To conclude my travel research for my second novel, Astra, I visited Iceland for a week. Astra is set in Mesopotamia in a new nation called Is-Land, a small state formed in the aftermath of a global environmental and economic collapse (we all know it’s coming, don’t we?).  In Icelandic, Iceland is called Ísland, but the country’s relevance to my novel reaches much further than superficial nomenclature.  Politically, Iceland is a interesting model for my own vision of an emerging small settler-state; its active volcanos suggest how Mesopotamia could appear during a period of geological turbulence; and its famous Sagas provide a rich seam of national myth-building for my storytelling instincts to mine.  In a short period I explored all three areas of interest enough to inspire new developments in Astra, and to dream of returning to a chalet in the Southern valleys to finish…

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              As reported by Mondoweiss, last night at 3am, Israeli troops entered the home of my host in Jenin, Nabil Al Raee, Artistic Director of the Freedom Theatre, and arrested him at gunpoint.  The soliders gave Nabil and his wife Micaela no explanation for their actions, and their intrusion terrified his three-year old daughter.  Nabil is currently being held in a nearby military prison. Jenin is in Zone A of the West Bank, under Palestinian control and administration, and this arrest by the IDF violates the Oslo Accords.  To be arrested without charge also violates Nabil Al Raee’s human rights. As the co-founder of British Writers in Support of Palestine, I have issued a statement condemning in unequivocal terms this violent, illegal and repressive act, which is part of a systematic campaign of intimidation clearly directed at the Freedom Theatre itself.  As I reported…

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Note: for the benefit of readers hazy in the geopolitical department, a short history of the West Bank is included at the end of this post. I don’t think you have to visit a country in order to have a valid opinion about it, but as a writer-activist, and a vocal advocate of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement since the 2009 Gaza Massacre, this year I felt the time had come to go to Palestine.  Creatively, I wanted to experience the conditions of daily life there as research for my second novel, which is set in a colonialist post-apocalyptic, post-oil world.  Politically and professionally, I hoped to forge stronger ties with local activists, and make what contribution I could to their political and cultural resistance.  In particular, I was going to the West Bank to visit The Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp, and to take part in a…

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