Wearing a sieve like a helmet


Although I’m (not over but) dealing with a few issues in my real life, I’ve still been struggling to write. The real world issues are the ongoing personal lives of loved ones (friends and family), those of the world at large, and the ones in my head. With so much to write about, I’ve struggled to know where to start, or started writing and found myself in a land of digression. But I digress. I’ve found a solution. It’s something I’ve had for ages, but which I’d forgotten about.

Pinhead LegoPinhead (centre): Head like a sieve

Salvation came indirectly from a kindred spirit, another blogger commenting on my last post. I felt empathy, as I was reminded how the universe can answer you if you ask for something, and I read Annother Voice | Unsilenced. That moment of quantum entanglement was what reminded me of the thing I’d lost: Not empathy or universal connectivity, but a book.

Like other writers, that blogger often uses writing prompts, an exercise I’ve rarely undertaken since I first got into writing on a home study course. I’ve always preferred writing freehand, in a notebook always about my person, or at my desk, just seeing what comes out. That’s where most of my fiction starts life, but writing about life can be difficult: It’s that paradox of having too much to say in my head.

I’ve had to compartmentalise my mind (again), so that all I can’t easily write about (the complicated and the not finished), I’ll think about some more first. What’s left is fiction ideas, plots and outlines in one pile, and other freehand notes in another. Then, like my mental health labels, I’ll pin those memos in my head and try to make sense of it all (like Hellraiser with Post-Its).

Pinhead Post It

Still though, I find there’s so much from my mind in those notes that it’s hard to know where to start. That’s where the book came in.

I first noticed 642 Things to Write About in a book store when I was out with my children, and immediately I dismissed it. As the name suggests, it’s 642 ideas about things to write. But I can come up with ideas from my own imagination; that’s where my stories come from. I thought The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto had quite some front, publishing a book of mainly blank pages, with suggestions for things to write about at the top of each. They were charging people money to write their book. So I bought a copy.

The impulse to buy came with a simple thought: 42, which always gives rise to other thoughts. These may be just 642 ideas, but they’re those of other writers. There are only a finite number of plots, but an infinite number of stories which can be written. Each copy of 642 Things sold – if filled by writing freehand – would be a unique volume. I thought I could get quite into that.

Even though I have a fertile imagination, there’s something challenging and refreshing about writing something suggested by someone else. I liked to think those writers at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto might be interested to see what others made of their ideas (in fact, I’ve been tempted in the past to ask another writer to take one of my ideas, then for us to write two completely different stories). Then I forgot about it.

The book and the beginning of my 642 Things got lost in my real life, just as I was lost in my inner third world and my thoughts, so that I forgot my virtual life and writing. It was the perfect storm. And then that other voice came along, reminding me of writing prompts, and that I had a whole book of them. I guess that prompted me to write a blog post about writing prompts, a foreword to my own 642 Things, some of which I’ll share and a few may become stories.

The best prompt came from another writer and blogger, a kindred spirit who connected the dots without realising, when I didn’t know what to write. Sometimes we wonder if anyone’s reading us, and I’m glad I read that other voice.

I’m the cracked actor with much on my mind, wishing to escape. Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light, like umbrellas in the night: Full of holes where the rain gets in, but the holes are small so the rain is thin.

This blog has wall sockets


For a long time now, I’ve defined a typewriter as a musical instrument with keys. My keyboard of choice is my laptop, and it’s been a kind of living, retro-futuristic and steam punk device, in the various incarnations of The Unfinished Literary Agency, my fictitious writing bureau which tells the stories others can’t. Words and writing are art, just like music, and my typewriter made the Cyrus Song audible.

cat using laptop

I took a fearful plunge a week ago, when I decided to publish Cyrus Song as an eBook. Now I’m wondering why I didn’t do it before. I explained in my last blog post how I’m a traditionalist who reads books, but it was the Kindle and other devices which democratised publishing, and I was ignoring all those readers (sorry). Just like the answer to life, the universe and everything, it was under my nose all the time.

I’ve got old Cambridge Audio hi-fi separates and Mordaunt Short speakers for listening to uncompressed music. I’ll always prefer records and CDs over MP3, and I’ll still always prefer physical books myself, but I’ve democratised one of my own, because it’s the one I’d like people to read the most. I like doing things unplugged, and by unplugging Cyrus Song and plugging it into all those e-readers out there, I’ve made the novel I’d willingly be judged on as an author available to many more people.

My blog is where I come to be myself, and where expression is freedom. Right now I imagine I’m in a room, just as I am for 99% of my real life outside the blog. I’ve written before, Imagine you’re in a room, with no visible means of exit: how do you get out? Assuming the subject would even want to, they could stop imagining. Or they could use their imagination.

The walls in this room definitely have ears, as it’s where I come to be heard, and hopefully liked and followed. Some people come here because they actually want to hear what I have to say. For a socially anxious writer, that’s the imagination required to get out of the room, to escape my physical self and all of its doubt, and occupy my virtual space instead.

This room also has a skirting board all around the perimeter, but in this virtual room, I don’t have to skirt around myself. I can use the plug sockets in those skirting boards to plug – on this occasion – Cyrus Song.

The book had reviews on Amazon and in Schlock web zine before it was converted to an eBook (and it’s always available as a paperback), and I’ve received a couple of email compliments in the past few days. Hopefully it’ll gather more reviews as the current readers finish it and still others pick it up. For now, the best and most informative review was the one in Schlock, by Stephen Hernandez, a translator and interpreter. Given that Cyrus Song centres around talking animals, there seemed no better professional critic to plug the book:

CYRUS SONG BY STEVE LAKER reviewed by Stephen Hernandez

The book begins with a bizarre, Kafkaesque occurrence. Although, in this book, the author would not be Kafka but Douglas Adams, the untimely late, famous author of ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’, a book which is central to, and has a great bearing on this book – sorry, if this is all getting a bit complicated, but then we are dealing with ‘The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything’.

Simon Fry, the hero of this novel, is faced with perhaps the same problem as Arthur Dent, the hero in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: saving humanity from itself and discovering the meaning of life, which is, of course: 42. So, back to the bizarre occurrence: A writer [it is he, Simon Fry], is staring absent-mindedly at the page he has just written on his typewriter, whilst listening to Pink Floyd’s album, ‘The Division Bell’, in particular the ninth track: ‘Keep Talking’, and the quote contained therein by Stephen Hawking: ‘For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk…’ (the full quotation is also central to the theme of the book), when he notices two random marks on the page, a dot and a dash, which he could not remember typing. He notices the characters are moving across the page, seemingly in a self-determined fashion denoting some kind of intelligence. He captures the minute ‘creatures’ and takes them to a veterinary clinic [as one would].

The vet, Hannah [a palindrome] Jones, examines them under a microscope and makes a surprising discovery: The apparent microscopic creatures are minute warships, and are inhabited, or crewed, one by animals commanded by Black Mambas, and one by humans. It is then that the vet reveals to Fry, something even more remarkable [but entirely plausible]: she has invented a very powerful and unique piece of software called The Babel fish (after the translating fish in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), which interprets animal languages. She lets him use it in her clinic so he can ‘listen’ in on the patients, something she refuses to do as she feels it would take away her objectivity with regards to treating the animals.

In between listening in on animals and looking at alien spaceships through a microscope, Simon Fry manages, along with a Norwegian coastal tour guide and micro-palaeontologist named Gilbert Giles, or in shortened Nabokov terms—Gil Gil, to make a clone of himself (Simon Fry II), and also to take the Babel Fish out of the lab and into the wide world like a latter-day Dr Doolittle (which he is, in more ways than one).

The three of them form an unlikely trio, and with the Black Mambas’ help they attempt to somehow save the planet and mankind.

If this all sounds a bit weird, that is, because it is. But it all somehow works, and knits together in the manner of surrealist writers like Julio Cortazar and Otrova Gomas, with a substantial nod, of course, to Douglas Adams, who can make the impossibly strange seem mundane and ordinary. Steve Laker pulls this extraordinary juggling act off admirably well, producing a very good, thought-provoking, page-turning, and also at times darkly comic read.

Who knows—if you’re looking for the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, you might just find it here, or in the ‘Cyrus Song’ of our planet. In the meantime, taking Steve Laker’s and Stephen Hawking’s advice, we all need to ‘keep talking’, and as long as there are books like these—keep reading.

It is indeed a very deep book, but it’s accessible and I’ve made it more so by plugging it in for e-readers. There really is a perfectly plausible answer to the ultimate question in that story.

The original review featured in Schlock web zine. Cyrus Song is available now.

Eating pizza by the roadside


I rarely make resolutions at any time of year, because I’ve normally resolved to do something long before I actually do it, only then congratulating myself quietly. Some will be known, because I’ve said so (I’m going to publish a book), but others I don’t speak of, when they belong to someone else. I’m always picking up the pieces, but I’m dropping things all the time.

Pavement pizza

Sometimes the problem is knowing where to start with the eternal conflict in my mind, which is why it helps to be a writer, especially when one is depressed and anxious. The problem with both, is that those of us with the most to say take the longest to learn about. Sometimes I need to proverbially throw up.

If I made films or music, I might be easier to understand in a shorter form. But I’m a writer, mainly of books, which require a greater investment of time. I write short stories, of course, and I’ve even given poetry a kicking, but fewer people read than listen or watch.

I’ll deal as quickly with Christmas here as I did at the time: Quite simply, Christmas didn’t happen, despite my efforts to arrange something around family. A combination of displacement and disinterest conspired to allow everyone to have their own Christmas, whether or not that was what they wanted. Unless I misread something in a greetings card from my old sister, who uses a calligraphy pen for such occasions: It was like reading a page of ambigrams, which I daren’t hold to a mirror for fear of invoking a curse. I have a pen for every occasion, so it’s one to revisit.

The main festivities were politics (specifically other people’s), and my younger sister (Courtney), who became a mum just before Christmas. As a vulnerable young adult with a history of personal issues, she’s needed help with many things for as long as I’ve known her. And since not long after I met her, I’ve been one of those the authorities contact when things go awry, mainly her (once, in the middle of a pool tournament, two police officers walked in because she’d run away (again). We found her in the end). Long story short, with much effort over the festive period, she was given a place for herself and her daughter, and there is much still to do.

I can speak and write about it now, because it’s happened. But for six months, myself and others worked to make sure things went the way they did. We claimed no credit and sought no reward. The birth itself was marred only by a third party with a sense of entitlement, gatecrashing the delivery room and awarding itself accolades on social media. Such selfishness didn’t sit well with a new mum who was already stressed enough, nor her own mum, or her grandmother. Those of us who’d actually done something constructive (quietly, in the background) didn’t feel the need to displace Courtney’s closest relatives in what we’d effectively made possible, let alone claim false credit or reward for undoing all our doing. As a demonstration of self-discreditation, it was text book (or rather, Facebook, as the interloper’s self-flagellation was performed in public). More on that another time perhaps.

Facebook breeds guilt and paranoia, it’s full of personal agendas and selfishness, and I’m spending gradually less time there for those and other reasons. It’s a soap opera with a willing audience, when better coping mechanisms for life can be found in less judgemental spheres. It’s an existential crisis, and it’s recording.

I have many crises of my own, and other people’s to help them with, which I don’t publicise or seek recognition for. The reward is simply seeing a plan come together for the greater good. It only becomes public when others choose to tell their own story (or give me permission), and every story has two sides. Facebook doesn’t allow both or all to be presented equally. It’s a place of conditioning and formed opinions when debate and mutual understanding might be better aspirations.

Sadly, this is more a recent phenomenon, and not one born of my own anxiety and paranoia. A people fractured by the politics which govern them, has become divisive and divided at a personal and social level. Rather than be a part of it, I’m always looking for ways to change things, and Facebook lacks activists in its main infrastructure. Developing…

Most of the friends I have on Facebook, I know in real life, and some of the latter wouldn’t exist were it not for social media. Most of those pay little attention to anything outside the Facebook timeline (they don’t even see it skewed by algorithms), but they have different agendas, and they’re not writers.

Where I’ve found connection with kindred spirits – in the virtual and real worlds – is in the places of shared interest, in public and private groups, away from the main crowd. Stirring up someone else’s personal business is of little interest to me, when there’s a whole world out there to poke at.

97% of Facebook users make very little difference to the world, because most don’t look beyond themselves and that inner web of conditioning. Most time on social media is wasted.

By contrast, I look at life in the blogosphere, with its sheer scope and depth. Although my following is modest, and mainly made up of people I’ve never met, there’s more community here. It’s a borderless place, which permits greater liberty for citizens of the earth. It’s where I can write, lay down my heart and be heard. It’s a place I find much easier to make my own. There’s more debate than conflict, greater understanding and acceptance (and comment is free, should anyone decide to use the facilities provided here). This is where others write too, and I enjoy reading and learning about them.

I didn’t write much here over Christmas, instead using the solitude to work on other things. There’s still much on my mind, and there always will be. There’ll forever be few who understand me, because they don’t question or get to know me (myself included, before this latest internal dialogue). There’ll rarely be many who read what I write, but if I keep writing the words, more might (including me).

I know only 3% will read this blog, but they’re the ones who matter. If opinions differ, those are the enquiring people, who are more likely to seek common ground and co-operation than conflict, or at least agree to differ but with a mutual understanding. Such a thing requires a level of intellect sadly lacking in many, almost allowing themselves to be radicalised by social media, regurgitating little of substance and sharing their own pavement pizza.

Some of the best debates I’ve had as a science fiction writer, have been with actual scientists. As an atheist, I enjoy the odd theological sparring match with friends of various persuasions. We’re able to be friends despite fundamental differences, because we talk and we understand, rather than accept nothing outside that which we’ve been taught (I’d question, by whom?) I received a new year pleasantry from one such evangelical friend on Facebook messenger, and thought it a good time to pay him due respect in return:

It’s fair to say, I gave a lot of consideration to your book (the Bible, when I was homeless). I think we can agree that gods and aliens can be interchangeable and co-exist. Therein lies the left-wing way to consolidate science and religion. If we don’t talk and understand, that breeds conflict. We may agree to differ on some things, but the best way to learn is to keep talking. Have a good one x

It being Facebook, that got a thumbs up.

The thinkers play a long game, and that’s evolution. Life revolves and evolves around worlds, not individual people. But it’s not just physics which makes the world go round, it’s the people who make up that world, at large or in microcosm.

All we need to do is keep talking, and that’s a resolution for everyone. I need to be able to tell more people what I’m thinking, so I’ll just keep writing. This is where people come to find me, so I can talk to them.

For my own sake, I resolve to speak more personally, about that which I’m able to. The thing which connects all of this, is what I’ve always written about anyway: The life of a writer with depression. It’s only now that I’ve come to terms with the former that I can talk more openly and honestly about the latter.

There’s much I never wrote about life on the streets, and while an autobiography is some way off, I can face those things again, without using the medium of fiction and with the benefit of hindsight. Many of those experiences are, after all, the bases of my many PTSD diagnoses. I have a third anthology planned, completely separately, and I’m already finding that unlocking more internal doors can reveal other depths in a wider context, and not all dark.

It was a writer friend who told me not to be ashamed to be proud, and it was David Bowie who always said it was okay to be different. I just needed time to think about that. I kicked some new year poetry into the gutter while I sat there:

Monkey Black heart NY

Thank you for taking the time. When I’m so often the one picking up after others, it’s nice to have somewhere to spill my own heart.

The thin veils of symbiosis


There’s a story I’m writing, about a girl who’s never sought attention but now has everyone’s. Pretty much me in reverse, sort of a not-me. The girl in the story has things on her own mind, which she can’t tell others, while all those others enquire of her mind to help them. Thank whatever, I’m not that girl then. And yet, it’s true that I’m in every single one of my stories in parts.

symbiosisSymbiosis in nature

Fictional me has been as busy as my factual side, making my actual self an engaged writer (always a nice thing to be), splitting myself over two projects and with the two different genres (sci-fi and family history) becoming a symbiotic feeding mechanism. And I’ve nailed what it is, how one style of writing can help with another.

With factual writing, there’s much more to write, because it’s already there. Research reveals the facts, which the writer then tells as a real-life story. I’m a writer who likes to link things up and tie them off, so writing historical pieces about my family’s places of work and home means the links to the central characters are already there. It’s the sheer volume of recorded factual history which gives the writer so much to think and write about.

In fiction of course, we start with a blank page. These are stories which haven’t been written, of people and places who’ve been created. With no recorded history, the writer has to fill it in, at least between the lines, to make the fictional narratives strong.

So with so much to write factually, there are many unused thoughts and ideas, as it’s edited down. There are new things, never personally encountered before, which provide fresh ideas, and those can drive fiction. It’s actually quite easy to turn things in, when you look at a picture of a figure standing by a Scottish loch, and notice a ripple in the water behind. I’ve been a serious writer now for five years and I’ve only just worked that out. If others have been similarly wondering, you’re welcome.

Fictional me has stories lined up for publication over the next four weekends now. Next up, is ‘A Girl, Sheldon Cooper and Peter Cook’. Mindful that I’d never written another story which could somehow be linked to a specific different one (but still stand on its own), this one was a mix of two things: A Girl, Frank Burnside and Haile Selassie (my – award-winning – children’s story), and Cyrus Song. It’s a story set in 2042, about a girl, a cat and a dog. In 2042, AI home assistants are ubiquitous and have universal translation algorithms (possibly thanks to the Babel fish, and a stoned ethics committee somewhere), which of course allows the three to talk.

Elsewhere and after that, there’ll be ‘Quantum Entanglement in Hamsters’, which examines a part of the human condition (apparently I’m good at that) in the context of a pair of Roborovski hamsters, called Hannibal and Lecter.

Next there’s a restaurant review of ‘August Underground’s Diner’, then ‘Another Nativity (For the Stage)’ at Christmas, the latter being a re-write of one of my old stories, originally a story about a nativity play, now made into a play of that story for the stage (pretentious, me?)

In the factual world, I’m still snooping around houses, gardens and people, in 1970s and 80s Kent, and in the Second World War (in France and Germany). I have a good feeling about the book (always completely unreliable and not reflective of future sales), it being one where I’ve really been able to free my inner, real self in the stories of others.

Just as the modest sales of Cyrus Song generate blips of The Perpetuity of Memory, it seems my theory is vindicated: That each book I write, is better than the last (in a different genre), improving my depth in the former, and that each subsequent book fuels sales of the previous ones. Silent Gardens (A Quiet History), a factual story, will attract curiosity in what else I’ve done, just as my sci-fi in Cyrus Song has led people to look at my old horror in The Perpetuity of Memory. The Paradoxicon (including ‘The Director’s Cut’) gets the odd look, and A Girl, Frank Burnside and Haile Selassie stands on its own.

All of which leads me to predict with no confidence at all, that my next anthology, ‘The Unfinished Literary Agency’ will be well-received and garner further interest in my preceding titles. Meanwhile, I’ll move onto the next (Cyrus Song II, Infana Kolonia, and Forgive me No-one).

In my life-within-a-life, I’ve added some furniture to this blog. There’s a filing cabinet, where all posts are filed by month (going all the way back to the start), and a drop-down category list, intentionally made to be more Vogon, in its grasp of English (“I write blog”, “I write film” etc. but it’s true that “I write satire”).

Meanwhile, the girl continues to deal with a slightly lost son, trying to help him and his parents, and his sister. She’s recently taken one her own parents’ liberties away, having phoned the police when her dad went missing, warning that surrendering his license might be the price, but valuing his life more. She has an auntie who’s cut off because her dad can’t drive, and therefore with nowhere to go at Christmas. She has a sister with whom she’s estranged, despite her efforts over five years. This year, she’s asked that any remaining differences can be put to one side, as she’s made amends for past damage she’s done. She’s suggested that a reconciliation would be nice for their parents at Christmas, and that come the time, they can share driving duties to get everyone together. The girl is keen to get her kids and have them stay for New Year. She hates going out, but she’ll do all this. She’s right in the middle of everything and everyone, yet no-one seems to know.

The same girl is helping several friends with personal matters of counselling. One is a vulnerable girl expecting a baby (not hers, as she’s a girl) and until recently, the child was due to be taken from the mum. So the girl wrote letters, she transcended the situation and saw a way that everything might be saved. She saw something in her friend which others didn’t. While everyone else was cooing over a baby they might not see, and saying fuck to the system on social media, this one girl stayed silent. She was the only one who’d been honest with the mum about the chances of losing the baby, and as the only one right, the one to get the blame when it happened. So she risked her friendship, yet no-one knows because nobody speaks of her. She’s lonely and only craves recognition, not help. She writes it all down.

The factual and the fictional, writing as many people, about many others. Symbiosis in the real and the imagined, a thinly-veiled heart.

If I could teach the world to sing…



A regular visitor to my little studio is my adopted kid sister, The Courts. She’s the one I met on my first night on the streets, when she and a couple of friends sat with me, surrounded by my life in Sports Direct bags. Those three girls were 15 years old at the time. Later, I was adopted by three more and gained three teenage daughter-types: What nice problems to have.

Since then, much has changed but Courtney became my sister in that family we formed at the squat: The Pink Hearts. We look out for each other, as brothers and sisters do. We chill out in my studio, watch DVDs, smoke weed and talk. She talks a lot and she’s naive about a lot of things but occasionally, she’ll say something really deep and thoughtful. She did that yesterday, when in her own idiosyncratic way, she effectively said this:

This feeds into a much bigger debate, which could well become a global conversation soon. As a beneficiary of the democratisation of writing, I know that marketplace is open to abuse because there are those who can and will preach to the gullible. Then it only takes a few “Shares” for potential lies to be spread. Eventually, untruths become believed, accepted and abused.

Trump and Brexit are examples of what happens in a perfect storm: A lack of faith in the gorverning classes has led to an angry right wing gaining traction, while those on the left were ineffective in opposition.

But what’s equally important and saddening is that people were lied to and they believed the untruths. They didn’t check or research.

There need not be a silent majority though.

We need to talk. We need to debate. We need to arrive a point where we all agree that this current mess can be sorted out. In order to get there, we need to stop fighting.

It’s idealistic to think that such a New World Order might evolve in our lifetimes but I believe it could happen in our children’s. We have de-evolved as a human race recently and I’m not alone in this thinking.

Read – as I do – the many scientific notes of Stephen Hawking et al. I do it as a fiction writer, for research into near future scenarios I might scare or wonder readers with.

“For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen. Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.”

It was a version of that quote by Stephen Hawking, sampled by Pink Floyd in “Keep Talking” which prompted me to write Cyrus Song. All of the above, current affairs and scientific research is fuel for the fiction writer. And that’s what I am. I’m not a journalist, but even for my fiction work, I do research my material.

Don’t believe all that you see. Check it out. Read The Guardian; check Snopes; Don’t spread lies.

The Sodastream of consciousness



I write a lot, I read a lot and I think far too much. I watch TV and movies, and I think some more. Pretty much every blog entry I write for clients as a freelancer gives me an idea for a story. I have piles of media, a lot of which I’ll probably never get to. I have short stories and books planned, but most won’t see the light of day in my lifetime. I have a lot of stories inside me and many won’t be told.

I also have a new fridge freezer. I’ve not had one for the last three years, through a lack of space and money born of a transient life. Now that I have the financial means but with little space, I’ve got a mini unit, clearly designed with the caravan and studio-dweller in mind. It’s a neat little thing: The size of a standard fridge and it’s black with chrome door handles. It looks like a short and stocky Darth Vader; How he might look in Minecraft. It’s opened up all sorts of refreshment ideas to have on hand in The Studio, where I live and write. It’s stocked with snacks, chilled coffee and fizzy drinks.

On any given day, Darth Vader dispenses refreshment like I do opinion: spewed forth for grateful recipients of propoganda. There’s a certain irony to being a contemporary left-wing thinker, having my drinks served by a reduced right-wing terrorist. But then, I live in the once United Kingdom; a divided nation, under the rule of a stealth dictator in the form of Theresa Hitler.

The problem most of the far right have, is the same as other fanatics: They’re passionate about being “right” and get frustrated with themselves when their limited intelligence and vocabulary can’t convert others to their cause. They’re all sadomasochists.

So they retreat and devise mechanisms by which the opposition is silenced and the gullible follow like sheep who read The Sun newspaper. I wouldn’t wipe my left-wing arse with that pulp fiction.

A lot of me goes into a story: Experience, beliefs, persuasions and deviances. Fiction takes a long time to write, if you’re any good. Sometimes I just type away on the laptop, not knowing where the writing will go. Occasionally, I’ll write a really good story. Usually though, it’s just stream-of-consciousness stuff. Like when I was writing a blog entry for a client today about actors. I wrote the article, submitted it and invoiced the client. Afterwards, I thought more about the word, “Actor”.

The evolution of “Actor” into a non-gender specific term is a recent phenomenon and one for the good. Even though the term “Actress” fell out of the general vernacular only recently, in liberal circles at least, the word is practically archaic. Is it now time to consider other gender specific words, or will our recent evolution continue and simply take care of it?

Might “heroine” go the way of actress, so that both males and females are all heroes? Is the modern move towards de-sexualization sufficient alone to do away with historical masculine associations with words once used only in a male context? How do male and female groups feel about all of this? Perhaps if we can move away from our sexual insecurities, it might be easier to evolve into a more generic, non-specific societal mindset quite seamlessly.

If the same ideal might then be applied to greater causes of conflict and discrimination (race and religion mainly), we arguably have fewer things to define us; We all become the same. But we are all the same: We are human. Remove all secularization and we all think the same. Only then do we have the chance to discover what really defines us: Our individuality.

Economic and historical scholars will agree that history repeats and that economies follow historical cycles. Right now, we could be headed for a period of unrest, rebellion and conflict, at home and in the world around us. After the storm, comes calm and it could just be that eventually, we realise in the midst of the calm that there’s another way.

So that’s yet another story for yet another day. And if I never get to write it, at least I’ve planted a seed.

I write a lot, read a lot and think far too much. Most people get a cold drink from the fridge. Mine comes from my in-house Minecraft Darth Vader.

The safety pin in my ear



Image: Louder Than War

Among the many books and other things which I keep close to hand at my desk, is a little volume by Marcia Golub: I’d Rather be Writing. In this book, the author bears her kindred soul and shares the joys, frustrations and challenges she’s faced since the day she dared to call herself a writer. It’s a very personal book and one which other writers relate to because of that. A common theme throughout is how she is constantly distracted by the little things which she needs to get done in her life away from the computer. I can sympathise.

Like Marcia Golub, I can only write once everything else is out of the way. And like her and others, I am guilty of finding things to do which aren’t writing. My obsessive compulsive nature is at its most observable when I’m doing other things. All I’m trying to do is ensure that once I sit down and start to write, I won’t be distracted. Sometimes, I’ll get a bit carried away with making sure I’ve got everything out of my mind and meander off somewhere to create more distractions. Today was a good example.

I’d really like a pet. My landlady will not allow pets; I want a pet. That in itself throws up matters of philosophy, but I figured I could circumnavigate those and find a way around the impasse.

If I were to have a pet, I would actually have two: both cats. One would be a tortoiseshell with a curious zigzag marking on his face and the other would be pure white. They would be called Ziggy and Slim (The Thin White Duke), respectively. Guess what? I’ve got two cats, exactly like that.

Being a science person and a writer, I am familiar with Erwin Schrödinger. Presumably, most people are aware of Schrödinger’s Cat. As such, I have purchased two boxes and labelled them: “Ziggy” and “Slim”.

So now I have have two cats. Or maybe I don’t. No-one will ever know because the boxes may not be opened. What happens with them when no-one is looking is supposition and a paradox: Like the tree falling in the woods; If there’s no-one around to hear it fall, does it make a sound? Ergo, it cannot be denied that I have two cats. And as another universe is created at a sub-atomic level, where the catalyst of my thought brings a parallel universe into existence, no-one can prove that I don’t have two pet cats.

Schrödinger’s Cats: The best pets.

I’d much rather have my cats than the squadron of fruit flies which constantly bombard my desk at this time of year. I recognise that flies are a necessary evil of summer. The tiny ones floating around my typewriter were part of my inspiration for Cyrus Song. They’re just very irritating. I must admit that I called a particularly persistent one a cunt, right within earshot of him. Cyrus Song was always going to be a difficult one to follow but I’m working on the companion piece. It’s proving difficult to get just right but I’m a few drafts in now and it’s taking shape. I’m working on other things (editing the anthology among them) but The Cyrus Choir can no more be ignored than the dawn chorus in my mind: It’s a “must tell” story. The companion to Cyrus Song has done what many stories do: It’s got long. I may be able to trim it but I don’t think a word ought to be left out of such a thing; no matter if it doesn’t fit a market. It might even join up with its companion piece and become a novella. I don’t know yet. I’m too distracted perhaps.

After rearranging things a little to accommodate my cats, I decided I needed a haircut. This was self-administered, on account of the weather being hot and me being bored, and having some clippers. It actually turned out really well, if you like the John Lydon look: shaved back and sides, with a spiky top. I like it. Just like Johnny Rotten, I don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks. I’ve worn a safety pin in my lughole for the last three years: originally – and still – a nod to my ska / punk musical roots: An inclusive world, where some proper Skinheads were black, because those musical movements were beget of Reggae; But also, because I can and now it’s a show of solidarity against hate and prejudice of any kind (#Safetypin).

It’s taken me the four months that I’ve lived here to realise that the best times for writing are the times between other things, when there’s nothing else to do. That way, there are no distractions. I have an IQ the size of a maximum snooker break and I’ve only just worked that out. Distractions, see? Like being drunk for a number of years. Distractions are the writer’s enemy. Not just the mental ones but someone like Marcia Golub, writing about challenges just like these and in doing so, providing her peers with another distraction: Neat trick.

Because when we get down to it, it’s just the best place to be: Somewhere with nothing else to do, other than write. Then we can do anything, in our own minds. But we can give others the means to do that and more, just with our words. I know because people have told me how affected they’ve been by my writing.

Cyrus Song is a good story and I’ve set the bar high. But with The Cyrus Choir and others which I’ve drafted as I’ve had time to think, I’m confident I can write many more, longer, deeper stories. They’re just fewer and farther between.

Ziggy and Slim will probably feature in a future story. The haircut and the safety pins have given me some philosophical ideas. There’s a talking white mouse called David Jones. There’s a manatee with body dysmorphia. There’s a rabbit, who always looks like he’s about to say something and never does; Until you’re out of the room. There’s another planet like earth, preparing for a post-human existence: These and many more are works in progress. And this is what my friend Marcia concludes in I’d Rather be Writing: All of those distractions; The things we burrow into, where others may not: Those are the stories. The imagination may require a little warping but my damaged mind is my ally.

Writing for me is not a job; I don’t think it’ll ever be a comfortable life but it’s the writing which gives me the most comfort. It’s more than a job: It’s a life.

Inquiry leads to knowledge and that raises more questions. Ultimately, it all boils down to philosophy. It is a fact that if you look anything up on Wikipedia, then click the first link, eventually, every article will lead the seeker of knowledge to philosophy (try it).

Aboard a damaged spacecraft, I chug around the universe and I find stories. Then I tell others on my home planet what I’ve seen and what might be out there. A travelling philosopher, returning from missions with tall stories that some find incredible. The thing is, I know they’re true. And the best part of this life is being the storyteller; The captain of that ship, at home in a new life, away from all that went before.

“All we have to do, is make sure we keep talking.”: That’s what the safety pin in my ear says to me.

With all of that out of the way, I can now concentrate on writing new stories, editing my anthology and re-drafting the first 16 chapters of my next novel. Infana Kolonia is still another work in progress but it is progressing, just a little slower, with everything else I have on.

I just need to feed the cats.

A special place in time and space


climbing up

(The Sultan’s Elephant, London 2006)

Of all the things I’ve witnessed in my life, few have been as spectacular and magical as when The Sultan’s Elephant travelled through time to London in 2006, looking for a little girl. The little girl was a twenty foot tall wooden puppet. The elephant was 42 feet tall, which is rather poetic. It happened and I was there: many memories and stories were recorded back then. The girl’s neo-gothic wooden spaceship crash-landed in Victoria, near where I was working at the time. It really happened: click on the link below the photo, and here. I don’t know if I have a medical condition with a name, but I weep when I see or hear something beautiful. It was a special place in space-time, recorded in the fabric of memory.

No matter where I landed in my own life and my internal religious debate, there would always be the uncertainty principle: As an atheist, I have to consider that although God died as a supernatural being with an interest in my welfare, I may as well resuscitate him. Because as we have looked deeper in science, so we have had to ask more questions and we still seek answers. They’re all out there, in space-time.

Space-time is really quite a simple thing to understand (I think): It’s the concepts of time and three-dimensional space regarded as fused in a four-dimensional continuum. I’ll explain how much space we occupy as individuals in relation to the size of the universe:

As you read this, you occupy an area of space in three dimensions: You have X, Y and Z axes; You have a depth, a height and a width; You can be measured in three ways. Personally, I’m 5 foot 4, about two feet from shoulder to shoulder and about a foot thick at my chest: I occupy an area of space about 18,432 cubic inches in size. I’m much smaller in metric: 1.63 metres tall x 0.6m wide and 0.3m deep; I occupy a space about the size of a pillar box. Never mind that I’ve chosen that particular comparison and that I’m full of stories; That is my personal space within the vastness. Give or take, a post box is a good measure of most people.

Here’s the clever bit: You, me; that post box, will still be there tomorrow, or a minute from now. We’ll still occupy our area of space but that in itself is moving through time. The difference of course is that the pillar box doesn’t have a choice. But that’s another story. Regardless of willing, we are in a three dimensional space, constantly. With every decision, catalyst, observation or whatever, that space splits and other timelines are created. That’s yet another story.

There are some things in science which are so weird that we can’t comprehend them. Maybe there was a creator: not necessarily “God” but something so far advanced from us that we might see it, or them, as a creator. It’s recursive and it’s a paradox. It’s material for the fiction writer.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am indeed a writer now: I’m comfortable with that. I write, I don’t make any money but I’m happy. Knowing what I believe to be true about life, the universe and everything so far, I’m content to just get by and leave a legacy. In a parallel future universe, researchers and historians might happen upon my writing and it may be noteworthy. I may or may not know if this happens but the fact that it could means that it already has: That’s quantum mechanics again.

As I’ve documented here before, I read and research a lot; mainly scientific stuff for the sci-fi side of my job. Quantum mechanics and physics are things which I now find simple concepts because I’ve read and written so much around the quantum universe (multiverse). But like in so much of my writing, there is a very simple parallel: Writing fiction, which is what I do. Because quite simply, in fiction, anything is possible and can be created. And that’s really what quantum theory is, but it’s real. So in a way, I don’t write fiction; I write fact.

Even away from quantum distractions, my stories usually have two things: a basis in fact and a degree of plausibility. Then they get more complicated and interesting on individual bases: That’s when they take me on a ride. Before we set off though, I’ll have characters in mind, based on people I know and with elements of myself, all mixed up: Characterisation is great fun. Recently, some of my stories have been concentric in themselves, with one story telling the making of another. A Tale With Many Strings, The Unfinished Literary Agency and Cyrus Song were some of the most enjoyable stories I’ve ever written. Cyrus Song especially, was based on persons and feelings close to me. To anyone outside though, it’s still a rather special story, which has gained me a little more recognition.

And so, having created a rod for my back, I needed to write the next one; I needed to go further out into this world I’m discovering, in my profession and in life. As I realise just what a small part of existence this life represents, I delve deeper into the next world, in my research and my writing. I need to strike a balance between working on new stories and editing the anthology of the older ones. I need to find time for Infana Kolonia. I need to slow up a little and deal with some things in the “real” world too. I happen to be tending a herb garden on my windowsill: Seeds which I planted and which are sprouting. I hope to report on all things botanical if the little wonders continue to grow as they are. Who knows what stories I might tell. In any case, my next one has a working title of Terra Incognita and it’s another longer story but darker than my more recent whimsies.

Even though my visible output may be less prolific than once upon a time, it doesn’t mean I’m not working. It’s just that where I find myself now, I have to tell longer stories. I’ll always be here.

So yet again, art and life come together in my world. I’m still exploring and with each answer, more questions are posed. And so I explore more and ask more questions. And it does carry on, beyond the time we have on this earth. Thank “God”, or whatever it is which has the answers.

Past, present and future are all linked: That’s a fact. Grasp the concept of space-time, then become even more confused about where it is you’re headed.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go but I think I’ve ended up where I intended to be.”

(Douglas Adams)

Floating in my tin can



<Image source: Wikipedia>

Want to listen to the light with me? Want to hear the big bang? Do you want to hold the entire universe in your hand? Because you can, and I’m here to show you how. It’s not even fiction: Although some of my stories are whimsical fantasy, they do have a grounding in science. Permit me to explain…

Every story is a journey, for the reader and the writer. That’s why I enjoy writing so much: Writing a story is a journey for me. I meet (create) new people and find myself (create) wonderful situations. I think of myself as an advance party, preparing the ground for future visitors to this new place. The best part is when the readers visit and tell me they’ve had a good trip.

Feedback for my latest, Cyrus Song, has been nothing but positive. Some of the comments confirmed what I was gradually coming to terms with: That I’m a very good writer. If I were to have a defining work, it would be Cyrus Song, where once it was COGS. The latter is in my anthology, due out in December and I could have punted the former around but I wanted it to have a wider audience, so I’ve granted one-time online publication rights to Schlock! web zine and Cyrus Song will be published for a larger audience this weekend. If ever I’d gladly be judged as a writer on one of my stories, this is the one.

Why do I work for web zines? They pay little or nothing. Well, I’ve been published in mainstream print magazines and they pay little. I won first prize in a national magazine writing competition and that paid not a lot. Web zines give exposure to the fringe writer in a crowded market; They’re free to view, so have large audiences; And just like other media, this has all come about with the democratisation of writing: Anyone can write and anyone can self-publish on the internet, just as those who’d be on TV might become vloggers. Some achieve cult status and although I have no ambition of fame, I’d like to be mildly notorious. Other than this blog, there is little that I self-publish. When my stories are published in Schlock! web zine, they have been reviewed by an editor who has a reputation to uphold and who won’t let any old shit through. In fact, my particular zine is one of the most respected in the horror, sci-fi and fantasy realm. Cyrus Song will be read by a fairly large audience and that is all I want, so that people can see what I do. One day I may get noticed and sell some books but it doesn’t matter if I don’t. I’m a storyteller and my stories will be told. Having the ability to do that is worth more than money.

Most of my more recent stories have been science fiction fantasies, as I move away from writing exclusively flash horror. The recent stories have taken me on longer and more interesting journeys: “A Tale With Many Strings”, “The Unfinished Literary Agency” and “Cyrus Song”. The journey of the writer is perhaps greater than that of the reader. Because in writing these tales, I’ve studied scientific facts and theories in depth to maintain a degree of plausibility. So my stories are fantastical but not impossible: Quantum physics is my closest friend and science, my bedfellow. So, do you want to listen to the light with me? Do you want to hear the Big Bang? It’s easy and all you need is an analogue radio:

What we see all around us is visible light: Most light is invisible. We all know the visible spectrum: the colours of the rainbow. The different colours are different wave lengths of light, because light is made up of waves: That is a proven fact. In the visible spectrum, red light has the longest wavelength. Because the speed of light is finite, variations in the wavelengths mean that certain colours hit our eyes first: red light, because it has the longest wavelength. And the universe is still expanding. That’s why, when we look at the most distant reaches of the universe through the Hubble Telescope, there’s a “Red shift”: The source of the light is so distant (approx. 14.5 billion light years away) that only the red light is reaching us, having travelled for 14.5 billion years, while the universe continues to expand: We’re looking into the past. Outside the visible spectrum – specifically at the long wavelength end – there is infrared light, then at longer wavelengths still, microwaves and radio waves (this is why we use radio telescopes). Those waves are in the air all around us and if you tune in an analogue radio, about 1% of that interference you can hear is microwave background noise: Those waves are longer, more stretched, and older than the red light sources; They’re the sound of the Big Bang, only just reaching us now. And that, is a fact. Further reading recommended but I’m sure it doesn’t take an IQ like mine, the size of a maximum snooker break, to grasp this concept.

But it matters not, for this is just the traveller explaining how the ship works. All that matters to the passenger is the journey. The journey I’m currently planning is another one to strange but possible places. It’s an as-yet untitled story, which begins like this: “The most unnerving part is the take-off, because you’re not actually aware of it.” Coming to a web zine soon.

See the light; listen to the light. Then think for a moment and you will understand. Because this life is but one blink of the eye which can see what comes next.

“Belief, like fear or love, is a force to be understood as we understand the Theory of Relativity and Principles of Uncertainty: phenomenon that determine the course of our lives. Yesterday, my life was headed in one direction. Today, it is headed in another. Yesterday I believed that I would never have done what I did today. These forces that often remake time and space, that can shape and alter who we imagine ourselves to be, begin long before we are born and continue after we perish. Our lives and our choices, like quantum trajectories, are understood moment to moment. At each point of intersection, each encounter suggests a new potential direction.”

(Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell)