Like they do on the discovery channel

THE WRITER’S LIFE

brain-made-of-hands

<Image source: Hermetichealth.me>

I love discovery and exploration; I enjoy learning about new things and forming opinions. I’ve decided to stay away from the whole referendum debate online, as it’s simply too toxic. Although I like a debate and maintain an open mind, the Leave side – for the most part – are just too blinkered and I don’t want to get into an unresolvable conflict. I was right when I predicted that the whole thing would get even more divisive after the vote.

I didn’t agree with the result because I thought it was wrong. I voted to remain in Europe for many reasons but the whole referendum should never have happened. But it did, so we all have to accept that. I’m more for unity than divisiveness, so I’m not letting the result be my enemy. As with so many things, I’ll find positives. I hope the country as a whole can re-unite under whatever new circumstances we find ourselves in.

It’s becoming clear that the Leave campaign was full of lies; Leave voters are having regrets and many have said that it was a protest vote and they weren’t expecting to win. Neither were Johnson and Gove by the looks of it. When leavers find there’s no money and none of the promised exodus, that it was all lies, where does their wrath turn next? Already there is unrest and people feel unwelcome in this country. Whatever happens, we have permanently damaged our image as a nation. It was supposed to be a dialogue about free trade. Instead it became a national feud over immigration. Corrosive campaigning has exposed a fractured society a world away from the inclusive nation we thought we were.

As a fiction writer, I’m having fun looking at all of the possible scenarios which could emerge from this mess. Some are apocalyptic, while others are more hopeful. I hope there’s milage in the “Cameron Theory” posited at the weekend; The referendum could legally be declared void; Scotland could veto Brexit: There are many scenarios, including one where both sides jointly agree that it was a mistake and where Leave admit that they misled their voters. Then perhaps we can begin the more constructive dialogue and learn some lessons.

I’ll be watching England’s game against Iceland in Euro 2016 tonight and hoping that our fans aren’t an embarrassment. I’ll wonder at all of the nations represented in the tournament and how relative freedom of movement around the continent facilitated them being there. I’ll be looking at the players on both teams and marvelling at the diversity. I’ll be proud of England and how the national team – of different colours and creeds – work as a single unit. A part of me will be cheering on Iceland because some English do like an underdog and I’ve been reading a lot about the recent evolution of football over there. I’d imagine about 93% of the rest of the world will be supporting Iceland too.

And from Iceland to Tesco: I’ve always referred to them as a necessary evil but they’ve become a friend now. A week in and I have no regrets about giving up meat. I doubted I would, based on my reasoning, that the animals I’d been eating were autonomous, self-determining beings. They have a conscience, just like me. I didn’t see how I could have the right to consume another being. Neither do I think I have a right to rear other beings for my own consumption. So vegetarian is now a permanent fixture on my list of -isms and I am well catered for at Tesco, with the variety of vegetarian food which they stock. Yes, I know it could be better: There could be a permanent farmers’ market in the village instead of once a month but it wouldn’t be existentially sustainable. So I accept compromise and find the positives. I had a nice conversation with the Sunday girl yesterday too.

At the moment I’m still in discovery of the vegetarian world, its many flavours and how to combine them. It’s a fun learning curve and there’s some very tasty food coming out of the vegetarian kitchen at Le Studio Chez Moi. Although I shan’t preach in the real world, my new-found appreciation of nonhuman animals, their rights and my morals, have given me some interesting things to explore in fiction. At the moment, besides the books, I’m writing a long short story (about 6000 words) with a working title of The Intergalactic Typewriter: It’s a fairly light hearted contemporary sci-fi, probably destined for a ‘zine market because it’s just a fun story which I’m enjoying writing. And I like to spread some joy.

Let’s do it, whatever it is.

The unfinished literary agency

FICTION

Why

(Image source: Pinterest)

The Unfinished literary agency was like no other that I’d worked for. In all my years of writing, I’d simply not heard of them. The first I’d ever heard of them was when I received a letter on headed paper. It was a rather fine letterhead: an off-white recycled stock, with the agency’s details die-stamped in blue ink. Intriguingly, the telephone number was prefixed “01”: an old, old London number. The letter said that they had some unfinished work which they would like me to complete: I had been summonsed by – or from – the past. I had neither the time nor the inclination to visit them in person, although I did some research and found that the agency was above Hotblack Desiato’s office in Islington.

It was a hot summer afternoon when my friends found the diaries. Just in time too, as it had begun to rain and the smell of wet dust filled the air as water hit arid pavements. The diaries were in a battered green skip, outside a building which was being demolished.

There were 126 volumes in all. Some were faux leather-bound journals, some A5 refill pads and even a few school exercise books. Most were stuffed into boxes; one once filled with Xerox toner cartridges. Other books were thrown in amongst the bricks and debris from the building. They weren’t numbered or dated, so I had no way of arranging them into chronological order. They simply sat in boxes in the order they’d been retrieved from the skip by Jasper and Mole.

One journal almost audibly begged to be read, with its lurid New York taxi yellow cover. As I picked it up, it felt like I held a life in my hand, or at least a part of one. In bold, black letters on the front cover was the legend: “I hope these are found when I’m gone. Within these covers, a heart once beat.” There was no hint as to who the author might have been: The writer was simply “I”. “I” had seemingly lived and died there, in Upper Street N1, then been thrown into a skip.

I was working on another project at the time, ghost writing an autobiography. I was a blogger by trade and I surely didn’t have time to read through 126 volumes of someone else’s life. What was I to do? Hand the books into the police and be laughed at? After a period of time, the diaries would be destroyed if no-one had claimed them, or returned to me. Would I really miss the tatty old boxes cluttering up my studio? That life in the skip had already passed. What were my friends to have done if they’d not pulled the journals from the skip though? To leave them there would surely have been criminal. So I kept them, as they’d been dumped in my studio. Jasper suggested I might like to write about the anonymous life found in a skip. As a fiction writer, I could be a biographer who didn’t have a clue about who their subject was. I’d get around to them eventually.

Two terrible things happened in the month that followed: Mole, ironically, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and began an intensive course of chemotherapy; Jasper was killed, suddenly and for no apparent reason. Everything can change in a moment, without warning and forever. For several weeks afterwards, I looked at the journals in their boxes and wondered how I’d feel as I read them. They represented a time when all was well, when Mole and Jasper had found them. Perhaps I ought to leave things that way.

The journals languished in their boxes for a year before I finally started to read them. I’d resisted before because I knew that my inquisitive nature would turn the books into a personal mission: who wrote them? Who was “I”? Eventually curiosity got the better of me and I began to read. The journals provided a link to Mole and Jasper. To be honest, I needed an escape into someone else’s life.

It wasn’t the yellow taxi volume I picked up first. The one I started to read was an anonymous black book, much like most of the others, and chosen at random. It started in the middle of a sentence: “…I’m bleeding. I’ve been stabbed. My blood is everywhere…”

I didn’t know who I was reading about and that anonymity meant that each sentence was a story in itself: Who was this? Why was he bleeding? What on earth had happened? Despite the fact that he was bleeding, the writer continued with sufficient clarity as to maintain a tidy style of handwriting: the individual letters were scribed with care; grammar and punctuation were perfect. He just carried on. Occasionally there were dates: days and months but not years. Sometimes the writing referred to events which I could attach approximate dates to – mentions of news events and programmes on TV – but still, there were 125 more volumes to comb through.

Eventually I pieced sufficient volumes together to work out that the stabbing incident had occurred when “I” was 14. But when was this? How had a 14-year-old boy been stabbed and what were the consequences? With no means of knowing which journal to read next, I was drawn into the story: I may have to read all of the volumes to fit things together. There is no recording of the time of day that the stabbing happened. The volume I was reading could even be the last: “I” could have died aged 14.

The text in that particular volume became gradually more rushed. Words clashed with the edges of pages as they hit. The author was trying to fit as much in as possible before the pages – or time – ran out. I was just skimming; hoping to find out. Maybe I should hand these diaries in to the police after all? But “I” hadn’t. It were as though he’d entrusted all of this information to the journals and my job now seemed to be one of unravelling, in private.

I managed to find the volume which followed the book of the bloodshed. I realised that the easiest way to achieve this was to look at just the first page of each notebook: I was simply looking for a sentence which began part way through, because the last page of the bloodshed book ended mid-sentence, with I “…bleeding from my insides, spilling my guts for all to see. How am I to explain something which I don’t understand but which has nonetheless happened? I feel light headed, like the blood is draining from my brain and pouring from the same exit wound…”

And that’s where it ended. He’d bled through a whole volume. An exit wound? Had he been shot? Is this why he couldn’t go to the police? Was this the last chapter? I longed for “I” to take me further. I don’t recall how many first pages I read but the one that stopped me was the one which began, “…and all because of my sex.” Was he homosexual? It mattered not a jot but it was the only thing I could think of.

As I read further, the river of blood slowed to a trickle and was eventually stemmed. Perhaps if I’d been less presumptuous, I’d have realised sooner that the poor young lad had been having his period. He was a girl.

Why wouldn’t I want to pry around a teenage girl’s intimate thoughts? The diaries became more than curios from then. No longer was it just a mystery thriller; now it was eroticism. I had metaphorically tasted virginal, vaginal teenage blood. Now I had an angry angel. I wanted to know who this young writer was, why she had died and been thrown away.

I continued to read the journals in the same random order: just as they’d ordered themselves when they were dumped, as though that was the way the writer had intended. Perhaps I was over romanticising. “I” described things in a way which made me wonder if she ever expected or wanted anyone else to hear about them. But it was manna to a voyeuristic fiction writer with an anonymous autobiography at my disposal.

Although “I” was now a girl, I still didn’t have a name. In a way, I preferred it like that: the anonymity gave the diaries a universality. They were impersonal, so as to reduce the voyeurism a little, and yet “I” wrote of intensely personal things. I figured it was okay to write about these things because she didn’t want her name to be known.

Nothing is certain. That’s the number one cancer cliche. 18 months after Mole’s first course of chemotherapy, the tumours returned. It was difficult to tell which was murdering him quicker: nature or medicine.

My focus now was to try to establish some kind of time line. If I committed to reading all of the journals in detail, I should be able to use the clues I’d previously identified to string things in some rough order. This became an obsession, as I read more and more intimate parts of this girl’s writing. I could almost hear her voice as her pen strokes betrayed her mood. She was always alternately angry and hurried when she wrote of her father. He taunted her regularly, verbally and physically assaulted her. I had to relive episodes with her over and over again, as I placed things in order.

It was her father who shattered one of the biggest illusions for me. Up to that point, I had no idea what “I” looked like but I had imagined her: She was of course small, slim, blonde and extraordinarily pretty. She wore her hair in a pony tail for school and let it down when she got home. She’d sit in front of a mirror and describe herself in her father’s words in her diary: “I’m fat and ugly. I’m useless at everything and never get anything right. I’m stupid and weak. I’ll never amount to anything in my life. When I die – which will hopefully be soon – my epitaph will read: ‘Here lies Vicky Francis, who did nothing, went nowhere and was loved by nobody.’”

Vicky.

I missed the nameless girl of my imaginings. I’d been robbed of my floating abstract, now squeezed into a finite thing. I’d liked this girl with no name, whose every feature was of my own design. I enjoyed her clumsiness, her irrational moments and her occasional desires for outbursts of violence. So what if she was called Vicky?

Vicky had been to many places. In the mid 1970s, she was living with her father in London. From social and current affairs of the time when she wrote, I worked out that she was in her early 20s by then. There seemed to be no-one besides her and the old man and he was drunk most of the time. Vicky paid the bills with cleaning jobs and bar work. The more I read, the more the story changed in itself and the expectations of the reader. It gained greater depth and breadth as first Vicky’s appearance was revealed, then her name. Now it took on some of the period piece, with the addition of a place and time in history: 1970s London, Soho in fact.

Vicky wrote of the seedy Soho of legend in salacious detail: encounters with pimps, prostitutes, punters, gangsters and drug dealers; Hostess bars and clip joints: she didn’t say if she worked in any of them but she wrote with an intimate familiarity, as though she worked around them. She had wild and ambitious plans and was in a hurry to record them in her diary. Some days and hours were dozens of pages long. Vicky would record one day in minute-by-minute detail, then say nothing for a week. I missed her when she was away and would search for the next entry in the journals.

In the little spare time she had, Vicky was working on a project: a biography in fact. She didn’t name her subject but I should like to learn more of him for the basis of a fictional character. The man was a monster: Some kind of tutor but he abused his students when they got things wrong. He was apparently in a permanent drunken state, unable to remember his abuse on the morning after the day before. Very little more is written of this man. Like with so much else with Vicky, once she gets her teeth into something, she disappears while she pursues it. Perhaps it would be dangerous for her to document the details.

In Vicky’s story, this older man was a full 30 years older than her main protagonist. Her character is also 14. The man has much in common with Vicky’s father but he doesn’t abuse her directly. The tutor allowed a young girl’s adulation to get out of hand. Vicky’s father demolished her confidence and ruined her ambitions, over a period of at least a decade. It was an intense and abusive period in her life.

After 1985, the story became vague. The content of the diaries grew gradually more sketchy, as though an outside influence was distracting Vicky, or indeed the character she was writing about: the stories had merged together.

Toward what now appeared to be the end, when Vicky was in her 30s, she was homeless. She was scavenging food from supermarket bins and using a single hob to cook. A typical meal was the one she cooked herself for her birthday that year: an out-of-date chicken madras microwave ready meal, which she over-cooked “to make it a bit safer.”

Mole was nearing the end of his time too. He implored me to step back a little, to stop reading the 126 books so intently and focus – as I was supposed to – on putting them into some sort of order; to form a backbone for the story, then add the bones and fill in the gaps. Maybe then it would take on life. I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I needed to see the whole of Vicky and not selected highlights of her eventful life. I suppose I’d resisted because so many of my assumptions about Vicky had been false. How many others were?

I hope I die as peacefully as Mole did. The sudden but not unexpected ending of one life shone a light into the gaps of the one I was writing about. Vicky revealed a secret so massive that I was momentarily thrown and yet she didn’t write a word about it. After plotting a timeline of the period of her life which I held, I realised what a small part it was. The late 1970s, the whole of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s were missing. Those stories from 1995 still seemed to be the end though.

I estimated that the 126 volumes I’d still only skimmed over, amounted to about 15,000 pages, or 5 million words. Using that as a benchmark for number of words per year and knowing roughly the period of Vicky’s life which I knew about, I calculated the size of the diaries including the missing years. Using this very crude method, I reckoned that there could be close to 1000 journals somewhere: 40 million words, waiting to be heard. Vicky was a very prolific diarist and it would be a lifetime’s work for a biographer to record her life. In which case, a partly remarkable life is lost. And so I had to continue.

But how would I find all of those missing years? Why were there only edited highlights in the skip? I couldn’t believe that Vicky would have stopped for those periods. She always found time to write, whatever she was doing otherwise. If she’d married or got a job, she’d have written about it. It wasn’t so much the sudden ending of the diaries which intrigued me as those big gaps in the narrative. A life which was missing the 80s was a tragedy. Vicky came back afterwards, so where had she been in that defining decade? As a fiction writer, I could fill in the gaps but there was too much of the real story holding me.

I simply couldn’t think where those missing years might be. I didn’t even know exactly where Jasper and Mole recovered the original diaries from because at the time, I’d been so wrapped up in my own world that I’d not bothered to collect them myself. I hadn’t even thought to fucking ask. I’d lost my two best friends, and the one who confided her diaries to me. So I returned to being a fiction writer.

I resolved to confront this man, these men, the people in general, who had made Vicky’s life, so many lives, intolerable. I’d written about many such people: Evil but charismatic; the antagonists in my stories sometimes, but more often than not, the narrators. People who charmed their way into lives, leaving indelible marks. Characters so calculating as to ensure those scars were only on the inside: no-one could see the real harm. Characters whom I’d made anti-heroes and whose appealing looks and personality disguised a black heart. Invisible people.

Just as it is impossible to find someone if you don’t know where they are, it’s easy if you know who you’re looking for. Not only did I know who he was but I knew exactly where to find him.

We had a very pleasant evening together and I was seated at this very writing desk as I poured our last drink. In fact, this very manuscript of Vicky’s and so many others’ unfinished stories, was protruding from the top of my typewriter as I looked through the open curtains in front of the desk, out into the night at the street lamps. A sheet of off-white paper, bearing an unfinished story, the end of which would be determined by me, as I pressed the keys and the individual letters embossed themselves on the sheet. One keystroke, a metallic hammer into a soft surface, changing the story forever.

I stared back at myself from the window as I typed and reflected on such a tragic life, like a rabbit in the headlights:

“The end…

Could I get that Chesterfield now?

THE WRITER’S LIFE

True romance

(Image source: True Romance)

Since dealing with the thing which ought to have occupied more focussed minds – The EU Referendum – and voting (for many reasons) to remain, and agreeing to differ with some of my more simian friends, my mind has been concerned with other things. Cooking vegetarian meals has been one of them, now that I’m part eggplant.

It’s been three days: early. But I went into this after a lot of internal debate and research and that’s why I won’t (can’t) turn back. Part of the reason I am so opinionated is manifold in itself: In order to be of the strong opinions that I am on so many things, I have looked at all arguments in some depth. I undertake a lot of research for writing projects, whether they be fiction or non-fiction. Once I plant myself in any particular position, it’s because I’m convinced to an extent that I can enter into an educated debate which I’m confident that I’ll win. I don’t then preach because I don’t like being told what to do myself; I simply talk: something I’m pretty good at. Or I write.

The vegetarianism came about after much debate, already documented here, but as I’ve read more and more, I’m so drawn to the issue that I can hardly comprehend that I ate meat only three days ago. I have no more right to eat an animal bred for human consumption (because most are) than I do to eat my cat. I don’t have a cat (I could argue that I’m looking after Erwin Schrödinger’s, so no-one can say for sure that I don’t have a cat) but if I did, it would be just the same; Fundamentally: that’s key.

So it extends to an empathy. Although I was on the streets for a while, I didn’t take up residence with any other feral species, but reading, research; studies have all landed me in the same place: a place where I am sufficiently well-read and researched to be able to argue a case for non-human rights.

Just like other areas which I’ve recently delved deeply into for my writing and my greater understanding of things (quantum physics, biocentrism, and yes, vegetarianism), so my ever active sponge of a brain craved more information on the greater questions which my mind asks. As myself and Douglas Adams always said, the answer is 42 but it only makes sense if you know what the question is. Douglas is years ahead of me. Major Tom only just set off, but one day, we’ll meet again.

I know that I’m right in my belief of the paradox which awaits after this life. Atheism and science gave me that knowledge and science is based on proof. Theists continue to live in hope. I know that I am conscious. I know that yesterday is separate from today and that there will be a tomorrow: that’s cognition. I am autonomous and self-determining.

Realising that non-human “animals” are also all but one of those things, through reading many learned papers by Peter Singer et al, and by following the work of US lawyer Steven Wise; realising that we are pretty much the same, I had an even greater feeling of guilt for all I’d done before. Life imitates life.

I’ve had some very engaging conversations lately, which have included someone I’d never met before, telling me that she gets the whole multiverse thing (The reason I don’t fear “death” and the proof that God is fictional). In another conversation, I brought up the whole concept of Habeas corpus: The granting of legal entity to a non-human. Because of the relative authority with which I’m able to speak on an issue, I may have inadvertantly gained one for the vegetarian cause. That was not my aim and I’m not an activist but I have an opinion, based on research and delivered with weight. I devised a simple question, like the “paths” one I posed myself on quantum physics, when I shone a quantum torch into the dark matter. In yet another exchange, I found out that someone very close to me has finally managed to get rid of her cat: It was a Schrödinger cat all the time. She reads this sometimes. We talk rarely and she’s prone to kicking off for no reason other than for the sake of it. Keep your head up kid…

I got an email today, from someone who just Googled me. I don’t know their reason for doing so and I’ve not responded with an enquiry. The author described me as “Contageously venomous.” I think I like that, so thank you.

In my last blog post before this procrastinating country makes up it’s mind, I live in hope. Whichever way the vote goes, I fear that tomorrow and the days to come may be even more divisive for the UK than the poison already secreted by the leave camp.

It’s a simple question I’d ask, if I were able to from within that cage: Why did you do this?

“You’re a canteloupe.”

But what do I know?

Nothing until tomorrow. For now I’ll smoke a Chesterfield, watch True Romance and catch up with Douglas and Dave.

Chewing the cud where the grass is greener

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Abattoir_cruelty_848676a

(Image from The Times: An article on abattoir cruelty)

I made my mind up on the EU referendum a long time ago and voted to remain as soon as I was able. I posted my vote two weeks ago, before the whole debate got dragged into the ugly spectacle it has become. I voted to remain in Europe for many reasons and although this blog is my soap box, I don’t want to taint it by talking down those whom I consider a societal cancer.

This from someone who used to exist on the far right fringes of nationalism. I wear my heart on my sleeve and admit – as I have done before on this blog – that I used to be a BNP supporter. Now, I’m sufficiently enlightened to admit that I was a cunt.

Just like my recovery from alcohol and my realisation that religion is bullshit, my left wing liberalism happened gradually and without me realising. I stopped discriminating on any grounds once I got to actually meet the people I once discriminated against. It was very easy for me, running a successful company and enjoying my gated life; very easy to just look down on those less fortunate, while I allowed myself to be poisoned by The Daily Torygraph and The Daily Hate Mail, as I sat by the swimming pool and had no reason to question a system which rewarded me very well. It was only when I fucked it all up that I realised there was something to be an activist against.

Thankfully, I’ve now found my way. I’m living a life which is comfortable. Not financially but personally. Because I’ve realised that my only period of compliance, in a life which spans 46 years, is the time when I was financially successful. That may well have been good for the kids but I’d have needed to keep it up and that wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t fulfilled. That life provided me with the finance to drink more and alcohol was my Achilles heel. It doesn’t matter how well or badly my life had gone, I was predisposed to losing it to drink. So now I’m an alcoholic (functioning, not drunk) and a writer.

It’s been atheism more than anything which has allowed me to get to where I am. Once I realised, beyond any doubt, that “God” doesn’t exist, it was like a huge weight was lifted. I am free, and enjoying more freedom than I ever have before. I must respect those of religion, as I have learned to respect everything without discrimination or judgement. The problem those people have is their religion.

As an atheist then, no-one can claim that it’s some sort of epiphany that I’m seriously considering becoming a vegetarian. This is not a whim: I’ve been thinking about it for quite some time.

During the course of some of my recent research, I’ve been reading a lot of Peter Singer’s work. Among other things, he’s a moral philosopher and has published much on the value of life, both human and non-human. Although I disagree with some of his ideas (on infanticide especially), he writes with great clarity on the rights he feels should be afforded non-human life. He tends to use this term over “animals”.

Some may say that if we didn’t eat meat, we would be overrun with the creatures we consume: Most of what we eat is bred for our own consumption. And it’s that fact right there which has made me feel uncomfortable. That’s a fucking big assumption of a right on our part.

As with all things, there are pros and cons. There are divisive internal debates but with each that I have, I can’t defend some self-given “right” to eat another being, because I don’t have that right. They’re not God’s creatures because there is no “God”. I’m a Guardian reader and that’s got nothing to do with it either. I have a choice and I am finding myself leaning morally towards giving up meat.

Why am I posting this? Not because I need a shove in any direction; I’m pretty much there. Not for debate, because my mind is pretty much made up. It’s actually for reassurance: Having been a carnivore for 46 years, I’m a bit apprehensive.

There are health issues: I’ve not been told that a change of diet would be beneficial but I’ve heard people spout about how vegetarianism benefited them. Even now, I’m tempted to brush that aside as worthy bullshit.

I won’t be a vegetarian who dinner hosts dread: I’ll eat meat if that is what they are having. Unless I’m asked, I won’t even mention that I have “dietary requirements” because I’m not a total wanker. I’m not going vegan either. I do like fish and it’s a tempting cop out but I can’t find any moral justification for eating fish in my internal debates.

So it’s a purely personal thing and something which I know will make me feel better, both in and about myself, but I crave reassurance.

I’m an atheist, anarchist writer: There is no god and I write what the fuck I want. I’m a feminist, pacifist Guardian reader. And now I’m almost a vegetarian.

My old self would hate me, almost as much as I despise him.

Welcome to the walk alone

THE WRITER’S LIFE

yellow-brick-road

(Image source: Caterflylara)

As usual, I’m listening to music while I write this blog and other things. Right now it’s “Welcome to the walk alone”, by The Rumble Strips. Fuelled by various things, I’m having fun on my own personal journey. Where once that road could have been paved with gold, when I ran a business in London, a country lane is much more pleasant. Goodbye yellow brick road. Hello autobahnen.

I’ve been in The Studio for three months now. I still don’t have a routine but I’m busier than ever, thanks to this place and everything within and around it. The typewriter and all that it produces: the website and the blog, as well as stories. Then the writing desk, the studio, the mews, the village… This is my bubble. I don’t even have a permanent bed here but I’ve not had one for the last three years anyway. It’s the locked door which provides the security and comfort, and privacy. Consequently, my waking hours of noon to 2am are uninterrupted.

Not for me communal living, even though I have some very fond memories of the squat. Nowadays I prefer solitude and that’s what’s got me writing more prolifically. The children’s book, or at least the text, is finished. It’s changed from the award-winning story and the opinion of the test reader jury is unanimous: The revised version is even better. I just need to re-acquaint myself with The GIMP in order to get the graphics work done, then the book should still be out in August. The GIMP: GNU Image Manipulation Program; Photoshop for geeks. Like the Open Office software I use, it’s open-source and distributed free. I make regular financial donations to support the developers of both The GIMP and Open Office, as well as my main research tool, Wikipedia. If only everyone did.

As well as the children’s book, I’m editing the anthology and still writing the novel. So I’m pleasingly busy but with not a lot of new stuff spewing out of the typewriter. Actual writing is about half of everything I do normally but the non-writing stuff has taken over somewhat lately. So I’ve decided to put everything to various sides and concentrate on a couple of stories I’ve been sitting on for a while. One is provisionally called The unfinished literary agency and it’s likely to be quite a long short story of around 5-6000 words. It’s actually a merging of two stories I’ve been planning for a while, neither of which were working on their own but which will work together as one. It happens like that in this game sometimes. It’s an involving tale with a surprise: one of my trademarks but I’m taking the time to hide this one well enough that very few will see it coming, even though it was there all the time.

In the course of writing another, separate, work in progress, I’ve had the opportunity to make what I think is a very good point, at least from my atheist perspective. This particular story posits that non-human life ought to be afforded greater rights, that they should cease to be termed “Animals” on the basis of this being derogatory. It’s another long story but it gives non-humans a “voice”, where previously this was lacking in any form which humans could understand. As soon as those we share the planet with are able to talk to us, many situations arise, not least of which is an inevitable question of superiority. We really should have thought about it more before we gave all the others voices (says the story). As someone who loves all things ophidian and as an atheist, it was fitting that I had a snake speak the line, “The evidence of our own eyes makes it more plausible to believe that the world was not created by any god at all. If, however, we insist on believing in divine creation, we are forced to admit that the god who made the world cannot be all-powerful and all good. He must be either evil or a complete bungler.” Clearly the serpent is an atheist. The snake asks a theist human the old question: If God is so loving, why is there so much evil in the world? Of course, this is countered with the usual reference to the original sin. Then the snake points out, “Animals also suffer from floods, fires and droughts. Since they are not descended from Adam and Eve, they cannot have inherited original sin.” Good point, well made, I thought. That particular story is less ongoing than the first and I don’t even have a title for it yet (Dr Didfuckall, perhaps?) but talking, atheist animals is a fun concept to explore.

All of which is to be continued next week. For now it’s the weekend and having been busy with rellies the last couple of weekends, this is a solitary one. I’ll no doubt speak to my dad on Sunday but other than that, I’ll be immersed in the weekend papers, reading, learning and noting down ideas for stories.

Although I’ve referred to the local supermarket as a necessary evil (It’s a Tesco Metro), I do embrace capitalism when it’s so convenient. Even though it dominates the village high street, there’s still a bit of a village feel to the place, thanks to the staff. In fact, one piece of writing planned for next week is a letter to Tesco’s head office, praising the staff in my local store. Without exception, they are friendly and helpful people and I’d like someone to know that they’re appreciated. As a society, we find it very easy to complain (because there’s so much for some people to complain about) but relatively few people give credit where it’s due. I’ll probably get some vouchers or Club Card points for my trouble. There’s one young lady there who makes me smile and I hope we can talk some more on Sunday.

There is no plan: It’s not like that. I have no desire for things to progress any more than I imagine she doesn’t. I’m a complicated animal with a lot of baggage and although it’s been my intelligence and character that have got me places in the past, those people found me “difficult” to live with at times. I’m still on what is a very personal journey sometimes and some of it is too complicated to involve anyone else in. I love the solitude here but the mutual harmless flirting with the Sunday girl is a welcome distraction.

Perhaps one day when she’s scanning my shopping, she might notice my name on my Club Card or my Guardian subscriber vouchers. Then she might Google my name and see that I dominate the front page of search results, and run away. Pushing romanticism to one side, for that is not my point, she may find it interesting to learn that I’m a writer. It’s a nice way to be discovered in any case: Delirium Tremens; An angry angel.

Over the last few months, my intellectual stock has been in the ascendency. What this means is that I’ve achieved an egotistical aim which I didn’t even realise I had: When I meet someone new, all they need to know is my name; Then I can just say, “Google me”. Then they have lots of ways to contact me. That’s pretty cool, now that I think about it.

Maybe one day I’ll ask someone to take my hand for the walk alone, when it’s a less bumpy ride. There will be no further car crashes in my life but when there are fewer rumble strips telling me to slow down.

Just not yet.

Silver clouds with occasional fluffy linings

THE WRITER’S LIFE

pink-clouds

(Image source: Timeline Cover Banner)

If anyone cared to look at the “inner me” right now, the most obvious thing would be the stupid grin on my face. The grin doesn’t penetrate the outer facade, so it’s safe inside. It’s all to do with a girl: two in fact. One is a friend I’ve known for a while, with whom I have a unique relationship. She just makes me smile. The other is just a girl. That’s not dismissive of her but to place her into context. There’s nothing for me, her, or anyone to get excited about long term. She’s just a girl who makes me smile inside. It’s not “going” anywhere and that’s what’s so cool about it. It’s what’s called hygge (approximately pronounced “hue ga”) in Denmark.

Hygge loosely translates as cosiness, but it’s more than that and they’re up for it in Scandinavia. Expect a load of celebrity bandwagon books over here soon too, none of which I’ll buy but I’ve bought into the mindset. It’s the little feelings of being happy; The small things which are done matter-of-factly but which give us a sense of well being, with ourselves and those around us; Time spent with friends and family, putting on clean clothes after a shower, simply seeing or hearing something. The checkout girl in the supermarket blushing when I remembered her name and we struck up a conversation. Simply because I’d noticed. Those few seconds when the world is okay: Hygge is that feeling.

Running in the background is an overall hygge: The scientific understanding I’ve found through atheism, which gives me comfort in knowing that I need to change fuck all in my attitude to reach the “Afterlife”. It strikes me that theists can never be at ease, if they think about their faith. It has no basis in science and as such, God does not exist. At best, those who believe must be completely committed to their faith in order to be so deluded. There are questions to be asked of faith, which those of that faith are unable to answer. Ergo, they cannot be truly at ease in this life as we know it.

Grasping that fundamental piece of science meant that the rest of this life, however long, is a mere blink of the eye which can see what’s coming next. Another 46 years or 46 days: It makes no difference. Anything and everything can change at any time though, so I only look a short way ahead. I’d liken it to having a lump removed from your bollock, being told that it was benign, then another one growing: chances are, that one is also benign.

It’s nice to have things to look forward to; It gives me a sense of hygge. I hope we can pick up on the brief conversation again on Sunday: She scanned my shopping as I packed it and she said that she likes the same iced coffee that I do.

Simply because she’d noticed.

An existential kick inside

THE WRITER’S LIFE

alien-ghost

(Image source: The Ghost Diaries)

“Everything can change at any moment, suddenly and forever.” (Paul Auster).

The problem with big ideas is that it’s sometimes difficult to explain them in simple terms. I’m fortunate to have a high IQ and I’ve found it quite easy to get my head around quantum theory and by extension, Biocentrism. It’s pretty much proof of what I’ve believed for a long time now: In essence, that “Life” as we know it, is merely part of an ongoing existence, the greatness of which we don’t yet understand. I believe that the human soul continues to exist in a different form, once our mortal bodies give up. Quite why we have to live this way for a while is another matter. Perhaps it’s in preparation.

As I’ve written before, my research into all of this is primarily as a writer but I am aware of my own fragility and I’m an atheist. Despite all Christianity’s abhorrent sins, I understand that Christians and those of other religions believe (delusionally) in a false deity because it gives them comfort. My beliefs achieve the same for me but mine are based on scientific fact. By not following a fictitious god, I don’t have to live my life in servitude to a child rapist, just to get into “Heaven.” Heaven doesn’t exist, any more than hell does. Biocentrism states though that we are all essentially immortal. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world, if people stopped deluding themselves and if humanity as a whole accepted science? Science is proven, after all. Imagine if all of the money wasted by religion and war was channelled instead into scientific research: How much more developed and inclusive we would be. But I’m getting evangelical.

Am I biting the hands which once fed me? No. I appreciate what various churches and their people gave me. It’s the religion I have a problem with. You don’t have to be a religious person to be a nice one. I look at a bigger picture, which is not one I’m likely to see in this part of my lifetime. Please don’t pray for me.

Having chosen a particular path, I lead nicely into a simplistic explanation of quantum theory; the foundation of my beliefs and a lot more besides. At the sub-atomic, quantum level of physics, chemistry and biology, tiny particles exist in more than one state: they do not either exist or not exist, they exist in all of their possible forms. Using the example of quantum computers (a reality), as I did last time, bits of information are not either a 1 or a 0; They are both at the same time. There comes a point – a catalyst – where those bits must become either a 1 or a 0, in order for our computer to work as a computer, as we understand one. However, what those bits didn’t become, remains: for every bit which became a 1 (an “on” switch), a zero (an “off” switch) is left behind and continues to exist, albeit not in a form which we can see. Multiply this by the trillions of operators (switches, or bits) in a traditional computer, and you may begin to appreciate the power of quantum mechanics. That quantum computer which is now running in Canada, contains an almost infinite number of alternatives: universes, where things happened ever so slightly differently at a quantum level. What we see as real, is just an almost infinitesimally small part of what is actually in existence. At a human level, we occupy just one of all of the possible universes. The one we’re in was brought into existence by all of those quantum catalysts. Here’s the key: the universe we inhabit is the one which our consciousness has constructed. Our consciousness will always do this, infinitely. Got that? I’ll return to the analogy of the path which I mentioned, to give a really simple but powerful thing to think about:

You’re walking along my path and you arrive at a point where it splits in two. You have a choice: left or right? Let’s say you select left and you set off along that path. Does the path to the right still exist?

So in biocentrism, the path which we’re on never ends. And that’s how I learned not to fear the grim reaper and realised that David Bowie was right. It’s the actual catalyst which I don’t like the thought of; after that, things get easier. Am I scared? No. Does it scare me? Yes.

Of course, this and other recent scientific advances are fuel for a science fiction writer. Science is always giving us things to write about and imagine. Biocentrism features quite heavily in my next novel and many of my short stories centre on near-future scenarios. Lately I’ve been looking into things which the recently deceased might do to amuse themselves. In one particularly disturbing story I’m currently writing, I’m using biocentrism as a device. In this story, the protagonist is dying and makes a promise to some people he doesn’t particularly like (a couple): That whichever one of them should die first, he will take care of them on the other side, while they wait for the other one. Because it’s a scientific fact that our dying narrator will be waiting on the other side. It’s a real psychological shocker and a haunting in itself.

This typewriter – “Holly X” (That’s Mk 10, as this is the 10th PC I’ve owned) – has proven pivotal in my new life. It is allowing me to get everything written in time, to write more and take on things like graphic work for book covers. I wonder what might have happened if I’d had this sooner? I’ll tell you: I’d have pawned it for booze. I won’t be doing that, even though my benefits have been sanctioned because I no longer qualify for Personal Independence Payment. Well, I do and I will waste a lot of mine and the DWP’s time and money proving that at tribunal. I did it before and the long process has already begun again. In a move to make my depression more fun in the interim, I’ve ordered a PEZ dispenser for my Mirtazipine.

The most tragic thing about my benefits being sanctioned is that I won’t be able to afford to do much when the kids stay with me in August (when the PEZ dispenser will be out of sight). Hopefully the people who’ve not paid me back the several hundred pounds they owe me can still sleep at night. I have my moral and intellectual superiority to mock them with.

My recent grasping of quantum theory, biocentrism and soul quanta mean that I have to come up with more imaginative things than death to cause unease in readers and with which to torment those I develop a dislike for. There are of course many scenarios, including a particularly frightening one, where it is possible for someone to have suddenly never existed, yet their consciousness remains. This person is condemned to an eternal life of nothing, or at least an awareness of pure nothingness which will never end for them and from which there is no escape. Now that’s a hell. I’m employing that device in another short story, to cause a new kind of terror in readers; one they can’t walk away from. It has been said that the title story of my collection is something which couldn’t be forgotten because of its very effective ending, which more than one reader reported as making them physically shudder. The one with the working title Galactic silence is far more disturbing. It will be in the anthology, due out in August, once I’ve finished editing (making some stories more contemporary and upping the scare stakes) and after I’ve published A Girl, Frank Burnside and Haile Selassie. With Infana Kolonia still growing, I’m giving myself a year to finish the first draft, while I continue to churn out quality pulp fiction.

I’m a busy freelancer and I’m enjoying life in my world; my universe, especially now I understand it and I’m not afraid of what happens next.

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”

(Douglas Adams, 1952 – 2001)

For a more detailed and scientific explanation of the biocentric universe, see this Wikipedia article.