Death

With 2016 continuing to be the year of death, losing David Bowie, Prince, Harper Lee, Alan Rickman, Victoria Wood, Ronnie Corbett, Terry Wogan, Admiral Ackbar, and what seems to be the majority of the western hemisphere, death is the one thing that all societies have to deal with (unless your society is one of omnipotent immortals, à la Michael Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time, naturally).

How they view death in a philosophical sense, and how they deal with the practical side, can vary wildly, and can also tell us a great deal about the kind of society we are dealing with. Is death something to be feared, or something to embrace? Is a funeral a solemn ceremony, a cheerful celebration of a life, or a clinical procedure? Let’s take a look. Continue reading

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Electing the Elected

Over in the US, the presidential primaries are still making news as millions of ordinary citizens vote on who may become their party’s next presidential candidate. Meanwhile in the UK, the fallout of Prime Minister David Cameron’s involvement in the Panama Papers tax scandal as well as the upcoming EU referendum is prompting some commentators to suggest that he may soon be forced to resign. Should he do so, it will be his party, not the public, who will decide on his replacement.

This highlights two different ways of electing a leader; directly and indirectly – and knowing how a leader is elected can add a new level of political intrigue to your fictional setting. Does your leader need to convince the people, or just his party? Let’s take a look. Continue reading

Time Flies when Standing Still

Isn’t it strange that time just disappears? Since I’ve stopped teaching, I’m noticing more and more that entire days and weeks can just zip by without leaving so much as a distinct memory, let alone a sense of accomplishment.

Who says time flies when having fun? Maybe the normal speed for time is stuck on the fast setting, but nobody’s really noticed because they hate their jobs so it’s all slowed down as a consequence. Perhaps celebrities have a reputation for not being the brightest pencils in the shed because they’ve spent so little time doing the boring things, and as a consequence have had much less time to learn things. Unlikely, I know, but why should the physicists be the only ones who get to speculate about the nature of time? Continue reading