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  • Writer's picturePortland Jones

The Spaceman: many worlds apart

Graham Stanley

Gordon's childhood love of video games turned into his career as a videogame journalist, a profession his father had little time nor respect for. Not surprising given the rift between them. As children, Gordon and his friend Danny were sci-fi nerds, eager to believe in aliens visiting the earth. They grew excited when they saw a photo of an alleged alien hanging behind he bar in a pub. His father, a physicist, had no time for such childish nonsense. As they drove home, Gordon and Danny in the back, his mum and dad in the front arguing about the need to let kids use their imagination, his father lost control of the car. Danny went through the windscreen and was to spend the next forty years of his life in a coma.

Gordon felt obliged to venture out of London to attend his mother's funeral. it wasn't only the physical distance that had kept Gordon away from his family. What was possibly worse than losing his mum was having to address his frosty relationship with his father.

Returning to his childhood home, things weren't quite as Gordon expected. Yes, his dad scarcely spoke to him. Retirement had not mellowed his father at all, although his age did produce some concerns that all was not well. The only thing he was keen to talk about was the scientific theories that he had continued to study since leaving work - endlessly.

We are introduced to amazing possibilities of alternate universes, computer simulations, alien activity. Arguments battle back and forth, but who is right?

Strange things happen that Gordon witnesses and his dad denies. Gail, a local artist, has unknowingly been painting images of what Gordon has seen. And on top of all this, Danny revives from his coma giving rise to a media frenzy. Danny doesn't care. He just wants his life back. Oh yes, and Gordon might want to leave his London life and long-term partner and move back to Scotland.

Then something happens to Gordon. What? We will have to wait for the next book in the series.

This slender book, a novella, packs a lot in its pages. The author tackles quite complicated concepts in a way that even I can understand them, sending my head watching out for glitches in the matrix.

The problems between father and son are understated but well played. As a reader I felt sorry for Gordon, understanding how the break with his father came about, but also disappointed that he didn't make more effort with his mother. The author guides us effortlessly around the setting. His descriptions of snow are exactly how you feel as you trudge through softly falling flakes that lose their beauty under foot. He tells us there was a break in the grey clouds where 'the sun was trying desperately to ask for an audience with the world'.

The distance between life in his family home and his life in London are shown when Gordon uses an old ivory-coloured rotary phone which wasn't the retro chic his friends were loving in the city.

The author tells us that book two will be out soon. I'm following Graham so I get advance notice of when exactly that will be.

I asked the author to tell us a bit about themself.

I am an educator based in Mexico City, originally from England. As a language teacher, I specialised in the use of technology and this speciality led me to writing two handbooks for teachers. The first of these was co-written Digital Play: Computer Games and language Aims and was published by a small publisher in 2011. I wrote a more general handbook, Language Learning and Technology, for Cambridge University Press in 2013. This was warmly received and won the English Speaking Union's HRH Duke of Edinburgh Award for book of the year. Since then, I have started writing fiction and have also been writing more books for teachers, and edited a collection of case studies (Remote Teaching, 2019) that was published by the British Council.

I have experience of working with publishers, small and large. Although I have benefitted from this (especially when it comes to distribution), the amount of time from initial idea and the actual publishing of the book is very long. Working with a publisher can be a very slow laborious process. I'm also writing very niche genre fiction that a mainstream publisher is unlikely to take on. There's also the financial aspect - I earn about 1 USD per copy of my second book, but this book is sold for 25 USD. Finally, I'm an English language educator interested in technology, and there's the appeal of doing everything myself, learning how to do it well, understanding the process, the technology, learning how best to market, etc. I am having a lot of fun with this.

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