Fictional Scientists

September 12, 2018

There have been many celebrated scientists in fiction.  A disproportionate number of these have been depicted as mad, working on outlandish experiments to change the world and often nearly destroying it in the process.  They usually end up destroying themselves.  I often wonder if it is because of these fictional caricatures that people regard scientists and the science they produce with suspicion.  However, the real reason is almost certainly because of their inability to communicate properly with the public.

I have spent most of my working life as a biological scientist while writing fiction in my spare time.  Up until a few years ago I have been reluctant to publish any fictional science.  I know how much effort goes into researching real science and getting it to work.  Fictionalising it, by making it up goes against the grain.  But what in the past has been regarded simply as science fiction is often now becoming science fact and so  this form of fiction is now a real force in driving fact.

My novel Magic Bullets at http://peatmore.com/magicbullets.htm

 

Keith Jahans

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Music in Fiction

August 29, 2018

Conveying music in fiction is hard to do.  I have read novels where an author has written an original song and printed the lyrics on the page.  A good example of this can be found in the works of Tolkien where his penned “folk” songs are sung by his heroic characters.  But when reading these stories I find it hard to visualise these songs without a tune to put them to.  This is of course where film and audio adaptations have the advantage over the written word where the producer is able to hire musicians to write a fitting melody.  I suppose the author could add a short piece of sheet music to fit the lyrics but the musically illiterate such as myself and even those among my readers might find this a distraction.

Instead, I have merely opted to describe the sound without going deeply into its substance.  In my first novel, Cogrill’s Mill, I have simply suggested that my fictional characters were listening to local folk music or when they were listening to contemporary country music I chose a well known song, namely Dolly Parton’s Jolene.  My latest novel features a young female singer who becomes a star and I applied the same technique here.  In this way I hope to show my readers that her singing and the sound of her voice are essential ingredients to the plot.

Copyright: Dmitriy Cherevko / 123RF Stock Photo
Magic Bullets can be found at http://peatmore.com/magicbullets.htm

Keith Jahans


Killing Fictional Characters

August 24, 2018

Killing fictional characters is good fun for the novelist.  But it can be difficult for the reader to take so it must not be undertaken likely.  Dickens was chastised by his readers for the death of Little Nell and fans of Sherlock Holmes were so incensed when the hero fell to his death at the Reichenbach Falls that the Author, Conan Doyle, was compelled to bring him back.

I myself have been approached by readers who were upset by the demise of a favourite character I had created.  But I am afraid it was too late.  The stories in question were completed and the books published.  Even if I could go back and alter it, the death was such an integral part of the plot, the purpose of the story would have irrevocably been changed.

It would be like inventing a Time Machine and going back in history and killing an evil historical figure like Hitler.  I remember hearing a comedian saying that killing babies is what a time machine should be used for.  The bible states that King Herod, on hearing a prophecy about the birth of Jesus, ordered the massacre of the innocents, but that did not work.  Altering the course of history, whether factual or fictional, does not seem to be a good idea.

The odd death around a central character in fiction gives them a sense of vulnerability and helps the reader care about them.  It is a reader’s empathy and concern for the protagonist is what keeps him or her reading.  In the prologue of my novel, Magic Bullets, I introduce a killer with an automatic rifle in the hope that in the minds of my readers he hovers in the background like an Angel of Death.  It is a device that has probably been used before and I hope it works.

Magic Bullets “angel of death”
Copyright: tiero / 123RF Stock Photo

My novel Magic Bullets can be found at http://peatmore.com/magicbullets.htm

Keith Jahans


Bullets in Fiction

August 21, 2018

There are numerous references to bullets in literature.  Silver bullets have been used by the fictional masked western hero, The Lone Ranger, to shoot his armed adversaries without harming them, and by others to kill supernatural werewolves.  Other examples can be found in detective novels where forensic ballistic reports often lead to the undoing of many a criminal mastermind.

The German Scientist and physician, Paul Ehrlich, coined the concept of a magic bullet to describe the perfect drug that could selectively target a disease-causing organism without harming the patient.  I worked as a professional microbiologist for forty years and had experience of working with different bacteria and antibiotics so I thought it might be an idea to write a story about a scientist who discovered a fictional drug and the effect this had on his life.

Despite the endeavours of scientists such as Ehrlich, drugs are not perfect medicines.  I cannot think of one that does not have harmful side effects.  Given the fact that some have hallucinatory properties and are addictive, I decided to throw that into the mix as well.  There are a lot of references to bullets in literature so as the narrative progressed I thought it might be an idea to link the story with bullets that came from guns and are specifically designed to kill.  Whether I succeeded enough in creating an entertaining read is up to the reader to decide.

My novel Magic Bullets can be found at http://peatmore.com/magicbullets.htm

 

Keith Jahans


Medicine in literature

August 15, 2018

I was surprised when Amazon classified my new novel Magic Bullets as Medical Fiction.  But then I read an article I saw on the Wellcome Book Prize webpage (see https://tinyurl.com/yaf3hb7c) where judges and former winners picked their all-time favourite fiction books that touch on this topic and it seemed that their links to medicine appeared rather vague.  So I decided to list three books that I felt could be similarly classified.

The first one on my list is Trouble with Lichen by John Wyndham.  This is about two biochemists who extracted and anti-aging drug from an unusual strain of lichen only to find that it could induce harmful side effects.  My memories of the book are rather vague as I read it a long time ago.  I do remember it as being rather heavy reading but I kept going as I found the plot most intriguing.

The second on the list is The Invisible Man by H G Wells.  In this book Wells goes into great detail about how to change a body’s refractive index and become invisible.  What I liked about the story was that Wells skill in explaining the science behind the plot makes it seem entirely plausible.  I have read this book several times and still enjoy it as an absorbing read

But my favourite has to be The Double Helix by James D Watson.  It is an autobiographical account of the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.  It is controversial due to Watson’s willingness to appropriate data surreptitiously from others and his sexist attitude towards scientist Rosalind Franklin who, because of the harmful nature of the X-rays she worked with, died early and therefore could not share the Nobel Prize.  Despite these flaws, I found the story fascinating.  It is probably the greatest medical discovery of all time which has lead and is still leading to momentous breakthroughs in modern medicine.  It is the best detective story I have read and is the main reason why I followed a career in biological science.

 

Keith Jahans


Available on Amazon in hardcover, paperback,
as an ebook and audiobook.


Summertime Reading

July 6, 2018

Summer is here and there is no better time to spend the day outside reading on lazy sunny days.  It will soon be the holiday season in the northern hemisphere so choose some books to take with you to while away idle relaxing moments.

It is a good time for authors and publishers to release books so that bookstores at airports, train stations and holiday resorts can stock up to help travellers make those last minute purchases.  Peatmore Press is no exception and has launched its fourth novel which is the first I have released under my own name.  It is a crime thriller and I am told by those who have had a chance to turn the pages that it is a good read.  But see for yourself and let me know how you feel about it.

Keith Jahans

Published on 2 July 2018
and can be bought by following the links at
http://peatmore.com/magicbullets.htm

 


Book Piracy – Threat or Opportunity?

December 12, 2017

My first thought when I discovered that my books were being pirated was that someone was stealing from me.  One site even claimed that they had over 2000 downloads of one of my ebooks.  That is several times more than I have given away with Amazon Kindle free promotions.  But they could have, and probably were, lying as after all they had been behaving dishonestly.  I emailed them a complaint and they seemed to have desisted as I can no longer find it on their site when searching via Google.

Such sites are dangerous to download from as it is possible that any downloads might contain viruses that could at best disrupt your computer or at worse steal your encrypted data/passwords.  I even found the black and white cover of my novel “Cogrill’s Mill” on a colouring page website.  Now that was something I did not expect and made me think that I was possibly missing out on a promotion possibility.

Everyone expects that their hard format books will be lent or given away to charities at some point.  I have given my own titles away or sold them at vastly reduced prices as part of promotions so I suppose I can look on pirated copies as another means of book promotion.  My only request is that someone who reads a book they have acquired this way, and have enjoyed it, will seek to reward the author for entertaining them by buying a legitimate copy from an approved retailer.  After all that is the way some of us seek to earn a living.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press