When I consider thy heavens …, by Ben Jeapes


I took this photo on my morning walk two days ago. Isn’t it stunning?

Sadly I can attest that 48 hours later exactly the same scene was dull and overcast. But then, if it was always like this … well, then we’d stop appreciating it, wouldn’t we? God likes to give us these little unexpected treats.

The science fiction romantic in me would love to see this as evidence that a massive alien mothership was entering our atmosphere somewhere to the east. I suspect that if that were the case, we would have heard by now. I know it’s more likely the reds and oranges are something to do with scattered or refracted light – when the sun is low then it has further to travel through the atmosphere and that strips out the bluer end of the spectrum. Or something like that. How it comes to be precisely those rich, intense shades of red and orange – well, that I don’t know. And while I know that clouds are condensed water vapour floating around in the atmosphere, I have no idea how they achieve that scalloped, rippled look, or how there seems to be an inverted crater in them, its rim catching the red light while the centre is more grey/blue.

I’m sure a physicist could explain it all, and it wouldn’t diminish the wonder one bit.

In short, our world is full of unexpected touches of wonder. Sadly, very often our fictional worlds aren't. My friend David Gullen touches on this in his excellent blog post, 5 Tips for World Building. “I’ve read more than one story where it feels like the characters are walking through some kind of studio set and you could step off the path and bang your hand on the backdrop, no matter how beautifully it may be painted.”

Do your characters inhabit a world where every once in a while they might just stop and gaze in wonder at an astonishing sight like this? Or are they barging around a lifeless studio set?

Over to you.

Ben Jeapes took up writing in the mistaken belief that it would be easier than a real job (it isn’t). Hence, as well as being the author of eight novels and co-author of many more, he has also been a journal editor, book publisher, and technical writer. His most recent title is a children’s biography of Ada Lovelace. www.benjeapes.com

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