Nobody Expects the Islamic Caliphate

As an author of science fiction and fantasy, I’m used to inventing many of the details of the worlds I write about, but the Devices trilogy takes place in a very close analogue of what we habitually think of as the real world. This brings with it a certain obligation to get the details right, the geographical and historical ones particularly, so that someone living in, say, Bognor Regis doesn’t get infuriated with me for suggesting that it’s located on a high plateau surrounded by inaccessible jungle, and call for a boycott of the book throughout Patagonia (assuming that’s where Bognor Regis is).

I can only imagine how much harder this would have been before the advent of the internet (I was writing then, of course, but nothing that was ever likely to be published and very little that was set in the real world) — but there are some things even Google can’t help with, and one of these (although I’m sure they’ve got people working on it) is predicting the future.

While I’ll be handing in the final version of The Devices Book Two at the beginning of October 2014, it will be published around 1 July 2015, a year or so after The Pendragon Protocol. This means that it needs to be set (to start with at least) not just in the real world but in the real world of mid-2015. Even writing about Britain, where nearly all the action takes place, has certain pitfalls at the moment — I’ve had to be carefully non-committal about Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the UK, for instance. The question of prediction becomes particularly awkward, though, in a couple of passages which describe the characters’ recent experiences in Iraq.

It’s fair to say that that part of the world’s been even more unpredictable than usual just recently. I can’t say I expected the declaration of a caliphate two days before The Pendragon Protocol was published, for instance. If I were writing the whole trilogy prior to publication, I might go back and fiddle with some bits of the first book to set them somewhere not currently undergoing quite so much of an Islamic insurgency — Northern Ireland, say — but even that might change, and of course it isn’t really an option now. 

I can pretty much guarantee, then, that the world of Book Two will contain at least some speculative history; even if that just consist of my making some changes at the end of September, crossing my fingers and hoping that the situation in the Middle East takes the unprecedented step of staying pretty much the same during the following nine months.


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