My attempt at writing a science fiction story set in a Yorkshire-like world - Ian McMillan

I’ll tell you what, let’s make a world, like the science fiction writers do.

Let’s make the world very different to this one, but still recognisably Earth-like, or even Yorkshire-like. Let’s make a world, and see what happens. As a young man I was obsessed with science fiction and I wrote loads of it in notebooks with red covers. Let’s see if I can still do it.

‘The sun rose in the sky. Then another sun rose in the sky. Then, after a while, and as the air began to heat up, another sun rose in the sky. Three suns like giant Yorkshire puddings in a sky that felt it was on fire.’

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How about that? Not a bad beginning. Intriguing, I’d say. The reader in the science fiction section of a bookshop would be attracted by those first lines. The three suns.

Poet Ian McMillanPoet Ian McMillan
Poet Ian McMillan

The fact that the suns were compared to Yorkshire puddings could be a quirky touch but it also, I reckon, ties the action to a real Yorkshire that has somehow become an unreal Yorkshire.

Three suns, tha knows: you’d never have to have the big light on in the daytime with those big lights in the sky!

Now that I’ve set the scene I need to introduce the main character, the protagonist who will be our guide through this Yorkshire of the mind. I’ll think of a name and set him going:

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‘Kes 1347 opened his eyes with a metallic click. He was standing in his room in The Complex. He reached over and picked up his White Rose handset; the wall-sized TV came on and the news was full of the fact that one of the suns that had been rising over Yorkshire had disappeared.

Yesterday there were four suns. Today there were three. Kes 1347 adjusted the brightness control on his Thinking Flat Cap. There was much to do. The endgame had begun.’

Blimey! Where did that come from? There’s lots to unpick there and loads to keep the reader wanting more. I came up with the name Kes 1347 because I wanted to suggest that the character was some kind of robot, some sort of cyborg but still with a Yorkshire twist, hence the Kes part of the name.

The Thinking Flat Cap is a bit of a gag, of course, but I wanted to suggest that perhaps all that was left of the population of Yorkshire were these tyke automatons. You’ve heard of AI; this is Ay-up.

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And the idea that there were originally four suns and one of them had disappeared just came to me as I was writing. Novelists will often tell you that once they start writing a story the tale itself takes over and becomes the writer and that’s what happened here.

I’ve set up a kind of mystery and I’ve cranked a plot into motion because it seems that now that there are three suns instead of four, something has been triggered in our protagonist’s mechanisms that means that Kes 1347 is on a mission. A mission to do what, I’m not really sure. I’m sure the story will tell me.

Those last two sentences of the story so far: ‘There was much to do. The endgame had begun.’ I’m quite pleased with them. I can imagine a voiceover artist intoning them in the trailer for the blockbuster film that will undoubtedly be made of my science fiction epic.

Two paragraphs: not a bad start for a world-building session. I’ll just put the kettle on and then I’ll carry on. Can’t keep Kes 1347 waiting…

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