About Wayne Smallman

When you're young, you think you know everything and life is indistinguishable from a game. It's only when you get older — when you begin to doubt the authenticity of the event and question the rules — that experience begins to count for something. And to quote the inimitable Forbes Bingley, a recurring character of several novels: "Life makes you stronger, at a price." In a sense, life has been preparation — practice, perhaps — for this wild stab at being an author. After all, how hard can it be, putting one word after another? Of course, like anything else in life, you only get out what you put in. At times, writing is both cathartic and semi autobiographical, where I catch myself looking backwards whimsically, lustily, with regret, a wry smile, a despondent glower or growing doubt. But writing is also a journey, one with no intentional destination, just waypoints I may navigate towards from time to time, at leisure. Though I must admit, it's a journey I would prefer not to make alone.

Terrorism has no creed or colour

As 2015 draws to an end, we ponder the introduction of a new synonym for terrorism: conservatism.

Religious conservatism, in particular, is a bunch of men — regardless of colour — shaking an angry fist at the world, who can’t get it up without beating someone down, women for the most part.

It’d be comical if it weren’t true. It’d be hilarious if these men weren’t so numerous, so empowered, and so dangerous. It’d be a relief if they weren’t politicians, police officials and officers, legislators, educators, pastors, padres, imams, and rabbis, or the owners of major multi-national corporations.

Terrorism, in this modern age, is as much a notion, or an idea, as it is an act or deed.

The future of James Bond is far from black and white

“James Bond author sparks outrage after daring to have an opinion.” Quick, someone start a petition…

Yet, I also said this: “To paraphrase the great philosopher Ali G: Is it coz Idris is black?”

If you’re attempting to solicit a reaction from an increasingly reactionary and volatile social web, it’s best to leave them both shaken and stirred.

Ian Fleming was from a different era, when MI6 agents were recruited from Oxford and Cambridge, often beginning with a polite tap on the shoulder. Those with a swathe complexion were the type most prized, since their everyman appearance allowed them to blend in almost anywhere in the world.

Times have changed, and since the SAS do not discriminate based on racial type, it’s difficult to mount a credible argument against an MI6 operative being of African descent.

Yet, this is the iconic fictional character James Bond we’re talking about, here. It isn’t the first time Idris Elba’s name has been bandied about as a replacement for the inimitable Daniel Craig, the current James Bond, and Anthony Horowitz, author of “Trigger Mortis”, the most recent antics of Mr. Bond, has an opinion on this:

“For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part,” Horowitz told the Daily Mail. “It’s not a colour issue. I think he is probably a bit too ‘street’ for Bond. Is it a question of being suave? Yeah.”

What, you don’t like his opinion? I don’t agree with Horowitz, but I wouldn’t express to disliking his opinion, as that’s something else. Since there’s no overt racist intent to his comment, whether you might like or loathe what Horowitz said is of dwindling importance.

But the reaction on the web beggars belief. Time and again, the group think consensus appears to be: “If your thoughts are not the same as our thoughts, they are, in effect, illegal — and if not, they should be, damn it!”

What’s perhaps more ridiculous is the fact that Horowitz has been compelled to apologise for having and then expressing an opinion.

As an author, I have certain characters who would suffer were their ethnic background to change. Jo, the main protagonist in A Darkening of Fortune, is of Arabic descent, and his background relies on this, to the extent that should he be changed to — for example — Caucasian, or Afro-Caribbean, the whole novel would collapse.

So I’m able to see both sides of the argument, here. What do we take from this? The future of our suave and sophisticated secret agent James Bond, much like the character himself, is far from black and white.

AI

Having an employee who’s an expert in AI has its advantages. Asking him about emergent AI prompted much laughter, though.

Confirming the suspicions I had, we are so far from the type of artificial intelligence we see in the movies, it’s unreal … and laughable.

We understand so little about the brain — almost any brain — that creating AI is a bit fanciful.

But then there’s also the question of self-awareness and consciousness, neither of which are synonymous with the other, and both are poorly understood.

And to confuse things further, there is no agreed definition of what life is. You’d think it’d be obvious, but it is a very contentious subject.

I suppose it’s unfair to ask if the idea I’ve had is possible or feasible for that matter, so it’s a question of whether it’s viable.

But, as a writer of science fiction, I’m not going to allow a few niggling facts to get in the way of a good idea.

So far, the extent of the idea I’ve been cultivating is at least viable.

Superhero stories aren’t just black and white

Somewhere, in and amongst the controversial topic of race, the stories became lost, or themselves hidden by the arguments, which is sad. Perhaps more sad is that the real stories — those about people from racial minorities dealing with everyday racism — became overshadowed.

Michelle Rodriguez weighed in on the subject of race with regards to superheroes, and in doing so contributed to an on-going discussion about race in fiction.

If you’re not familiar, then Idris Elba as a possible future James Bond, the hispanic Spider-Man, and the female Thor are prime examples of race — and also gender — becoming lost in a furore that needn’t be such.

As a disclaimer, I am not of a racial minority; being of Anglo-Saxon stock kind of greases the wheels of life for me, which I take great care to be aware of, to avoid that sense of entitlement, privilege, and of victimhood from creeping in, which is so prevalent in parts of Northern Europe.

No, we Caucasians are not under threat from a tidal wave of immigrants. If anything, we’re a danger to ourselves.

A few years ago, I would have known little of the on-going superhero-of-colour debate (I’m not much into DC or Marvel comics), but I did understand — or at least, was aware — that there weren’t many minority superheroes, and that even fewer of them were British.

So I wrote A Darkening of Fortune, a near-future sci-fi crime thriller, to address both of these issues. But more important was the need to address some of the aspects of what it means to be British and Asian — or at least as to the best of my own abilities, observations, and vicarious experiences.

Let’s imagine for a moment A Darkening or Fortune becomes a huge success and I receive an offer of a cinematic adaptation. If during those discussions the movie studio was to propose changing Yusef “Joe” Iqbal to a white Caucasian, there the discussion would come to a grinding halt. End of story.