Notes from genre author Stephen Palmer

30 at 20

A rare music-related post today – celebrating thirty @ twenty…

thirty at twenty

Tales From The Spired Inn special offer

Covid-19 has hit many people, including at Newcon Press. They’ve set up a special summer offer – check it out! Great books by great authors. If you didn’t get a signed HB copy of Tales From The Spired Inn, now is your chance…

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Goodbye response blog

Here’s a thought-provoking blog response to my Fictions: Health & Care Re-imagined story Goodbye, from the FCCs Dr Peter Bloomfield. Join the debate!

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Origins by Lewis Dartnell

Subtitled How The Earth Shaped Human History, this is a fascinating and very well written survey of how geology and landscape have shaped the course of human history. It’s aimed at the general reader, but doesn’t skimp on facts and theory. Comparisons with Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens are for once not exaggerated.

Set into nine chapters, the work opens with the evolution of humanity in East Africa, showing how continental drift, deep magma events and climate all forged conditions in which human evolution occurred. Continental drift is the fascinating subject of the next chapter, followed by chapters covering ocean geography, fault lines, building materials, metal, the steppe and desert areas of the world, trade winds/currents and the age of Western explorers, and finally energy, this mostly coal and oil.

What this book excels at is showing how apparently random or unrelated events are actually created, initiated or corralled by geology – the shape of our environment, its long-term change, what it’s made of and where it is. This work is readable, accessible and enjoyable. Highly recommended.


Conjuror Girl

Having said I’d never again write a trilogy because it’s so much work, I’ve completed a new one. The Conjuror Girl trilogy is set in an alternate England of 1899/1900: Monique Orphan, Monica Orvan, Monica Hatherley. The work would be best classified as steampunk with a hint of magic.

Monique, living at the grim Shrobbesbury Orphanage, where she has been for as long as she can remember, discovers she has a talent only men can have. Should she hide it and live an unfulfilled, frustrating life? Or should she exploit it and risk men’s wrath and censure? With her best friend Lily she tries to navigate this dilemma, but as events spiral out of control she finds herself increasingly in danger…

Condition: Human

For thirty five years I’ve been fascinated by human consciousness, its evolution by natural selection, and the human condition. Some decades ago I made a couple of attempts at writing a work encapsulating some of the ideas I’d read – those of Erich Fromm, Dorothy Rowe and Nicholas Humphrey in particular – and of my own, but the books didn’t work out. I’ve had a couple of tries since then, and again they didn’t work out. So a few years ago I had the idea to make a film, thinking that perhaps image and sound would be a better medium than words.

Starting this summer I hope to be making six short films encapsulating all the ideas which interest me: Condition: Human. This will be a personal view. I wrote the scripts earlier in the year, and have since then been working on a shooting schedule, locations, voice-overs – which are surprisingly difficult to do – and the music. My hope is that this and next month I’ll be able to finish the outdoor filming, leaving the indoor shoots, which can be done in any weather.

I’m not sure what kind of presenter I’ll be. Maybe it won’t work out. But I did have a test run last year, when I gave a half hour extemporised lecture about the basics of human consciousness and its evolution. The previous year, at Asylum in Lincoln, I did something similar. So I think the chances are fair that I can be a half decent presenter.

More details to follow!

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Books by Erich Fromm

FCC Story First Reaction

Really nice reaction to my opening story ‘Goodbye’ of the Fictions: Health & Care Re-imagined series. Pleased!

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Beautiful Intelligence audiobook

I’m delighted to say that an audiobook of Beautiful Intelligence is in production. The narrator is Nikola Mučkajev, who is a classically trained actor, and a narrator for many other audiobooks. I’ve heard the first chapter, and it sounds pretty awesome! Nikola has a real facility for voices. His voice for Hound and Dirk Ngma were particularly good. This is exciting news! More details to follow…


Future Care Capital Fictions

A few months ago I was approached, along with two other authors, to write three short stories under the banner Fictions: Health And Care Re-Imagined.

This project, funded by the Future Care Capital charity, aims to foster discussion about the future of health care and social care in this country, with dates in mind of around 2030 – 2050, and thinking especially about the up-sides and down-sides of increasing use of technology. Edited by the indefatigable Keith Brooke, my first story Goodbye concerns the future of end-of-life care. Other opening stories are on the way, from Anne Charnock, Keith Brooke and Liz Williams. The whole project will run for twelve months, with one story being published every month. The marvellous illustrations are done by Vinny Chong.

Link to Fictions

Link to opening blog

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Magical thinking

Today Donald Trump revealed he is taking the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to counter Covid-19. What has been interesting, and what this blog post is about, is the media response. In the majority of cases – including at the public session where Trump made his revelation – the media pointed out that there is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine is efficacious with this new illness. When asked what the benefits of the drug were, Trump said, “Here’s my evidence. I get a lot of positive calls about it.”

It is correct to state that there is no evidence to support the efficacy of this drug against Covid-19, but that does rather miss the point of Trump taking it. To ask Trump the question about evidence is to assess him on our ground. We can’t do this. Trump, as with all narcissists, must be assessed on his own ground, since he does not live in the world we inhabit. Only then can any conclusion be drawn about his beliefs and why he believes them.

Trump believes that merely by taking the drug he must be influencing his health. That his beliefs are fantasy is not just irrelevant to him, it is 100% terra incognita. He does not know that he does not know. He believes that by acting according to his beliefs about hydroxychloroquine he must therefore be having an effect on his own health.

This is what some call magical thinking. Magical thinking is a symptom of narcissism, in that it explicitly refuses to test beliefs or procedures in the real world. Magical thinking is the exact opposite of the scientific method, which experiments upon the independent real world to determine its laws. In the real world, as many of us realise, hydroxychloroquine has no effect on Covid-19. Spirituality, religion, superstition and the belief in the efficacy of spells are all forms of magical thinking which over time have acquired commonly accepted status in human societies.

For us and the media to state our understanding of the laws of the real world in the case of narcissists like Trump, while semantically correct and scientifically proven, is to miss the point of why narcissists say the things they do. Many people will say Trump is stupid for taking hydroxychloroquine. They are wrong. When Trump made his revelation today, he gave us a glimpse of the fantasy world he inhabits, not of his general level of intelligence.

We need to understand narcissism in all its forms. Trump and his ilk are merely the most obvious in the current political crop. But billions of human beings are thinking, believing and acting in the world today because of personal narcissism which they have not overcome.

Experiment. Hypothesise. Test. Theorise. Understand. We defer to the real world, not the other way around.