? Unfortunately, a creative block can happen to the best of us, and it can strike at any time. Feeling unmotivated and uninspired can be a frustrating feeling, but just because you’re feeling stuck in the moment doesn’t mean you’re doomed to unoriginality forever.
When these debilitating moments strike, you can sit and stare aimlessly at the computer until your eyes hurt, or you can figure out a way to kickstart your mind and get those creative juices flowing. If you find yourself at a loss for good ideas, or just need an extra boost of creativity in your life, try the following six strategies that have been proven to help stimulate your thinking.
Take a walk
Studies have found that walking, whether indoors or outdoors, increases creative thinking in the moment as well as the moments after. Even mild exercise can have a positive effect on cognition, so next time you feel yourself in a rut, consider taking even a brief stroll.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, allowing your mind to wander actually boosts your creativity, and it can even help your working memory. Next time you’re feeling stuck, you may be better off letting yourself space out than trying to force yourself to focus, as studies have found that daydreaming does enhance your creative problem solving skills rather than hinder you.
Drink a little
Whip out that glass of wine! Turns out, having a drink or two can help loosen your mind and spark creativity. Researchers have found that having a blood alcohol level of just under the legal limit of .08 helps you perform creative tasks better, likely because it allows your mind to wander to solutions you may have never considered before.
Play some music
Many studies have found that listening to any type of music that you like helps your creative thinking and improves cognitive functioning. It doesn’t have to be just Mozart; as long as you enjoy what’s playing, the song will put you in a positive mood and increase arousal, both factors in how you perform creatively.
Now you won’t have to feel so guilty about covering that work memo in smiley faces and flowers during a meeting. Doodling helps stimulate visual thinking, which helps bring you out of one brain mode and into another. It also frees up working memory space, allowing your mind to wander and access new ideas.
Take a power nap
Not only can a quick 20 minute nap refresh and restore you, but it can also help increase activity in the right side of the brain, which is generally associated with creative thinking and problem-solving tasks. As long as you slip into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, your nap can help boost your cognitive thinking, improve memory, and enhance your problem solving skills.