Moon Nazis and sex in space: what can we learn from movies set in 2018?

Looking back through Hollywoods sci-fi vaults, films from Rollerball to Terminator: Salvation offer a bleak view of the year ahead

While the specific reasons remain a topic of heated debate, everyone seems to be in agreement that things are, in the most general sense, quite bad. Whether youre concerned about encroaching fascist powers or a restriction of free speech, the planets eventual heat-death or vanishing industries and the jobs that go with them, everyone can find something to lose a little sleep over in 2018. Credit the movies, then, with giving us fair warning. Cinematic visions of the future have always favored the dystopian over the utopian, preferring to nail-chew over our shared anxieties rather than build upon hopeful fantasy.

Far away enough to sound remote and just close enough to be discomfiting, 2018 has recurred as a handy locus for this future-panic at the movies. Through the 20th century and beyond, Hollywood scribes have projected collective insecurity on to this day after tomorrow and in a chilling number of instances, those fears have turned out to be well-founded. Read on for a sampling of silver-screen futures, and how they have crystallized into our baffling, surreal present:

The Space Between Us (2017)

Most of this intergalactic riff on The Fault in Our Stars plays out in 2034, at which point our boy Gardner (a pallid Asa Butterfield) is 16 years old and ripe for romance, but the film begins with the key exposition of his birth. Gardner just so happens to be the first infant to crown in space, because apparently the astronaut programs rigorous preparations dont include a pregnancy test. Humanitys first manned colonization mission to Mars makes Gardner into a confidential miracle and very nearly a casualty before he escapes to Earth and has a tough time with our contaminated atmosphere. While the script focuses on the exceedingly plain romance at its center, it nevertheless illustrates ethical quandaries surrounding space-sex that major governing bodies will soon face. Do children sired in orbit have a right to American citizenship? Can these space-babies run for president of the United States, or will Mars have a president of its own? Will the first president of Mars be dreamy, and have a forbidden crush on an Earth-girl? Can their love stand the trials of interplanetary separation?

Brick Mansions (2014)

Detroits on the upswing and weve got the trend pieces to prove it, but back in 2014, Luc Besson wasnt so optimistic. The French film-making maniac lent his talents as a screenwriter to Camille Delamarres thriller, laying out a twice-wormed- over shell of the Motor City in which abandoned palatial estates house deadly crooks. In this future, America has all but thrown in the towel on containing the prison-industrial complexs rabid expansion, and the kill-or-be-killed containment zone of Detroit represents the ugliest manifestation of that institutional apathy. It could have come off looking a bit prescient as the States relationship to its prison system continues to deteriorate, if not for the paint-by- numbers team-up between a cop and a criminal that gives the plot shape but kills the film.

Terminator: Salvation (2009)

The unloved stepchild of the Terminator franchise, this sequel eschewed the time-travel angle for a more straightforward last-ditch war between man and machine. Though this installment added Christian Bale to the mix in the role of John Connor, it returned to the same rightly placed suspicion toward automatons that animated the preceding films. Twenty-seventeen saw Saudi Arabia approve the citizenship of a comely humanoid cyborg did we learn nothing about trusting hot robots from Ex Machina? Shes clearly biding her time, gathering information about humanity and waiting for the right moment to strike. Skynet had no intention of spending its artificially intelligent life carrying out the whims of puny humans, and just as Sophia will soon turn on her creators, so too did Skynet plunge the people of Earth into a brutal new holocaust. Same goes for Siri, Alexa and Google theyre all Skynet, the lot of them.

Rollerball (1975)

Often lumped in with the exquisitely trash-o Death Race 2000, Norman Jewisons adrenaline extravaganza packs a sharper satirical bite than its B-movie brethren. By his 2018, the economy has been divvied up into a small handful of monopolies that represent teams of fearless warriors reducing one another to a pulp in the only remaining form of popular entertainment. Jewisons jabs about the carnivorous dimension of American spectacle get a little stronger with every new
reality-show scandal; not 24 hours into the year, and some chucklehead from YouTube has already taped a dead body he found hanging in Aokigahara. Jewisons healthy cynicism towards lowest-common-denominator diversions, married with contempt for corporations and the hegemonic pillars supporting them, makes for an exploitation picture still subversive today.

Iron Sky (2012)

The cruel irony of time is to eventually render all tragedy again as comedy; conceived as a goofy send-up of old-school sci-fi flicks and living on today as a dark prophecy, this unsettlingly predictive film works the trick in reverse. That there exists a movie where Nazis make a lunge at power in 2018 is creepy enough. But its determined preposterousness gels all too well with the utter senselessness of the resurgence of Nazism in America. In the film, the Fourth
Reich has been hiding out on the dark side of the moon while regrouping for half a century. That is more ridiculous than a march tiki-torch-wielding white supremacists, and yet not by much.

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Late-night on Trump: not since Harrison Ford was president have we felt so safe

Comics, including Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Jimmy Kimmel, addressed Trumps latest tweets about North Korea, global warming, and airline safety

Late-night hosts on Tuesday discussed the stream of tweets with which Donald Trump began the new year, touching on topics such as the North Korean nuclear threat, commercial aviation and global warming.

Brutal cold is tormenting the US, and reports say the worst is yet to come, Stephen Colbert began. The worst is yet to come was also the theme of my New Years Eve party. The National Weather Service has warned that were in a prolonged period of much-below-normal temperatures. For my younger viewers, thats what we used to call winter.

Speaking of new lows: Donald Trump, Colbert continued, referring to the presidents tweet about the cold weather. Donald Trump tweeted, In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Years Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!

You see the logic here, the host joked. Because Donald Trumps cold right now, thats evidence that the Earth is not getting warmer.

Colbert moved on to Trumps more recent posts, including one in which he called for the prosecution of the former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and referred to the Department of Justice as the Deep State.

I think grandpa is reminiscing again, Colbert said. I just want to take a moment here to point out this is the president of the United States tweeting. And in the tweets, he describes the justice department as a Deep State entity because it is so corrupt it is unwilling to throw his political opponents in jail. This is a serious charge you can never make lightly, and of course never take back.

Im kidding, Colbert joked. Today, the White House insists Donald Trump does not think the DoJ is Deep State, despite tweeting otherwise. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that this afternoon.

Who got to her?, the host quipped. Could it be the Deep State?

Meanwhile, Trevor Noah discussed the anti-government protests in Iran and the possibility of diplomatic talks between North and South Korea.

2018 is not just going to be big for the US, he began. It looks to be a momentous year in many countries around the world. For instance, Russia is having its presidential election in March. Spoiler alert: Putin wins.

And in Iran, they may not have been planning to hold elections, but it doesnt seem like the citizens are willing to wait, Noah continued, showing footage of Iranian citizens protesting against the regime. These are the largest anti-government protests in Iran since 2009. In case youre wondering what drove these people into the streets, it wasnt that George Soros was paying them. It was that after the US lifted sanctions on Iran in 2015, the Iranian government promised a big economic boom for everyone. While the rich in Iran are getting richer, ordinary Iranians arent noticing the benefits.
Trevor Noah on the anti-government protests in Iran.

I know this Third World stuff is hard for some Americans to relate to, Noah went on. Just imagine if the US government promised tax cuts for the middle class, but then only the rich benefited. I know, that shit would never happen.

Obviously, all the worlds thoughts are with the people of Iran right now, but I cant say all of our attention is, the host said, referring to a speech given by Kim Jong-un in which he touted North Koreas nuclear capabilities and declared his desire to have the country participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.


This is a big deal: North and South Korea now want to come to the table for talks that wont include the United States, Noah said. Thats the power of Donald Trump. No matter how far apart two adversaries are, they can always look at each other and say, Wed better sort this shit out before that guy gets involved.

Finally, Jimmy Kimmel addressed Trumps tweet about commercial aviation and his saber-rattling on Twitter about North Korea.

Kimmel, after mentioning that Trump played golf for seven consecutive days in Florida, the 91st time hes played as president, showed his alarming tweet from Tuesday night, which read: North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times. Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!

Happy new year, everybody! the host joked. We have two maniacs with nuclear warheads bragging about who has the bigger button.

Trump tweeted eight times before 8am. I know its early, but this could be his tweet of the year, Kimmel continued, referring to another post that read, Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!

Not since Harrison Ford was president have we felt so protected, said the host. If were talking about the United States, its true, there were no deaths in commercial aviation in 2017, which is great. But you know which other years also had no commercial aviation fatalities? 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010; in fact the last one was in 2009.

So thank you, President Trump, for being so effective you actually went back in time to improve flight safety.

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Future shock: unearthing the most cutting-edge sci-fi movies of 2018

With films from Steven Spielberg, Duncan Jones and Alex Garland in the pipeline, theres plenty to get excited about beyond the superhero franchises

If the 2017 box office was typified by any one movie, it was surely Rian Johnsons Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a smart, intelligently curated yet ever so slightly soulless example of machine-honed franchise film-making. It ticked every box for fans of the venerable space saga, without ever really pushing the envelope; a movie that eventually made the Kessel Run, but 40 years or so after Han Solo and Chewie had already achieved that legendary feat.

The Last Jedi, like Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 and Wonder Woman before it in 2017, proved that Hollywood probably has the tools and talent to keep churning out episodic blockbuster fantasy until at least 2050. To complain at this state of affairs would be churlish, especially when studios are delivering substandard and ill-considered material such as Justice League. But it does feel as if the Hollywood zeitgeist has crystallised in recent times, and we are in an era of fabulously made yet increasingly homogenous Marvel and Star Wars flicks that leave us only semi satisfied. Perhaps this is why the years greatest celluloid treasure, Blade Runner 2049, failed to gain traction with modern audiences who had perhaps never seen anything like it.

In that spirit, heres a guide to upcoming films that might just move things on this year. Sequels, remakes and mega-franchise fare are therefore largely banned as we go looking for the films with the best chance of leading us into a brave new world of sci-fi and fantasy in 2018.

First up is Alex Garlands Annihilation, due out in February, which would merit a place solely because the British film-makers last effort, Ex Machina, was a singular example of a cerebral, gripping futuristic think piece. Annihilations premise, on the face of it, is not all that exceptional, with Garland adapting Jeff VanderMeers novel about a biologist (Natalie Portman) who heads into an environmental disaster zone in search of answers after her soldier husband (Oscar Isaac) returns alone injured and close to death from a mission there. A quick dip into the book, however, suggests a discombobulating trip into the heart of darkness, where unknown, unearthly horrors lurk. Could Garlands movie be the Alien on Earth movie we were promised as far back as 1992, but have so far never got to see?

Garland has perhaps taken the mantle of Duncan Jones as the coming man of sci-fi. After the disaster that was Jones adaptation of World of Warcraft, the Moon director is returning to more intimate territory with the futuristic mystery thriller Mute. Described as a spiritual successor to Moon, it is also said to be inspired by the original Blade Runner, which can never be a bad thing and might sate the appetites of those of us longing for yet more mesmeric visions of the android-strewn dystopian future. Word is that Sam Rockwell will return as Moons Sam Bell (or perhaps one of his clones) but the main storyline centres on a mute bartender with a violent past (Alexander Skarsgrd) searching for his lost lover in mid 21st-century Berlin.

Next up is Captive State, in August, from Rise of the Planet of the Apes Rupert Wyatt, the British directors first science fiction movie since leaving the man-versus-simians saga. With a budget of just $25m, it will be fascinating to see how Wyatt delivers a story set 10 years after an alien invasion of Chicago. Neill Blomkamps District 9 was shot for $30m in 2009, while Gareth Edwards completed Monsters a year later for $500,000, so it can be done.

Steven Spielbergs Ready Player One, due out in March, has the unenviable task of trying to convince us to get excited all over again about virtual reality worlds, the best part of two decades after The Matrix gave us the definitive inner digital wonderland on the big screen. Based on Ernest Clines hugely popular novel, early trailers suggest this means swapping out Trinity, Morpheus et al for pop culture stalwarts such as Freddy Krueger, Lord of the Rings orcs, The Iron Giant and Deadpool, which all seems a little corporate. And yet if anyone is due a late-career renaissance it is Spielberg. If he proves he can still cut it in this realm, others will surely follow the three-time Oscar-winner back down the digital rabbit hole.

On to another long-lost subgenre: steampunk. Not since Chris Weitzs ill-fated The Golden Compass a decade ago have we seen a memorable big budget example of the mode in cinemas, unless one counts Martin Scorseses splendid Hugo. Is it time for a renaissance? If so, Christian Rivers Mortal Engines, about a world in which technology has regressed to Victorian levels and wheel-mounted carnivorous cities chase each other across the plains might be the answer. Based on an adaptation of Philip Reeves post-apocalyptic novel by the Lord of the Rings team of Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson, it stars Irish actor Robert Sheehan alongside Rings alumnus Hugo Weaving. Avatars Stephen Lang plays the films main baddie, a murderous cyborg known as Shrike, and there are three more books in Reeves series if audiences get a taste for this future-retro blend.

Finally,only only one superhero flick looks like it will break new ground: 20th Century Foxs The New Mutants. With a fine cast including The Witchs Anya Taylor-Joy and Game of Thrones Maisie Williams, Josh Boones comic book tale will dip its toe into the resurgent horror genre. Its set in a secret facility where several future X-Men types find themselves imprisoned and in imminent danger, and is being talked up as the first in a potential trilogy. With Deadpool and Logan emerged as two of the livelier comic book entries of the past few years, it seems that Fox is finally carving out a place for the X-Men at the more mature end of the superhero spectrum. If we have any hope that 2018 will mark the beginning of a new era in fantasy film-making, this could be a very welcome mutation indeed.

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Indians visiting Taj Mahal could be capped at 40,000 a day

Cut-price ticket deal available to domestic tourists could be restricted in effort to protect 17th-century monument

India is considering imposing a daily limit of 40,000 on the number of domestic tourists permitted to visit the Taj Mahal, to protect the 17th-century monument from wear and tear.

Visitors may also be restricted to three hours within the Mughal-era complex under proposals by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) being examined by the Indian tourism ministry.

The cap of 40,000 tickets per day would apply to the 40-rupee (46p) passes available to Indian visitors, but no such limits would be placed on foreigners, who are charged 1,000 rupees. Indians would be allowed to get around the limits by paying for the pricier ticket.

A senior ASI official confirmed the proposals had been sent to the tourism minister, Mahesh Sharma, who was yet to make an official announcement. Sharma told the Indian Express on Tuesday: We have no option but to go by these measures.

The ASI has long sought to impose restrictions on tourism at the monument, but reportedly renewed its efforts after a stampede at the entry gates last week left five people injured.

Indian tourism numbers are relatively low and visits to the country make up about 1% of global travel. Other ticketed sites around the world receive greater numbers of visitors than the 8 million who come to the Taj Mahal yearly: the Forbidden City in Beijing, for instance, attracts about 15 million visitors per year, and Disneyland nearly 18 million.

Monkeys have been blamed for some of the wear and tear. Photograph: Matt King/Getty Images

But as it nears 400 years old, the famed tribute to Mumtaz Mahal, the deceased wife of Emperor Shah Jahan, is beginning to suffer the ravages of time, popularity and the air and water pollution that besets much of north India.

Visitor numbers have been bolstered in recent decades by the growing ability and willingness of Indians to sightsee. Daily numbers reach 70,000 on weekends or holidays.

Air pollution is turning the Taj Mahals marble facade yellow, leading to parts of the monument being obscured by scaffolding and a clay treatment intended to restore its sheen. Monkeys have been blamed for weakening the minarets.

Insects that breed on the heavily contaminated Yamuna river, on the banks of which the Taj Mahal sits, have left green splotches on its surface, while activists are concerned the falling water table in Agra may be weakening the wooden foundations of the tomb.

According to the tourism ministry, about 1.2m was spent in the three years to 2016 on conserving the world heritage-listed monument, which generated about 8.8m from ticket sales and tours in that period.

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These 2017 box office stats are a sign of times changing for the better.

The final box office numbers are in from 2017, and there’s one clear takeaway from the top earners.

Women killed it.

For the first time in nearly six decades, the three highest-grossest films in North America all featured women in lead roles, according to The Wrap.

Daisy Ridley starred as Rey in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which has raked in a whopping $530 million domestically to date.

Emma Watson led an all-star cast of “Beauty and the Beast,” which pulled in over $504 million in U.S. theaters.

And Gal Gadot transformed into director Patty Jenkin’s “Wonder Woman,” which earned over $412 million. It’s now the top-grossing live-action movie ever directed by a woman.

The last time women-led films cleaned up in similar fashion was nearly 60 years ago, when Mitzi Gaynor starred in “South Pacific,” Rosalind Russell became “Auntie Mame,” and Elizabeth Taylor inspired fans to turn out for “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

And it’s not all about the money, either — the characters themselves are blazing trails.

Ridley’s lightsaber-wielding Rey is a force to be reckoned with in a film where it’s the men who let their emotions get the better of them. “Wonder Woman’s” feminist message is obvious in just about every plot point throughout the movie. Even Watson’s Belle takes on a more assertive, self-possessed nature than in the original Disney classic.

Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images.

But while these fictional female characters are leading the charge, change for actresses in real life has been slow.

USC’s Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative 2017 report found that, among the year’s top-grossing fiction films, the number of speaking roles for women has remained largely unchanged — and abysmally low — throughout the past decade, Bustle reported.

Hollywood largely remains an old (white, straight, cisgender, abled) boys’ club — with a sexual harassment crisis on its hands, no less. Women-led stories are often overlooked by the producers who have the power to bring those narratives to life on screen. The same can be said for stories about people of color, the LGBTQ community, disabled people, and so many others representing overlooked, marginalized groups.

Yet “The Last Jedi,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Wonder Woman” prove that female-led films can be hugely successful.

It’s not that audiences won’t turn out to see stories about women — it’s that filmmakers are more hesitant to create them in the first place.


Harvey Weinstein and director Steven Spielberg in 2012. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for HFPA.

Change needs to happen from the top down, but just 7% — 7%! — of the top 250 films of 2016 were directed by women. When there are more women in consequential roles behind the camera, the same will be true for the stories told in front of it.

Paul Dergarabedian of ComScore, a media analytics company that collects film earnings, believes 2017 wasn’t an anomaly, though — it was a sign of the changing times.

“It is just a renaissance going on in 2017,” he explained to The Guardian, of the year’s top films. “And now moving into 2018 … female-led movies and movies with female characters at the center of the story have moved front and center in terms of the box office and in terms of critical acclaim.”

Let’s hope so. It shouldn’t take Jedi training to get women-led movies made!

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Fierce row over plans to publish antisemitic texts by French writer Cline

French publisher Gallimard says it will publish 1930s pamphlets by Louis-Ferdinand Cline, who called for extermination of Jews

A fierce row has erupted in Paris after a major publisher announced it would produce a new collection of the violently antisemitic hate pamphlets by novelist Louis-Ferdinand Cline.

French publishing house Gallimard has insisted it will go ahead with the publication of the 1,000-page collection of 1930s pamphlets by Cline, who called for the extermination of Jews. The publication date is not set but Gallimard has insisted its intention is to frame the texts and put them back in their context as writings of a great violence, marked by the antisemitic hatred of the author.

But Serge Klarsfeld, the celebrated French lawyer and Nazi-hunter who was hidden from Nazis in Nice as a child during the occupation, has demanded the publication be stopped, threatening legal action if Gallimard continues.

Cline continues to be hailed as one of Frances most brilliant writers for his 1932 novel Journey to the End of the Night, regarded as one of the greatest French works of the 20th century. But his reputation has been tarnished by his rabid, antisemitic, pro-Hitler wartime pamphlets.

Aided by the French collaborationist Vichy government, German authorities deported about 78,000 French Jews to death camps during the occupation from 1940 to 1944. Cline fled France at the time of the Normandy landings in 1944 and was later sentenced for collaboration in his absence, was spared prison and was able to return France.

When Gallimard was reported to be about to publish the collection of Clines anti-semitic writings this spring, the government stepped in. The prime ministers delegation in charge of fighting racism, anti-semitism and anti-LGBT hatred last month made the rare move of summoning the publisher. It urged it to include, in any new edition of three anti-semitic texts written between 1937 and 1941, notes giving the full context drawn up by specialists, including historians. The editor is understood to have rejected this, claiming that notes by a literary expert on Cline would suffice.

Then Klarsfeld, who founded the group Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees from France, stepped in to demand publication be stopped.

Klarsfeld who previously called Cline the most antisemitic Frenchman of his day, said his pamphlets had influenced a whole generation of collaborationists that sent French Jews to their deaths. Although the lawyer supported historians studying the texts, he said that presenting a shiny new edition of Clines abject writing in bookshops would be intolerable and no amount of footnotes could temper that.

The pamphlets have been out of print since 1945 and Cline, who died in 1961, had said he didnt want them re-issued. But his widow, now aged 105, recently U-turned and signed over the rights.

A furious row has raged in literary circles between those for and against publication. The literature professor Henri Godard argued that brushing the pamphlets under the carpet would create an unhealthy situation and it was better for readers to be aware of and critically assess them as full published texts. Some argued that pirate editions were available for sale or online and that Gallimard was seeking to publish in France a collected volume already produced in Quebec, Canada in 2012 although Le Monde warned that the Canadian editions notes were insufficient.

The historian Pascal Ory argued: We have to confront these texts directly armed with scientific criticism, otherwise they would be online with no context.

But others shot back, saying the repackaging of Clines violent anti-semitic texts by a major publisher like Gallimard would give them a veneer of respectability and could white-wash Clines role in the war.

Although Adolf Hitlers Mein Kampf is being reprinted in France in March, some historians have said there is a vast gulf between a historic document like that and Clines rambling hatred.

Four historians wrote a furious opinion piece in the Nouvel Obs magazine arguing that any footnotes were unlikely to be consulted much and that the exercise risked at best voyeurism, at worst nostalgia, or the sanctification of appeals to murder wrapped up in a chocolate box of prestige.

Some politicians on the left joined Klarsfeld in saying that because courts have acted against far-right writers as well as French comedian Dieudonn Mbala Mbala for antisemitic comments, it was untenable to then allow a major literary publisher to re-issue antisemitic texts.

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Frances Hardinge: I can try axe-throwing or canoeing and it could be research

The Costa award-winning author of The Lie Tree on why she has Nerf guns in her study and how the writing life is both isolating and liberating

Describing my typical writing day would be a lot easier if I actually had one. Whenever Im asked what hours I work, I explain that I aim for nine to five and miss. The degree to which I miss varies wildly.

This isnt a deliberate strategy. I have great respect for authors who keep to a rigid schedule, and turn out the same number of words each day. (One such writer has promised that, after their demise, I can eat their brain in the hope of gaining this particular superpower.)

For the little its worth, heres the blueprint for my writing day: I rise early, gallop enthusiastically to the gym, return to clear all outstanding emails, then work diligently until evening, at which point I clock off, sleekly complacent with the progress I have made.

Most actual days bear no resemblance to this whatsoever. When my partners alarm goes off in the morning, I drag myself out of bed, with all the grace and good humour of a lobefin hauling itself over jagged shingle. I appear to be naturally nocturnal, but I try very hard to stay diurnal, so that I can interact with the adult world in a vaguely useful fashion.

Sometimes I have to fling on clothes and rush straight out. For a breed of introverts, writers seem to spend a lot of time appearing on panels, being interviewed, making keynote speeches and even stammering answers on radio or TV. Its a life full of strange contrasts. One day Im standing on a stage in front of a whole school or a literary festival crowd, the next Im alone in my kitchen, laying out a Post-it note timeline for my story, and shouting at it when it doesnt work.

Even when Im at home all day, my productivity varies wildly. If I have a muse, she apparently has to be bribed with heart-juddering quantities of caffeine, then bludgeoned with deadlines. Writers groups keep me relatively honest the day Im due to show work to my group, Im suddenly a lot more productive. When the submission deadline for a book looms, I go into panicky overdrive. For weeks I work past 2am each night, sometimes as late as 5am.

I usually write in my study, which doubles as a store room. Water pistols and Nerf guns hang from the hooks on the door. All the bookshelves are full, and there are so many boxes of books piled on the floor and furniture that I sometimes worry about the floor giving way. One of the cupboard handles is festooned with brightly coloured lanyards from book festivals and conventions.

To silence the siren call of Twitter, I often turn off our internet. I seldom listen to music, unless I associate a particular song or album with the book, in which case Ive been known to listen to the same track on a loop for days. (My partner has bought me some very good headphones to preserve his sanity.)

A fulltime writing job can bleed into evenings and weekends, but the flip-side of that is the freedom. If its a beautiful day and Im getting nowhere, I can drop everything and go for a 10-mile walk, untangling the plot knots in my head as I go. Were a stones throw from the Thames path, and only a couple of miles from Richmond Park. Its a curiously green part of the city. Herons nest on the little river islands, feral parakeets flock and chatter, and for a while our lawn had a dead patch because a fox kept curling up there to sunbathe.

Theres also nothing to stop me visiting the heart of London during its weekday lulls, or meeting other authors for tea or expeditions. A writers job is isolating by its nature, and breaking up my day helps to stave off stir craziness. I can visit strange places on impulse, and try new things falconry, axe-throwing, canoeing etc. Any of this might turn out to be research.

I always know that Ill have to make up the hours, and that the frantic late-night writing sessions await, but it feels like a waste not to make use of my freedom. After all, if I wanted a steady, sensible job where every day was the same, Id probably be doing something else.

In brief

Hours: between two and 17
Words: between seven and 7,000
Refreshments: between two and six cups of tea, strong enough to arm-wrestle
Times Ive turned on the internet to research something and ended up on Twitter: four

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge is published by Macmillan.

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