Feature: Choosing Your Heroes Wisely

Dream-London-1British author Tony Ballantyne’s new novel Dream London is published this week by Solaris, set in a capital city whose shape and people are constantly changing – and from which it seems impossible to escape. Captain Jim Wedderburn has “looks, style and courage by the bucketful” – but is that enough to make him a hero, his creator wonders…

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The people of Dream London look to figures such as Captain Wedderburn to be their heroes. They’re fools in their choice, a fault that I think that we’re all prone to.

Actually, if Dream London has a hero, it would be Anna, the teenage daughter of the Sinfields, Captain Wedderburn’s hosts for the time of the book. Anna appears to have nothing more than a supporting role in the story, the highest role that Dream London assigns to women of any age. So what if she wants to study Maths and Physics? That’s no career for a woman in Dream London, because there are no careers for women in Dream London.

Why make Anna the hero?

Because I like teenagers. I’ve been a teacher for over twenty years, and I think that teenagers get a rough deal, more so today then ever. They grow up in a world where they are expected to live every moment to the full, and I think that’s an awful thing to wish on anyone. When I grew up my friends wanted to be actors, footballers, pop stars – even writers. At the age of 16, 17, 18 we still had those dreams. Now, due to hothousing, the cult of youth and the growth of communications they can see people their age succeeding at the age of 13 and 14. Teenagers can see themselves as failures before they have even started to work towards their ambitions.

Worse, though, are the attitudes displayed towards them. Yes, I’ve met a few arseholes, but that’s true of people of people of all ages. The vast majority of teenagers I’ve known and worked with are hardworking, ambitious and considerate. The way the media chooses to portray them as lazy hooligans is annoying, but only annoying. The media is there to make money, it simply reflects what society will pay to see.

What really appals me is the way teenagers have been treated by successive governments. Their education has been turned into a political football: they study hard for exams only to be told that their good results are down to the fact that exams are far easier nowadays. I pity any child who achieves a string of As as they are told that it’s down to grade inflation. Worse though is any child who achieves less. They’re being told that they’re really stupid.

Teenagers are being made to pay for university degrees in subjects that, when they graduate, are deemed to be of no use. They’re then chastised for not having enrolled on a proper course.

After all that they discover there aren’t enough jobs for them as they’re being left to pay for the monumental f***-up perpetrated by the bankers and governments. And then the final insult: to be told that they’re a lazy ungrateful parasite if they don’t accept a work experience placement stacking shelves in Tesco with the dim possibility of a 0% contract job if they keep their nose clean.

So, yes. The real hero of Dream London is a teenage girl. She’s decent, hard working and wants to do what’s best for everyone, but she’s largely forgotten in the story: we’re all too busy gazing at Captain James Wedderburn. He looks like a real hero.

Click here to order Dream London from Amazon.co.uk

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  1. Pingback: Dream London Blog Tour | Tony Ballantyne - September 29, 2014

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