Scribble City Central's fifteenth Fantabulous Friday has a great many Fs in it, courtesy of the Crabbit Old Bat herself, the lovely and inimitable Nicola Morgan. It must be Fate.... Talking of which, this is what I said about Wasted - Nicola's last novel:
"It's a book I wish I'd written myself. Jess and Jack's story is set firmly in the modern day world, but there are ancient echoes within it, echoes which have everything to do with Destiny and Fate and all those things we inhabitants of the 21st century are meant to dismiss as hokum and bunkum, fit only for the feeble-minded and charlatans."
Since I wrote those words, Wasted has been longlisted for the Carnegie Medal, won the Scottish Children’s Book Award, the Coventry “Read it or Else” award and the RED award, been runner-up and Highly Commended in the North East Book Award, and been shortlisted for the Manchester, Grampian, Angus, Southern Schools, Stockport and Salford awards. Has that got anything to do with the Fates? I'd say not - it's down to Nicola's writing talent and fabulous storytelling skills. But the Fates are funny creatures - they turn up in all sorts of unexpected places, so who knows? Anyway, it's clearly my destiny to hand you over to Nicola now to enlighten you on:
F for Fates
Mistresses of Possibility
NM: For me, the Fates epitomise the difference between rationalism and superstition. Believing in them is dangerous. I don’t like them but I find myself drawn to them and I am obsessed by the need to reassure everyone that they do not exist.
They are (not) three women, generally robed in white, haggard and grumpy, and spinning. Spinning your life story in advance.
Where are they from? They appear in many mythologies but the Greek ones are the ones I know. They are generally called the Moirai. They are Clotho, the spinner; Lachesis, the one who decides about lots - I mean lots as in portions or lottery, not as in lots of money; and Atropos, “without turning,” or “inevitable”. And she’s the really dangerous one to believe in, because the only thing inevitable is death and the only thing inevitable about death is that it will happen, but not when or where or how.
They are sometimes confused with the much nastier Furies, whose job it is to punish you for doing all the things you couldn’t avoid doing because the Fates had decided that you would do them.
My last novel, Wasted, never mentions the Fates but their absence is crucial to the book’s philosophy. Wasted is about whether lives have aspects of inevitability, parts that can be foretold. Whether they could be different. This is most explicit in the scene with Fantastic Farantella the Famous Fairgound Fortune-Teller – Your future foretold for a fiver – She can see it coming! Farantella is a charlatan, but even she begins to believe there might be something in her words. And what happens next seeks to pick holes in the claims of fortune-tellers and all those taken in by them.
I first came across the Fates during my childhood when I devoured all stories Greek and Roman. Back then, I didn’t argue about their existence. I even quite liked the idea that my life was set out in advance, as long as it was a long and good and healthy life of course, and, being young, I assumed it would be. But when I got to university and started to study philosophy, including metaphysics, I became quite grumpy about how in thrall we are to Fate. “What will be will be,” etcetera. Well, no actually, not until it is. Of course, there are things we can’t avoid, but not because they are laid down in advance. Causal determinism works only in one direction: forwards. You only have to look at the Oedipus story to know that. (Something else at the heart of Wasted, and explicitly so.) So in Wasted Jess and Jack learn that “everything is possible until it isn’t.”
Most frighteningly, the existence of fate negates free will and if we don’t believe in some free will there’s no point in anything. The trouble is, there’s newish neuroscientific evidence that we may have less free will than we think. The unconscious brain has been shown to act sometimes more than a second before the conscious brain gives the command. Which is freaky.
But that’s still not fate. We are dominated by many forces, but everything is still possible until it isn’t. You’d better believe it….
SCC: I wouldn't dare do anything else, Nicola. Thank you so much, especially for that neuroscientific evidence, which is indeed freaky!
NEXT WEEK: Julia Golding talks about creating her own mythical creature, F for Frost Wolf. See you then!