MY INTERGALACTIC HIGHS
FOR most people, writing a novel is the ultimate test of the imagination – but Keynsham science fiction writer, Stuart Olds, says his debut novel simply arrived in his head "in one big lump".
"It was as if something downloaded into my brain in a single moment," the 40-year-old says. "The entire story was there – spanning 4,000 years. I could see every scene mapped out in pictures. I knew all I had to do was to sit down and start writing it."
For Stuart it was the most profound "manic" moment in a life punctuated by bouts of manic-depression, or bipolar.
"I think I've probably always had my bipolar condition, though I was only properly diagnosed eight years ago. But I remember having periods of deep depression from being as young as seven or eight.
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"The depressions are dark. Very dark," he admits. "There have been times when I've stood on the precipice – and at those times you can fully understand how people feel despondent enough to take their own lives.
"But then in contrast, I have the manic periods – and they're brilliant. It's like living through a period of heightened reality, when anything seems possible.
"I have enormous outpourings of creative activity that can last for days."
It's these periods of supersonic creativity that explain how Stuart can produce a complex science fiction novel, despite being married with four children and having a busy career as a freelance contract carpenter.
"On one occasion, I was awake for nine days and nights, before the manic period passed," he says.
Cold Truth, his debut novel, which comes out at the end of next month, is described by his publishers, Tricorn Books, as "eco sci fi".
"It tells the story of an Earth-like planet, where the inhabitants use-up all their natural resources, despite having developed powerfully sophisticated technology.
"A spaceship is dispatched on a mission to find an alternative home for the race, and they discover our Earth 4,000 years ago," he says.
Moving on to present day, as the alien species prepares for its full relocation to our planet, they prove they're in a position to teach humans how to better care for our own natural resources.
"There are three main ideas that appear in the book, which I actually think could be used in real life," Stuart says.
"I think we could tackle global warming by placing enormous parasol-shaped satellites in orbit, to cast shadows on the planet.
"Rising sea levels could be tackled by flooding the water tables beneath the deserts, with a membrane being placed over the ground to trap the moisture and prevent it from simply evaporating back into the water chain."
Stuart's third big idea in the novel is to reduce deforestation in the rainforests by developing enormous undercover cattle farms in South America, rather than allowing land to be cleared for grazing – financed by the profits of supermarkets and burger chains.
Now Stuart is preparing a period of self-promotion, to push the book, which is even incorporating his carpentry skills into the process.
"I'm planning to build a special advertising trailer, with a 5ft-high copy of the book made from wood," he says. "I'm then going to drive it around the city to let people know that the book is out there.
"Publishing is such a competitive industry, you really do have to find innovative ways of getting your name known out there.
"I believe the book has an important moral message behind it. We are developing technologies so powerful that we will soon be totally reliant on them.
"No matter how righteous the human race thinks it is, we are greedy. We need to find suitable, sustainable ways to act, before it is too late."
● Cold Truth, by Stuart Olds, is published by Tricorn Books at the end of next month, priced £8.99.