Van Gogh’s fluid dynamics

Vincent Van Gogh was both a tragic failure and and a talented success. Unrecognized and penniless in his own lifetime, his paintings are now among the most appreciated and valuable in the entire art world. Although he isn’t a character in my YA novel Starley’s Rust, he and his art certainly feature strongly for reasons that are too spoilerish to go into here. Of course I’m far from being the first writer to be inspired by Van Gogh. There’s Don McLean’s hauntingly beautiful Vincent, a song that I’ve loved since I was a child. British sci-fi series Doctor Who (my favourite TV show of all time) also featured Van Gogh in a 2010 episode written by the great Richard Curtis, the screenwriter of classics such as Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones, and Love Actually. The Doctor brings the real-life Vincent forward in time to a Paris museum in this tear-jerking scene with Bill Nighy (Van Gogh is superbly acted by Tony Curran).

In Starley’s Rust, the mysterious title character Starley explains that Vincent, “was always searching for a way to express visually what he could see in his mind.” Coincidentally, I recently came across a TED Ed video on YouTube that shows just how incredible Van Gogh’s vision of the world actually was. Fluid dynamics is an immensely complex field of mechanics. Its mathematical formulas attempt to describe and predict the flow of liquids and gases.

But sometimes art does a better job.

Van Gogh

The short video The unexpected math behind Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” shows how the artist captured this most difficult of subjects. The video blurb explains:

Physicist Werner Heisenberg said, “When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first.” As difficult as turbulence is to understand mathematically, we can use art to depict the way it looks. Natalya St. Clair illustrates how Van Gogh captured this deep mystery of movement, fluid and light in his work.

As the video narrator says, “…in a period of intense suffering, Van Gogh was somehow able to perceive and represent one of the most supremely difficult concepts nature has ever brought before mankind…”

I had no idea about any of this when I wrote the following passage in Starley’s Rust. Near the end of the book, our hero Kari Marriner goes on Wikipedia to research Vincent’s life and work:

I clicked back to the main page, then on the Starry Night picture. It was the view from Van Gogh’s room in a mental institution. The swirls in the sky… the thing that made the painting so beautiful… and that’s when it dawned on me. In fact, it hit me like a ton of bricks. The shimmering web of the Dark Universe that Noon had shown me from the rooftop of the Warrington. It was so similar.”

Okay, so that actually is a little bit spoilerish, but you’ll have to read Starley’s Rust to find out exactly what part Vincent Van Gogh has to play in Kari’s adventure. As for me, I’m going to watch the clouds and stars…

PS – I wrote this last night when it was dark!





The Rime of the Ancient Marketer

Websites, websites every where, Nor any way to link…

The ancient mariner in Coleridge’s wonderful poem that I’ve so horribly pastiched here was undone by an albatross he killed. For indie authors, that albatross is the multitude of social media options and reading-oriented websites that your books can appear on. Half of the latter variety apparently consist of writers promoting their books to other writers, which hardly seems very efficient (unless your book is actually about the writing process).

The statue of the Ancient Mariner, in Watchet, Somerset, about 10 miles from where Coleridge lived and the same county I grew up in.

The statue of the Ancient Mariner, in Watchet, Somerset, about 10 miles from where Coleridge lived and the same county I grew up in. Oddly, he appears to be holding a skateboard. Maybe he got into that after quitting the sea life.

The reality is that there are so many online outlets to publicize and market books for both indie and traditional authors alike that it’s impossible to cover them all. Beyond the obvious ones like Facebook, Twitter and WordPress, there are secondary-but-still-significant ones like Instagram, Wattpad, Bloglovin, and StumbledUpon. In fact, there are so many that it’s not even realistic to list them all on your own blog. I use the right-hand side of this page to lead readers directly to the Amazon pages of my books because that’s the best way to serve someone who might be interested in buying them, but my media kits include well over a dozen other links to different online stores like Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

There are other incredibly important links that I’ve not even mentioned above that can fall by the wayside in the tsunami of marketing activities (hmmm… I smell an ocean theme today!) My YouTube channel, for example. And the ones I’m now going to plug right here: my author pages on Goodreads and Amazon. So to rectify the situation, here are the links to both pages:

My Amazon author page

My Goodreads author page

There. Done. It’s always a bit weird to write about yourself in the third person, but readers visit these pages because they are genuinely interested in the living, breathing writer behind the books. And besides, I don’t have time to invite them all over for tea. Maybe one day I’ll rent a boat and we’ll all sail off from the north Somerset coast for a bit of fishing…


My first author reading now on YouTube

After trying on several different tee-shirts, different camera angles, and moving the plant around, I finally shot a video of myself reading an excerpt from chapter two of Starley’s Rust that I’m happy with. But really, what is happy? Ask Pharrell…

Please add a comment, thumbs-up or (if you’re really mean) thumbs-down.

The quantum mechanics of fantasy-sci-fi

I’ve written before on this blog about how cool it is when real-world science intersects with the sci-fi fantasy that I write. Now here’s an example that really warms the cockles of my brain:

“Over the past few years, the European robin, and its quantum “sixth sense”, has emerged as the pin-up for a new field of research, one that brings together the wonderfully complex and messy living world and the counterintuitive, ethereal but strangely orderly world of atoms and elementary particles in a collision of disciplines that is as astonishing and unexpected as it is exciting. Welcome to the new science of quantum biology.”

I’d never heard of quantum biology when I wrote the following line in my soon-to-be-published YA novel Starley’s Rust: “…the mental gateway between you and the Embodied works through quantum fluctuations in your brain.”


A quantumly quute robin.

I certainly didn’t want to make my beings telepathic in the traditional paranormal sense, because the trilogy has a true sci-fi base, so I needed an explanation for how they could “get inside” a human’s mind. But it turns out that were the Embodied to exist (and who’s to say that they don’t!?), they could actually communicate with humans using a quantum mechanism like the one that robins use to navigate:

“Studies of the European robin suggest that it has an internal chemical compass that utilises an astonishing quantum concept called entanglement, which Einstein dismissed as “spooky action at a distance”. This phenomenon describes how two separated particles can remain instantaneously connected via a weird quantum link. The current best guess is that this takes place inside a protein in the bird’s eye, where quantum entanglement makes a pair of electrons highly sensitive to the angle of orientation of the Earth’s magnetic field, allowing the bird to “see” which way it needs to fly.”

The Embodied trilogy’s genre is either urban fantasy or soft sci-fi, but when I read an article like this I wonder whether it might even be regular sci-fi. Or even plain old sci.


Photo credit: <a href=””>freebird4</a&gt; / <a href=””>Foter</a&gt; / <a href=””>CC BY-NC</a>