James Christie - writer

Photo: James Christie. James Christie is a West End resident with Asperger Syndrome who recently published his first novel, Dear Miss Landau, the true-life story of his historic trip across the United States to meet Juliet Landau, one of the stars of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. James won a Daily Express short story competition in his early teens, won College Colours for work done during his creative writing course at Crewe & Alsager College of Higher Education, and edited the script for Ghost Dancer, a film which won Glasgow University's 1993 MacTaggart Prize. Then - after fifteen years trying to write the Great Scottish Novel - came Drusilla the vampire. Flatmate, muse and guide along the way.

Coulter, Culture and Culter! by James Christie

coulter

“The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively  > a refined understanding or appreciation of this.”
(Concise Oxford Dictionary. - 10th ed.)

“We are simply passing through history. This, this is history.”
(Raiders of the Lost Ark)

Coulter Burn flows down through the toun from Birthwood, the Border Fells and beyond. Unremarked across the road from the mill stands Culter Reading Room, instituted in 1838, built in 1888 and well-settled beneath an oak tree. It boasts a matching set of stained glass windows and its books were recently weeded and reshelved.

The Scottish section sits near one of those windows, and hosts a few old novels by John Buchan. One, called John Macnab, tells the tale of the titular character, Macnab: a fiction within a fiction, who wagered three Highland landowners he could take a stag, a salmon and a brace of grouse from their estates without being caught.

stained glass window

John Macnab was first published in 1925. A sequel, The Return of John Macnab, was written by Andrew Greig in 1996, but you won’t find it on this shelf.

Rather, you will see another novel, a second sequel. It was published in 2015, five years after Buchan’s copyright expired, for he died relatively young, in 1940.

It’s a slim volume, easily overlooked; but it tells the tale of a story stranger than the fiction within a fiction who (on paper at least) stole a Scottish icon greater than the Stone of Destiny. The book itself is the physical manifestation of an incredible human intellectual achievement conceived in a personal hell and inspired in a private library, not far away, with a shadowed semblance to Culter but lost in time, two decades away.

Remove the impossible and whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth; and the duality of tales beneath the book’s cover are indeed based on truth obscured by myth and legend, evoked via fiction and drawing on experiences which really took place.
So I tend to think the title’s quite suitable:

The Legend of John Macnab

Macnab cover - resized

I am its author, but to achieve its publication I had to pull myself out of my own personal hell - a sadistic course at a major Scottish publisher in 1990 which destroyed my ego and (or so I thought at the time) my future. I didn’t know I had Asperger’s syndrome then, which would have helped to explain the utter humiliation. The only way to redeem myself, I felt, was to have a book accepted for publication on merit, one of the hardest things in the world to do.

And though I have no clear memory of this, I somehow faced up to the fact of my own failure without excuse.

It’s ever so easy to play the blame game, the way some Scots blame Westminster for everything and refuse to accept their own failings. It’s far, far harder (as I did) to accept my own disgrace and set myself an impossible target in order to achieve personal redemption.
But that was the first intellectual achievement; or more precisely, the first tectonic grind of my character and personality against the escarpment of a life far more unforgiving than most people would like to acknowledge.

If, though, a man fixes on fighting his way up that escarpment, and he’s willing to take enough punishment along the way, fate might just let him find a route towards that fabled sunlit city through its tapestry of stories still on offer.

So, if culture be the manifestation of intellectual and artistic endeavour, I then came upon a private library (Culter’s predecessor) not ten miles from the Reading Room I work in today, but in another time, far away.
The library where I truly learnt my trade was the personal fief of the greatest Scots scholar of his day, then let fall to dust and dark.

library1

It stood within a stately home by a great waterfall, a literal Wayne Manor suited to the Gotham darks of my subconscious. There, with self-taught academic precision, I filed and dusted and shelved the rare books, reordering the mind and works of that other scholar. I slowly rebuilt my own self-respect brick by brick as I did so, and by some subtle transference, bits and pieces of Victorian times came to life around me, like a window into the past.

And also, like librarianship’s version of the fictional archaeologist Indiana Jones, I came across the Spalding Club’s 1869 reprint of a lost and forgotten work.

It wasn’t quite the Ark of the Covenant, which Dr.Jones rediscovered in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but you’re close.

The Book of Deer is a forgotten Scots icon, predecessor to the Book of Kells, annotated with the first words in Scottish Gaelic. An icon greater, arguably, than the Stone of Destiny.

To find and read words and history like this was the nearest real life equivalent you’ll see to coming across the Ark and, like a Dark Age acolyte, I still understand much of its symbolism and value. But if the Ark, as described in Raiders, was “a radio for talking to God,” that splendid little book, a gospel illuminated manuscript written at the Abbey of Deer in the 9th century, was a window for looking at God.

Fate and other factors then intervened. The Return of John Macnab came out a year or two later and gave me an idea for a book of my own, and for its main protagonists: John Macnab, the fiction within a fiction and John Sandiman, a disillusioned Glasgow librarian who would take on Macnab’s mantle and steal the Book of Deer (by then shelved in Cambridge University Library) on the eve of Scotland’s first referendum in 1997.
But to write the Great Scottish Novel (!), tell the tale of the Book of Deer, do a PhD’s worth of research work, weave it into the history of Scotland from Columba to Donald Dewar, relate it to current events and fit all that into the format of a conventional paperback...

I’d rather have been thrown under the truck carrying the Ark to Cairo like Dr. Jones was; and in a literary sense, that’s just how it felt.

I sat down, unemployed, at the kitchen table at home in Roberton one summer’s day in 1996, and worked in hopelessness on Macnab for twelve years.

Thousands and thousands of hours. First on a paper pad, then an electronic typewriter, upgraded to a Canon word-processor, itself swapped for an early PC with a modem. Slowly, painstakingly, I picked up pebbles of insight into the Book (thank you John Evelyn, Henry Bradshaw, Whitley Stokes and Professor Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson) and as I put it at the time (seemingly humorously), “manacled myself screaming to the word-processor.”

I was not joking. It was true.

It was an intellectual achievement.

But putting all those aspects of Scotland’s culture coherently together? I couldn’t make it work!

In 2008, I unwisely submitted my manuscript to a Glasgow writers’ group and the verdicts (again in literary terms) were worse than the hanging, drawing and quartering Mel Gibson went through at the end of Braveheart.

I’ve never complained about the need for criticism - every writer must take that – but that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. It does.

And with that, my Macnab and all my work was consigned to the back of the computer and the bottom of the archive box, and there it stayed.

But with deepest irony, I was then swept up into the quest and carnival which led to a trek across America and the publication of Dear Miss Landau, the manuscript of which was accepted by Chaplin Books on merit.

The incredible effort I’d made to master the multiple aspects of Macnab had sculpted writing skills which were by then ready to go to work on Dear Miss Landau. Which they did.

And that, I reasoned, was the secret of my success: spend twenty years in the salt mines, go to hell and back, then become an overnight success.

So Dear Miss Landau swept me up in acclaim while Macnab stayed lost in its box.
For seven years.

The night of the General Election, May 2015. I was at my publisher’s book launch in London’s South Bank Centre while the fate of the nation was being decided and (from my perspective) the second Scottish referendum had been won by the No voters the year before. With that and the election, interest in politics was running at fever pitch, and a thought had occurred to me.

“I’ve got this old thing,” I said to my publisher. “It’s got lots of politics and history and referendum stuff. It doesn’t work, but maybe we can make some money out of it.”

“Okay, send it down to me.”

“Okay, but it doesn’t work.”

I levered the old Word file out of the back of the computer and sent it on its way, expecting to hear no more.

I was therefore more than a little surprised, four days later, to receive an email from her essentially saying Macnab was “too good to be forgotten” and “just needed a bit of revising and tightening.”

Against all the odds, all the intellectual work was paying off, and after twenty-two years the second sequel to John Buchan’s John Macnab was about to become a reality.

But it was never easy. I worked eleven hours straight on revisions the last night. Not thirty feet from where I’d started all those years before. I sometimes think the creative effort should have killed me, and that it very nearly did.

Amazingly, the manuscript came in at about 75,000 words. The standard commercial length. I look at some sentences sometimes, and reflect on the years of work it took to hone them down.

The Legend of John Macnab is the only book in modern times essentially to publicize the Book of Deer, a pivotal part of Scotland’s culture and history. Although I didn’t physically bring it back across the border from Cambridge, there are actually some parallels between myself and Indiana Jones. I am a rare books librarian, self-taught. He was an archaeologist; and by accident or design we both crossed the world, discovered historic icons and brought word or fact of same back to our homelands’ authorities.

And the funny thing is, very often nobody notices.

Dr. Jones brought the Ark to America, and it was locked away and forgotten in Area 51.
I brought word of the Book of Deer back to Scotland, and nobody paid any attention.

But I climbed the escarpment and proved myself beyond question, and that is enough for me.

Among other things, a nation’s culture comprises stories not part of the norm - the hopes and fears and dreams beneath the mask of the everyday. The obsessive quests driven by hatred, ambition, desire - or all three. The vital spark which drives some to stand out and prove themselves. The million-to-one chances and near-misses which lead to that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Tanis

Then they come home, and there is no one to hear their stories.

These days, quite unofficially, I take care of Culter library. The last of the rare book cataloguers, who rediscovered the Book of Deer and crossed the world to meet his

Hollywood film star on Sunset Boulevard one Sunday morning in March.

Coulter burn still flows down through the toun from Birthwood, the Fells and Broughton beyond. John Buchan used to visit his grandparents there, just over the hill. Now, scarce seven miles away, the author of John Macnab’s second sequel tends the library Buchan may well once have visited.

Stories such as these, of hope, intellect, passion and achievement of the impossible against incredible odds, are what make up our culture. The warp and weft of myth and legend which flow over, above and around the kitchen sink reality of the everyday give our culture form, depth and texture.

It is only by telling these stories, though, that said riches are preserved.

So look upon the books on Culter’s forgotten shelves. Their stories still ring true.

And the librarian, too, has much to say to you.

James Christie                                                                                                                           28th March 2017

James Christie's blog: Why Stop the One Stop Autism Shop?

James Christie’s blog: Why Stop the One Stop Autism Shop?

Motherwell One Stop Autism Shop

So it seems the future of Scottish Autism’s One Stop Shop in Motherwell hangs in the balance. Three years financial support by the Scottish Government is coming to an end and  as yet no joint commitment to further funding has been made by either North or South Lanarkshire councils.

One concerned parent, Karen Noble, has been very well aware of the benefits the One Stop Shop brings to understanding autism ever since her daughter was diagnosed with high-functioning autism (HFA) on her eleventh birthday. It had taken quite some time and struggle to receive the diagnosis in the first place, and afterwards the only support provided was a list of books and the One Stop Shop’s phone number.

But in this case, that number was indeed the means by which Karen’s daughter gained confidence and found common ground with her family and neuro-typical sister. The One Stop Shop provided courses in arts and social skills which made a great difference to a young    girl with HFA, giving her the confidence to understand who she was and even explain to schoolmates that she was on the spectrum. In addition, the Shop delivered numerous courses which social workers, parents and therapists could attend plus a convenient family drop-in service.

As only about 6% of Autists hold jobs and (according to Professor Martin Knapp of the London School of Economics) “autism remains one of the UK’s most expensive medical conditions, costing over £32 billion per year,” you’d think any set of measures put in place  to improve the lot of those on the spectrum and alleviate the ongoing financial haemorrhage would be deemed vital and continue to be supported.
But I’m afraid it’s neither lie nor exaggeration to say that Scottish councils and the public sector sometimes show all the clear vision and far-sightedness of three blind mice.

After successfully completing a year-long voluntary project for South Lanarkshire Council and requesting the letter of acknowledgement and appreciation I’d been faithfully promised, I’ll never forget being told by some apparatchik that “they cannae do that, the council widnae like it…”

Nor will I ever forget being left hanging in redeployment hell for four years by a Scottish NHS trust which plainly did not know what to do nor how to make any sort of decision. Aspergers need certainty and like structure. I had neither. It was hell.

There are times I’d have been happier leaving the decision-making process in the hands of said mice than with the council, and I wonder if this is one of those occasions…

Nor is it any exaggeration to say that many local families would be devastated by the Shop’s closure, and in the meantime they (like I was) are left hanging in a hell of uncertainty while the councils fail to commit. Aspergers may dislike a lack of structure, but that doesn’t mean neuro-typicals, conversely, have any affection for chaos, misrule or inertia.   

Karen Noble is clear about her feelings on the matter:

“My daughter wouldn’t be where she is without our One Stop Shop, and neither would we. The advisors have helped Amy relate to her own family, and helped us relate to her.”

James Christie, 5 May, 2016.

Coulter, Culture and Culter! by James Christie
James Christie: Walking the Mexican Wall

James Christie: Walking the Mexican Wall

Trump's border wall

You wouldn’t think Donald Trump’s ludicrous bombast re building a border between the     U. S. and Mexico (plus the primary elections now taking place in Ohio, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Illinois which might just give him the platform to put his bonkers idea into practise) would have much to do with some middle-aged Asperger whose biggest journey, these days, seems to be to go buy crisps at the local Co-op in Biggar. And forget     to get cat food.

You wouldn’t be quite right there.

3rd US trip 426In another day, in another life, I went (like Gene Autry) south of the border, down Mexico way. Crossing America for the last time in November 2013, I cruised into El Paso on Amtrak’s Texas Eagle, stopped over at the Camino Real and, realizing that life is short and chances scarce, took my nerves in my hands and crossed the bridge over the Rio Grande to Ciudad Juárez (once, with its drug cartels and gang wars, charmingly dubbed the murder capital of the world), spent precisely ten wary minutes there, on the way back had some photos deleted from my camera by a pleasant Homeland Security officer after I recorded    the logjam of cars trying to get into town and, profoundly relieved that I hadn’t run into difficulties (I was carrying a British passport, which might not have been as familiar to Mexican eyes as an American one), bought myself a new belt at Starr’s Western Wear       and felt pretty pleased with myself.

I lit out the next day for Albuquerque, going Greyhound with gritted teeth.

Not that all this was easy for an Autist. To this day, the “back-up hardware” installed            (I believe) in my head during a year-long working holiday in Australia still has to work     like hell to help me set out my next steps, and what may seem like an easy adventure for a happy-go-lucky neuro-typical sure things will work out still, for me, feel like a trip through   a hell of interlocking bureaucratic barriers, all of which are quite happy to stop me dead     and disallow me passage.

3rd US trip 418And that hellish paranoia isn’t always wrong. Some days later, I boarded the Southwest Chief at Needles, California. A lady I’d been chatting to assumed she could pay upon boarding.  She was wrong and she stayed on at the station. At midnight.

Round about then, President Obama wasn’t doing too badly. Re-elected in 2012, he was trying to increase gun control after Sandy Hook, lobby for gay Americans’ rights and restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. At the time I lit out for Albuquerque, his approval ratings were about 39%. Not great, but not bad for a president after five years in office.

I think, if I could hop into that TARDIS I keep in the back garden and jaunt back and tell   my younger self that, not three years later, a bombastic real-estate billionaire with a bad combover would be bucking to take Obama’s place on the strength of campaign policies which included a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, deportation of all illegal immigrants and, most xenophobic of all, the construction of a massive border wall between Mexico and America (presumably in place of the bridge over which I walked), backed up by his claim that “the Mexican government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States – in many cases criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”; I believe my earlier alter ego would truly wonder from which fantasy world I hailed, and perform an      eye roll worthy of Buffy at her best…

3rd US trip 414Well, I hear that Ciudad Juárez is cleaning up its drug cartels and decreasing its murder rate, and while I can hardly claim to have complete knowledge of everyone with whom I was crossing the bridge, people were most definitely walking both ways, the existing border controls were strictly enforced, and quite a few Mexican-Americans work on one side of the border and live on the other. As Andrew Rice of The New York Times once put it, “its fluid social ecosystem still retains something unique and emblematic and perhaps worth saving.”

The idea that a cartoon clown with fascist policies can somehow just roll down a wall between El Paso and Juárez (there’s already a fence) would be funny if Trump was not  doing so well. As I write, he’s won the North Carolina, Illinois and Florida primaries and  sent Marco Rubio spinning down to defeat, but lost to John Kasich in Ohio.

 That’s not a final lock on the Republican nomination for the White House, but he’s close.
If the cartoon clown wins, my friends, of one thing you can be sure: Trump won’t make America great again, and the circus won’t be coming to town.

Trump the cartoon clown

James Christie, March, 2016.

James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau and The Legend of John Macnab. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.

James Christie's blog: Why Stop the One Stop Autism Shop?
James Christie: Thorns Upon a Rose

James Christie: Thorns Upon a Rose

It’s surely tempting fate to satirize James Bond the way I did in another blog, assuming that every time I head off on an innocuous assignment I’ll end up avoiding a shooting war by the skin of my teeth or be seduced by a Monica Bellucci look-alike. So it was certainly quite a surprise only weeks after hearing something about the possibility of doing an armed forces-related speech via my publisher, and only days after the Paris attacks, to find myself walking into the Ministry of Defence (MoD), HQ of the British Armed Forces and the building from which UK defence policy is implemented.

Some surprise and certainly no joke, with the Parisian death toll hovering at around 130, Islamists attacking a hotel in Mali and Brussels going into lockdown virtually as I delivered my talk. Perhaps ironic to be looking for ways to promote co-operation and inter-faith dialogue within the military as the West faces an onslaught from without. From an organization that (defined with difficulty by The Atlantic):
“…rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of – and headline player in – the imminent end of the world.”
But the One Voice Initiative, founded by RAF Flight-Lieutenant Harriet Tadikonda and gathering in the very building where hard and terrible decisions have been and will be made to ensure the security of the British State, strives nevertheless to open a corridor to a world “where fear and hatred are nothing more than thorns upon a rose” despite being part of a planet which might be moving towards a piecemeal World War III.

If memory serves, a wise old sage once said that any military operation is automatically a failure – if no peaceful solution has been found, war is the obscene alternative. Could an effort to ‘recognise difference as an enabler for innovative thought’ (the title of my talk) find some way of enabling the armed forces better to understand themselves, and to move away from the potential dangers of traditional “one size fits all” thinking? To understand differences in faith (Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist), in the way people think and work (in my case, autism), and/or in sexual orientation.

And not just to tolerate these differences, but use them to enrich internal military thinking and thereby, perhaps, avoid external warfare.

The funny thing is, shuttling between Edinburgh and London, preparing my paper, poring over my father’s words (born into the British Army in India but fluent in Urdu before he learnt English) in accounts he wrote about Army thinking, skip-reading news articles and enabling innovative thoughts in my autistic mind, I saw one fascinating quote which made some sense of the present-day Middle East meltdown and its monstrous ripple effect…

The talk itself, deliberately delivered open-ended as I don’t know exactly how the MoD could cope with those free-thinkers now known as ‘disruptive talent’ had, as its last point, the revelation that Lawrence of Arabia, a British Army officer fluent not in Urdu but in Arabic, had also been (like me) an Asperger.
No one else in that room knew that.

Then there was the quote I’d seen. Three short paragraphs in a screed about Islamic State from the Labour peer, Lord Maurice Glasman:

“It is nearly a hundred years since Britain and France, in the form of Sykes-Picot, drew their lines in the sand and created Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt as multi-faith secular states with centralised governments."

“That settlement has clearly failed. There is no loyalty or affection towards the state and we need to imagine a different way in which the peoples of the region can govern themselves and live together.
“Lawrence of Arabia drew a much more realistic map and it was rejected. It may be time to revisit it.”
(The Mail on Sunday, 22nd November 2015)

That final paragraph may be the key to a locked and forgotten drawer within which at least part of the answer to curing the current catastrophe of a militant Caliphate may be found. As Glasman said, and

One Voice may well agree, “we need to imagine a different way.”

But Lawrence is gone, so maybe another Asperger will have to gather up the threads of his thoughts.
I’d better not tempt fate by suggesting someone send me off into the desert on a camel. 007’s former spymaster, Dame Judi Dench, is now patron of the One Voice Initiative.

I can just imagine her calling me a sexist misogynist dinosaur and sending me on my way…

James Christie & Harriet Tadikonda, MoD (20th November 2015)

James Christie & Harriet Tadikonda, MoD (20th November 2015)

James Bond at MoD

James Bond at MoD

Lawrence of Arabia's Mid-East map

Lawrence of Arabia's Mid-East map

James Christie: Walking the Mexican Wall
James Christie: To the Future, Back…

James Christie: To the Future, Back…

Back To The Future

This day, October 21st 2015, think on the most delicious notion…
What if Back to the Future, whose fans are now celebrating the fact we’ve reached the actual date in 2015 to which Marty McFly time-travelled in the 1989 sequel, had actually happened?

Think I’m crazy?

Well, I don’t have a DeLorean in the driveway but, philosophically speaking, Back to the Future is about pivotal moments in history and the way in which altering the outcome of one of those instances can change a person’s entire future. At the Entertainment Under the Sea dance in 1955, Marty McFly helps his own father, George, stand up to Biff, the local brute. As a result, Marty (who has travelled from a future 1985 where Biff has continued forever to browbeat his father, where his mother is obese, his brother’s in jail and that Toyota pickup truck he so much wanted is an unreachable dream) returns to an altered 1985 where his Dad’s now a successful author, his Mom is svelte, his brother has an office job and Marty’s got his truck.

So what if, in real life, someone had actually changed their whole future at one pivotal moment when two alternate timelines hung in the balance?

Dear Miss Landau has a fair few themes, but I’m glad Back to the Future was one of them:

After losing my order three times, billing me wrongly and leaving me hanging on the telephone longer than Blondie, BT finally delivered broadband unto me. … I was hooked up to the wired world, and as the BT engineer was leaving, he mentioned he’d been able to give me access to my old dial-up email account.
I am glad he did. Events might have turned out a little differently otherwise.

Late on a stygian Friday evening early in October, I took a look at my obsolete account.

I scrolled down through the 75 or so emails stagnating in the inbox, deleting some, not really concentrating on the job but still doing it with autistic precision.

Then I saw something.

An email from Juliet Landau, dated August 15 2009.

The 15th?

The 15th!

Two weeks before I’d emailed her!

With the care of a librarian handling the Book of Kells, I opened the email:

From: Juliet Landau 
Sent: 15 August 2009 03:57 
To: James Christie   
Subject: Your Story

Dear James
I just finished your story. I thought it was great. I really enjoyed it. You managed to catch Drusilla’s voice and behavior so beautifully. The sad, lost, haunted feeling of Dru was there.  I myself have just written a comic about Dru as part of season 6 of “Angel.” 

Please check it out if you’d like.

I sat there for a full five minutes, deciding what to do.

Take the advice and hold back, or take a shot in the dark and reply?

Sometimes there are signs.

I felt a quite a lot like Marty McFly at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance in Back to the Future Part II.  He and I, both at a turning point between two alternate futures and not sure which road to take.

Reply. Something might happen.

Hold back. Nothing will happen.

In the end, I came to a simple decision.

Juliet Landau had been kind enough to email me. It would be impolite not to at least reply.

So, with the click of a mouse, I summoned the future.

(Dear Miss Landau, p 93-94)

At the time, she and I had just got in touch, I’d stupidly fallen out of touch and it all came down to this lone email: one last, pivotal chance to straighten out the timeline.

And I think I knew it. That if I did not reply, the timeline which now exists – where I crossed America and met the beautiful and talented Juliet Landau on Sunset Boulevard, where Dear Miss Landau was published, Drusilla’s story was completed and the stage musical version is currently in development – would never have happened.

Of course, it’s important to note that I myself did not travel in time – I ‘merely’ changed my own future and as a result was able to fulfil my lifelong ambition to be published, realize my potential and become the person I’d always wanted to be.
You might say I got my pickup truck.

The alternative does not bear thinking about: my personal and creative potential would never have been developed and I would very likely have become a bitter, twisted and isolated old man. That is neither joke nor exaggeration: Autists are particularly prone to social isolation, it happens to us a lot and causes serious mental health issues. Artists, if unable to express that creative urge which cannot be denied, can go mad with frustration.

I’m glad I made the right decision.
I’ve watched others get it wrong.

Macnab

Buy at Chaplin Books

Buy at Amazon

James Christie: Thorns Upon a Rose
James Christie: Last of the Rare Book Cataloguers

James Christie - writer.

Wednesday 23 Jan 2013

Rake the Trader Over the Coals and Wring Him Out on the Rack!

"You broke the bank! You broke the b***** bank!"

(based on a line of Alan Rickman's in Galaxy Quest)

There is a bank in Abington, the outside walls washed in white and window frames laced in black. It is solid and cheery and old, an image of stability and source of continuity.

People with autism like such stability and continuity and the routine it engenders, and if you think about it, that isn't such a bad thing. I didn't know I was autistic when I opened my account there, but all I asked of them was that they kept my money safe and let me bank for free while I was in credit.

But it's a neuro-typical world, and such safe and boring stereotypes seem easy prey to Ronald Searle's robot ant boys who, desperate to curry favour at board meetings, show the world their fixed grins and make changes for the sake of change, submerged that world, shattered Steagall's Glass, let Fred Goodwin tread and shred with gay abandon, and drove the bank into debt and merger via Dutch and toxic waste.

The biggest annual loss in UK corporate history (pound;24.1 billion).

84% owned by the taxpayer or they'd be bust.

Then, not long after, my bank asked me how I (the customer) could regain their trust? At the same time it knocked the bank at Abington's hours down from full-time to three mornings a week.

I decided I'd take them literally. Act more like an Asperger than I'd normally do.

Okay, I said. Open two more mornings a week and I'll forgive you.

Did they do so? Did they hell!

They no more listen to me now than they did before, but stagger on into Libor rate-rigging scandals and systems failures by the score.

We've bailed them out, we'll fine their ass, but their behaviour is, in toto, crass.

To a neuro-typical obsessed with change, the safe and boring stereotype I bought into might seem deranged.

If this to you is sanity it's mad I'd rather be. At least my money might have been safe if the Royal Bank of Scotland had had a routine-minded Asperger at the helm instead of one of thee...

You broke your b***** bank, there's no more cheer for me. That stable facade's a false veneer.

And the loss of trust? That will cost you, cost you dear.

Thursday 17 Jan 2013

Schr?dinger's cat...

Photo: james and juliet. Quantum mechanics, in its most simple state, could be defined as the science of probability. In essence, something could probably be either in one state or the other. A cat in a sealed box, for example, could in probability either be alive or dead and until the box is opened this probability cannot be swapped for certainty. The question the theoretical scenario of Schr?dinger's cat asks, then, is at what point can the superposition of probable states be swapped for the certain state of the cat either alive or dead.

Great way to start an article, talking about a dead cat, and Juliet Landau is allergic to cats as well...

If the tale of the last three years, richly alluded to over the last few articles or so (most notably Last Night I Dreamed a Deadly Dream), means one thing, it means that the timeline created in the early hours of October 3rd 2009 is (in all probability, anyway) valid, but is in my opinion facing another pivotal moment where the superposition of probable states must now be swapped for one certain state via quantum decoherence, the term defining what may theoretically happen when the box is opened and probable futures become actual futures, consistent with Hugh Everett's "many worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics in which alternate futures are created where the cat is, simultaneously but separately, both alive and dead.

So I'll say it.

And probably get shouted at.

In one probable future anyway.

In one of Everett's many worlds, Miss Landau will make a decision and the timeline which began in October 2009 will peter out. This timeline, to clarify matters, is the one where I found Juliet's "lost" email and had to decide whether or not to answer it (Dear Miss Landau, chapter 25). If I had not done so, it is highly probable that the time line in which you, the reader, are now living and reading this article, would not exist.

There would in all likelihood have been no enduring correspondence between the Hollywood star and the Rain Man from Partick, no sequels to Roses and no Dear Miss Landau. The two trips across America would never have taken place, Juliet Landau and I would not have met that day on Sunset Boulevard, the possible unfinished story arc would never have been spotted by me and so on.

However, nothing more need happen. I've stolen the Enterprise for my Helen of Troy, crossed the world for my Hollywood film star, met Miss Landau on Sunset and published Dear Miss Landau.

By some reasonable interpretations, that should be enough for one lifetime and even earn me breakfast at Milliways...

However, in truth, I don't think that's all that is supposed to happen. So here is my probable scenario regarding the way I believe things should pan out:

a) Dear Miss Landau, with its melding of fiction and reality, was published in March 2012. I originally conceived the idea as a screenplay while walking down the hill from Candlewood Drive, and it can easily be turned into one.

b) My next published book should be the Drusilla trilogy - Roses, Redemption and Revenant. The three novellas which would make up this book would give it a nice, neat length of about 100,000 words - and the novellas are already, written, proofed and edited! They're all done! One signed set is sitting in my bookshelves in Glasgow, (I just got Drusilla Revenant signed at the Vampires Ball at Heathrow) and Revenant is waiting to be read. Chaplin and I are having trouble getting this to the attention of Simon Pulse (a division of Simon & Schuster) and we need help from the Buffy fanbase to do so.

c) Dear Miss Landau should be optioned as a film. During two trips across America, virtually everyone I met either had a friend or relative with autism, or knew of Buffy the Vampire Slayer - sometimes both. I've no doubt there is a large potential audience out there. The film version (with Juliet Landau's permission) would differ quite a bit from the book and is probably the only possible means in existence today by which some of the original cast of Buffy could return (albeit briefly) to their roles... Again, Chaplin and I need help to achieve this.

Incidentally, I'm also working on a fourth Dru tale, recently renamed Spike & Dru: the Graveyard of Empires, which should (I sincerely hope) be the romantic tale of love and bullets which James Marsters apparently always hoped would reunite the deadly duo.

So that's it. One possible future for the Buffyverse is sitting on a bookshelf in Glasgow like the Lost Ark of the Covenant, just itching to be revealed. A unique book which would make a unique film is waiting to be noticed.

It will be a great pity if such potential never fully saw the light of day, but I should accept everyone's right to exercise their own free will.

On the other hand, I do have a theory about why all this has happened.

As most fans will know, the 2009 Star Trek reboot featured a plot line wherein a bad guy from the 24th century came back in time and knocked the tapestry of Kirk and crew's 23rd century destinies askew.

As Spock put it:

"Whatever our lives might have been, if the time continuum was disrupted, our destinies have changed."

And what I think is this:

It's as if, a few years ago, something went wrong. Maybe not a big thing. An opportunity was missed, a story arc unfinished, a character and a person's potential perhaps slightly overlooked. Even a small glitch can cause major alterations in a timeline. This is known as a ripple effect.

Something which should have happened, but didn't. Events and destinies not unfolding quite the way they should have. This concept was most recently explored in the 2008 Doctor Who episode Turn Left where Donna Noble's decision to turn right instead of left at a junction led to massive temporal changes and millions of deaths, including the Doctor...

Over the past three years, I've always felt that the probable scenario detailed here is the one that should be taken. The original timeline, if you will, which should be restored. It has already enabled me to change my life and redeem myself by becoming a published author. Until recently, I took a highly conservative position regarding this scenario, but not long ago something convinced me that this is the way to go and there is more to be done.

It feels like somebody up there is trying to do a repair job, and it's not finished yet.

To be clear but partisan about it, ever since Dear Miss Landau was published I've been able to say that if it all ended tomorrow, I would have nothing to complain about.

But I think fate or quantum mechanics has, sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly, thrown us all a curve ball; and if we don't run with it, we'll regret it to our dying day.

Weblog archive

The Black Man, the Asperger, the NHS and the Bigots...: Tuesday 20 Nov 2012

Scotland the Whaaaaa..?: Friday 26 Oct 2012

The Greatest Country in the World: Sunday 16 Sep 2012

Crossing the Continental Divide: Tuesday 28 Aug 2012

Things to do in Denver if you're not dead...: Tuesday 28 Aug 2012

Went looking for America and couldn't find it anywhere...: Sunday 19 Aug 2012

In Search of Smallville: Friday 17 Aug 2012

Flight of the Clara Pandy: Friday 17 Aug 2012

Meet Miss Landau, miss the President...: Tuesday 14 Aug 2012

If all good things happen in threes...: Tuesday 10 Jul 2012

What if Wakefield was Right?: Monday 2 Jul 2012

Trust at the Coach House and fulfillment of a dream: Wednesday 30 May 2012

The bitter and twisted writer in the blue silk dress: Saturday 5 May 2012

Hang the BBC Committee for Boredom from the yardarm!: Thursday 3 May 2012

Last night I dreamed a deadly dream...: Monday 9 Apr 2012

Shoving senior library managers out of the USS Enterprise's shuttlebay doors in their underpants...: Wednesday 4 Apr 2012

The second scoop: Wednesday 28 Mar 2012

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