aloc::, both the novel and the series, was initially conceived as a rescue thriller when I was eighteen and should have been studying. For twenty years, as I repeatedly tried and failed to gain the support of an agent or publisher, I constantly revisited what it was about and as different things become different priorities as we grow older, what the story was about evolved over time. Always, however, whether I wanted it to or not, the words sought to explore my identity and save me from myself.

‘The Square of Being,’ presented itself as a glimmer of light in the dark loneliness of my early twenties.

At the time I was single and had fallen in to the, ‘nice girls only like horrible men,’ trap. I thought myself a relatively good catch and simply couldn’t bring myself to understand why girls weren’t beating down my door. The cruelty of truth did eventually track me down, but that’s a story for a different time. I did, though, manage to harvest some productively from the shadowlands within. I spent months in unguided, unsupervised and unwise deconstruction of myself, desperately and ultimately unsuccessfully trying to isolate the most fundamental aspects of my personality so that I might change them and find a girlfriend.

To mediate with mirrors is dangerous if you are not your own true friend.

The Square of Being in aloc:: isn’t the conclusion I made about myself but it is similar. Within the universe of aloc::, all human personalities and thus all civilisation everywhen, are founded on four conceived and invented base principles:


The illusion of and desire to gain or increase power or empowerment. This mainly involves believing in abstract quanta made physical, because the intensity of the power we perceive is relative to the frequency of both usage and discussion. Take as an example, money.

Money exists, it is a real thing. As cash we can hold it in our hands. As a number we can embrace its rise and fall throughout every aspect of our daily lives. But it’s an idea, a promise. A promise to believe and keep believing that value is understood numerically. In the modern world, it’s one of the only promises in which the whole world is equally invested. The one thing we can agree that we understand to mean the same thing everywhere. This is how we measure our loyalty to want.

There was a time, before the ruins, when money wasn’t that useful because there wasn’t much to buy. A time when magic was revered. Whether that reverence was the glory of miracles or prayer, the fear of witchcraft, the healing of sickness, the coming of the summer sun or the uprising of a simple man to topple the greedy trespassing of an unfamiliar people; the investment was in an idea. A promise to believe and keep believing that power is real; that some are more deserving than others. That one thing is measurably better than another thing. That there is a ‘we’ and a ‘them.’

However power and wealth are represented, it is a conceit of faith. A hidden agreement to agree. It is not hunger or thirst but we feel that it is, because without it we feel we cannot eat or drink.

To be unaware of promises made is the first fundamental of being.


The willingness to cluster in more than one hierarchical unit at the same time.

At the time I was first playing with these ideas, I was a senior clinician in the NHS, after my first graduate job which was as a clinical lecturer. Previous to studying podiatry at university I had mainly worked in catering.

In catering I managed my own station but very much answered to the head chef. In education I led the teaching of certain subjects but had a long list of people I answered to (the only people who answered to me were the students and even then only slightly). In the NHS I had a large and complex caseload but I answered to an entire governments worth of supervisors, managers, officials and departments both locally and, by extension, the DoH.

I was lodging with friends where I had my own room and my own kitchen cupboard, but lived in someone-else’s house. I was in a band where I was guitarist and song writer, so creatively in charge but servant to a deformed democracy. Then I’d visit my home town and be a man, a son, a little brother and the youngest child, often all at once.

This, of course, isn’t unusual. To some extent we all live some version of this multiple grouping, but we are never properly taught how and I think this is why sometimes we get it wrong. We find parents or siblings at work or managers at home. Sometimes we resent honouring those with whom we share blood but happily label friends as family, yet let go of them in a way we never would our parents, even when we want to. It bothers me.

I have made friends at work, spent years with people, have become their weekday brother. Intimate secrets and horrors shared, victories lived and strength sponged from failure. Locked in conversation over months about dreams of what may come. But on a works night out, removed from the walls and hunger for procrastination, it’s different. We step into a different reality which they understand and I don’t. I have a poor sensitivity to the relevance of venue. It feels that there is a book of law I have not read.

To adapt and distort yourself to group or circumstance without awareness of choice is the second fundamental of being.

3:. ANGE

The notion that faith will protect against danger. I was a rather frightened child prone to autogenic fears that I was unable to control. Not having the emotional apparatus required to process terror, I would manufacture monsters to personify the fear and would cope by imagining physical boundaries that separated us. Again, not unusual, although my narrative impulse saw me get rather carried away more than once.

One night in my early teens, during a period of desperate study to try and find a true demonology (because I’d decided that this was an easier route to love and far less scary that actually talking to a girl), I found myself in a dark church kneeling before a statue of Mary. Looking up from the floor I sought the time shadows, looking for those who had done the same thing over the centuries. How many hundreds of people had knelt here petitioning benediction through the rubbing of this statue’s foot. I understood practically nothing about physics but I did understand the concept of space-time enough to believe that all moments exist as reality. I was in my ‘now,’ but all the ‘nows’ of my predecessors remained just as real but were untouchable. I had come seeking wisdom from the world-line of god’s floor.

This is not the time for my treatise on the sociology of the occult but I will say that it let me down, frequently. I entered my studies expecting to find power but what I quickly realised was that I was learning about the civilisation of the time. Radler’s exposition on the minibus about witchcraft is very much his understanding and his use of history, but obviously constructed from my own puzzlements. I no longer believe in that kind of magic, but I probably understand more magical theory than I do quantum mechanics. But I believe in physics.

Fear has seen me seek refuge in a catalogue of rule books, all of which were written by other people. My mind searches for protection in things that feel strong and reliable. The faith is mine but the trust in others to work safely with their discoveries and understanding.

To hold faith in something you’ve only ever been told about and live your life in the shadow of teachings is the third fundamental of being.

4:: ERFO


To want and not take; to suffer pain from desire and still glory in that which shines so bright you offer your eyes gladly to be burned, is the forth fundamental of being.