'In Another Light' (by Andrew Greig)


Andrew Greig, In Another Light

Eddie Mackay in In Another Light was my second engineer narrator (first being in Electric Brae). I’ve always admired those who combine theoretical knowledge with practical effect in the physical world (my two brothers are a forester and a geologist respectively). I like my protagonists to have a job and be grounded in and by it. Living part of the year in Stromness these last 20 years, making him a research engineer in renewables was pretty inevitable. It is a big deal to us there, being a significant employer via the ICIT Heriot Watt outpost, plus the various engineering firms involved in escalating R&D.

International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT), Stromness

Ideologically, I am a fan of renewables, and the wave and tidal ones seemed particularly interesting and natural to Orkney. At least as significant, it was an outstanding natural metaphor to the underlying existential quest of this and much of my writing – to be renewed.

This some 10 years ago now. I walked up to the ICIT offices, asked about and found a very helpful lecturer and research engineer. I outlined my interests and needs, said I was a fiction writer and needed enough material to be convincing, and also to not make basic mistakes, and ideally draw more attention to the possibilities growing right here. He was great about it, and gave me with his colleague's agreement a draft report on the current state of research and development of both the engineering aspects and challenges of wave and tidal, and the ecological effects if any.

So for that brief while, I was slightly ahead of public knowledge! And it gave me plot developments, and a whole new metaphor when I drew on the computer-generated patterning research for waves, and imagined that re-jigged as music. Not the sound of the sea, but the sound of the shape of the sea.

still from a video showing a single tidal cycle of the Pentland Firth
International Centre for Island Technology

I wish someone would go ahead and do this – think it could produce astonishing music, a cross-fertilisation of the endless ‘chaotic’ patterning of the natural world, and the mad-made, the computer-aided. I hope someone may yet do it!

Since that book, the renewables research and projects in and around Orkney have grown remarkably, and I am very pleased and excited about it.

Andrew Grieg
August 2011


Andrew Greig

ICIT Heriot Watt

In Another Light

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