Good Intentions vs Illusion of Good Intentions

Sarah Udoh-Grossfurthner Interviews Craig Meighan

Craig Meighan compares ‘probable’ mistakes (of God) and deliberate dissembling (of world governments) in his second novel Far, Far Beyond Berlin – a tongue-in-cheek comedic rendition of what if…earth wasn’t God’s first attempt at creating the world?

Craig Meighan compares the ‘probable’ mistakes of God and the ‘deliberate’ dissembling of world governments in his second novel Far, Far Beyond Berlin – a comedic rendition of what if…earth wasn’t God’s first attempt at creating the world?

Q. So, Craig, Far Far Beyond Berlin has quite a deep religious undertone. Still, I was surprised at the reference to Satan as ‘God’s friend,’ especially, considering the Bible’s complete opposite take on the matter. Can I ask why you decided to take this narrative angle?

A. Although the book contains several characters from religion, it is not in/of itself a religious book.  It is a fantasy set in an alternate world and a comedy, so as not to be treated as any serious comment on anything.  

I always considered that Satan and God would have to have some sort of relationship.  If he was allowed to live by God, then he must serve a useful purpose and as the two most powerful beings in the universe it is likely that they would have interactions. Over billions of years, a friendship has developed.  They are very different obviously, but understand each other’s position.

Q. Now, you were a civil servant for many years, right? And were not particularly pleased with the day-to-day grinds of bureaucracy – so we are told. Then I read the blurb of Far Far Beyond Berlin and have to ask. Are you implying that there is a strong correlation between the ‘mess’ in creation, and those seen in the day-to-day workings of a typical government office/bureaucracy?

A. I think there’s definitely a connection in the book about how even a good idea can be corrupted and compromised beyond recognition by simply going through the mill of a bureaucracy.  The difference in the book is that God’s errors are made with the absolute best of intentions, but I would say the opposite about our current government.   

Q. In Far Far Beyond Berlin, the continuation of earth seems to depend on the complete non-disturbance of the ‘portal network’ (the prototype’s of God’s first attempt at earth creating).  When likened to a typical government bureau, what would you say represents these ‘six portal network).   In your opinion, what is/are needed to prevent bad governance from tilting any society towards an abyss of total annihilation?

A. Transparency is a key factor; things have to be public and visible as they are happening. Governments who are allowed to operate in secret have never emerged from those secret rooms with a plan that benefits the people.  Accountability, that’s got to come from free and fair elections, independent regulation and a free press.  I don’t think we have those things fully yet, even if we do have the illusion of some of it. 
Representation is huge.  The poor, working-class communities, people of colour and the LGBTQ community, bear the brunt of most of our government’s bad policies – when you look at their representation at the highest levels of government it is almost non-existent.   

In terms of sliding towards annihilation, I think we’re already on the slopes of it.  It’s not too late, but radical change is required to alter our course.

Sarah. That was an incredibly serious answer for a comedy writer, Craig.

Q. he character, Fate (referenced as possessing an inordinately high temper) has a strong resemblance to Jesus in the Bible – especially in the scene Mathew 21:12 where Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there saying “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer. Is this intentional? If yes, and the character Fate does indeed represent Jesus, how have you managed to make the character believable considering Jesus is also known to be loving, patient and kind?

A. The character Fate’s temper is a much more visceral anger and isn’t justified.  He isn’t a nice person and is the villain of the piece.  He isn’t loving patient or kind, he’s more or less the opposite of Jesus.  He is an angel of death, who has lost his way in a catastrophic fashion.  He’s arrogant, entitled, rash, cold and selfish.  Beyond redemption.

Q. Is there a happy ending in Far Far Beyond Berlin? If yes, do you envisage the same ‘happy ending’ for the earth – especially in light of everything happening in our world right now?

A. My goodness, what a big question. I think I will have to let the readers decide if it’s a happy ending or not, but I certainly consider it to be a hopeful one.

Sarah. Lol! Fair enough. But I ( as am sure all your readers) would still like an answer.

A. Well, here an one from the heart. There are lots of young children in my life at the moment, nieces & nephews and I have close friends with young families. So, I’m going to say yes to a happy ending for Earth.  I’m emotionally invested in them having a future and I’ve got to believe that out of simple self-preservation, people will start to take better care of the environment.  I think some people have learned a lesson this past year about how fragile and precious life on this planet is, maybe it will inspire people to be more responsible.  Myself included.

Sarah. Beautifully put. I couldn’t agree more. Thank you.

Q. Now, we are told you started off with the ambition to become a screenwriter, is there a plan to turn Far Far Beyond Berlin into script someday? Is Far Far Beyond Berlin that kind of book?

I certainly think it could be a film, but I have a slight bias!  I’m not planning to convert it to a script at the moment though.  My mistake in my twenties was spreading myself pretty thin trying to sell scripts, do stand-up, make short films, be in a band and write fiction.  I am going to focus on writing books for now because I love it, I feel like I’m getting good at it and I have a list of ideas I want to get through.  That being said, if someone wants to buy the film rights to Far Far Beyond Berlin, I’d bite their hand off.

Sarah.  Speaking as a writer myself…wouldn’t we all.

Q. Now, one final question before we finish here, please. It is sad that as a prepubescent you had a habit of smashing your computer at the end of every writing session. That must have cost your parents a pretty penny, huh? 

A. I may have exaggerated slightly there!  I did want to be Animal from The Muppets though (and then latterly, Dave Grohl). My parents bought me a drum kit at the age of 11 and allowed me to play after school until 8pm.  I used that full allowance of time almost every night.  As an adult who enjoys a quiet house, I now can’t get over what a lovely thing they did for me then.  I had a passion and even though it was deafening and disruptive they encouraged it.  It’s still one of my absolute favourite things to do, but I take very good care of my gear now. 
I didn’t really smash my computer, but I have certainly wanted to many, many times!

Sarah. Again, as a writer, Craig…we all have, believe me. Thank you very much for your time, and for the well-thought-out answers. I and your readers wish you the very best with Far, Far Beyond Berlin.

Far Far Beyond Berlin Excerpt

‘Sonia was still peeking from behind a rock, but the scene in front of her had rapidly changed.  The man with the horn was now standing in frozen salute.  A whole party of the oddest-looking people she had ever seen had stepped through the hatch and were now gathered kneeling in front of what she could only assume was their leader.  He too, was a somewhat different looking fellow.

He stood on a rock and was preparing to address the gathered landing party.  The first thing to mention was the hat.  The hat was an incredible thing.  It was made of thousands of reels of interwoven fabric.  It was three feet high, two feet wide and featured every colour on the spectrum.  If it been sold in some eBay store on Earth, they might have categorised it as a Fluorescent Mega Rainbow Turban.  

He had twelve eyes.  That was actually probably the first thing to mention.  The hat was amazing, but the twelve eyes were the big, big clue that something strange was going on.‘ 


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About the Author

Craig Meighan was born in Lanarkshire, in central Scotland. Both a keen drummer and a fan of science fiction, he grew up wanting to be either Animal from The Muppets or Douglas Adams. This has led to an unfortunate habit of smashing up his computer at the end of each writing session.

  With the ambition of becoming a screenwriter, he attended film college in Glasgow. He spent a short time making corporate videos and then after attending one chance meeting, he accidentally joined the civil service. Intending to stay for one summer, he ended up staying for 12 years (so think carefully before inviting him round for tea).

  He is too polite to say which of the killer robots, demons and other assorted antagonists that appear in his book, are based on his interactions with actual government ministers.

  His first novel, Far Far Beyond Berlin, was written in the evenings, after work, every day for a year, at the end of which time his wife Jen convinced him it was time to finally leave the safety of the office job and pursue writing full-time. She cunningly incentivised him by promising that if he managed to get his book published, he could get a big dog.

  Craig lives with Jen, just outside Glasgow, where they like to play softball, enter pub quizzes and do escape rooms. He is delighted to announce that they are expecting a greyhound.

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