Monthly Archives: September 2014

God-scale in Scotland

I’ve a short story on Daily Science Fiction (top notch site) – the timing is excellent, as I’ve been in Edinburgh, and was thinking of Edinburgh when I wrote it.

I can’t go three paces in Edinburgh without a gob-smacking view. Vertiginous drops to leafy ravines. Surely-that’s-masonic church spires. The big stone slab of Arthur’s Seat, jutting as though it’s just been pushed up by a terrifying force. And if you’re lucky, and it’s not foggy, there’s a sharp delicious light on everything.

Views can have amazing emotional impact. I’m often wary of them, when they’re man-made – it takes a fair bit of money to own a house, but it take a troubling amount to engineer a vista. You pretty much have to own everything from the place you stand to the skyline. As a child, I was lucky to visit Stourhead Gardens a lot. Check it out:


Big views, big money. Not necessarily used destructively (there’s some interesting architecture, and some amazing plants which wouldn’t otherwise have been brought into the country). But it’s an extraordinary thing to take a chunk of the West of England and say ‘It would be nice if it looked more Italian‘. It reminded me when young of Edith Nesbit’s The Enchanted Castle, and I still feel like an awestruck child when I visit.

Edinburgh is full of butter-coloured buildings of incredible size. They’re not created out of altruism (as far as I can tell, the New Town was built because of commercial opportunism, the Age of Enlightenment and hardcore plumbing malfunctions). They’re huge – but they don’t make me feel small. Instead, I feel I’m being honoured and given the red carpet treatment. Other places which are similarly large make me feel tiny, scurrying and unwelcome. I don’t know what flips that switch, for me. 

My story is, in part, about big buildings, and spectacular vistas, and the difference it makes if you think they were made for you. 

(Stourhead image thanks to Lechona at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons)


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