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Friday 11th March, I get to my desk, and switch on the BBC to find out what's happening in Libya. No, Libya is no longer headlining. There's been a huge seabed earthquake and tsunami, affecting the whole North East coast of Japan. Utter devastation everywhere, and one of the Fukushima reactors is in trouble. At once I'm transported back to 1988/1989, when I was drafting White Queen. I had in mind an alien invasion, but not the Space Opera, "War of the Worlds" variety, with a Deathstar Fleet appearing from nowhere, bent on World Domination with sole emphasis on the USA (or UK, in Wells's day). I wanted to use the best real world models we have, ie the alien colonial invasions from Western Europe into the developed civilisations of Pacific Asia, India, Africa. World domination, in this model, come almost by accident, in increments, over generations, and the natives don't even try to resist, much. They believe the promises, they're divided among themselves, and they've already been weakened by complex homegrown factors. Given the heft and size of our current global civilisation, I think I need to invoke some major, politically neutral disaster, it's better wipe out a huge chunk of our notional capital in the bargain, now what shall it be? An asteroid? The USA and Western Europe must be physically, largely unaffected (except by the slow creep of global warming sea level rise), because I can speak with relative confidence in the voice of those cultures, so I'll need to use them as my venues. Likewise Africa, for different reasons. Did I read Sakyo Komatsu's Japan Sinks, and decide I'd found my catastrophe? Or did I think of Japan, and did that lead me to Komatsu? I can't remember.

So then I spent the weekend, which happened to be unsettling and eventful in my own private life, constantly referring to the live updates, hearing phrases and descriptions (the entire coastal plate, the reactor core may have been exposed, the fuel rods were not fully inserted) familiar to me from long ago, and feeling, creepily, that I was reacting like someone who sees a celebrity in trouble on the News, and cries excitedly "Oooh, Fukushima! I met her once!" But what has struck me most is the sheer ugliness of the sight (same as the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami a few years ago). The whole coastland and for miles inland transformed into a vast, foul, muddy, festering heap of trash, as if the lives of millions of the poorest of the poor of the urban tropics had been swept up and dumped there. And the humanity of the reaction of the Japanese government and people. How their first instinct was to minimise the damage, we're not much hurt, we'll be fine. But that's shock, it wears off, the pain sets in, they begin to realise the horrific extent of their injuries, and the invisible fear.

Nuclear Reactors may compare favourably, on environmental grounds with gas, coal, oil-fired power stations as long as nothing goes wrong.

Nobody would ever, ever build a Nuclear Power Station, if safety was the top priority.

No room for Libya on the front pages, and no hope for those rebels that I can see. Guernica is a very famous picture, but it didn't help to shift Franco, far from it. But from the start, I wasn't hopeful for the Libyan tranche of the Arab revolutions.There didn't seem to be a general will to change the paradigm. The men, and the young men, were just too willing to die, eerily willing to die gloriously in battle, while the women stayed in their houses, not in safety, of course not, but in "honour" bound.

Saturday 12th March, watery sun and haze, the waterlily tulips all wide open in the big blue pot, Gabriel home for the weekend, a buzz of preparation for the Liszt concert, and working on his share of a Fitkin eight-hand piano piece, part of an evening of Fitkin, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Thurs 24th A vast site specific event, it says here. Should be fun, I'll be there.


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David Golding on :

Speaking of drafts of White Queen, I was wondering if there had been any significant changes made to the text of the Aleutian trilogy for the recent Aqueduct Press e-books?

Gwyneth on :

Yes, there's revision. I did the same as for the Bold As Love pdfs I've put online for free: went through the texts again, updating and re-editing lightly. No changes in plot, or characterisation. The most significant revision is in Phoenix Cafe, eg getting rid of endless recapitulation of the plot.

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