Farewell 2014, but may your turning tides continue to sweep us between the icebergs and whirlpools of political despair and environmental collapse, toward the hard-won shores of a fairer world. For though global disasters and injustices only seemed to intensify this year – climate change, Syria bleeding into Iraq, Israel’s genocidal attack on Gaza, Ebola, Boko Haram, racist executions on the streets of America, and in the UK the continued dismantling of the NHS and the ethnic cleansing of the poor, to name but a few on-going explosions – it was also a year of significant victories for participatory democracy. Everywhere, people power is steadily rising, and with it a tangible sense of my favourite metaphor of 2014: sea change. For if Scylla and Charybdis also represent the Right and old Left, the nimblest ships sailing through them are whole new political paradigms – personally, I’m entering 2015 buoyed up…

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          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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