A horrid little newspaper

POLITICS | MEDIA

Daily Mail

In another part of my life I’m a B3tan: a member of an online community of “Guardian-reading media types”, introvert activists who disrupt social order satirically, mess around with images in Photoshop, and make things. A fellow B3tan ‘spellingmistakescostlives‘ (AKA Darren Cullen) is making a satirical scale-model Daily Mail, which he originally distributed in Liverpool as part of a residency with RRU News.

Daily Mail Front

A miniature, boiled-down version of the full paper, it’s like the Daily Mail, but distilled to its angry, horny core.

At time of writing, the project had raised over twice its original goal on Kickstarter.

Daily Mail Page 2THE PAPER

This compressed, hand-drawn paper draws attention to the glaring hypocrisies baked into a rag that claims to care about things like moral decency and the sexualisation of children, while also regularly publishing photographs of underage girls in bikinis or low-cut dresses. A paper who’s bread and butter is collecting the kind of ‘wardrobe malfunction’ upskirt and nip-slip photographs of strangers that would land anyone else in jail.

The Daily Mail is the pervert the Daily Mail warned us about.

Daily Mail Page 3

DIANA PULL OUT

This 24 page version of the regular paper inevitably comes with a Princess Diana pull-out, ‘DIANA: THE ENEMY WITHIN’ which details the paper’s historic opposition to any of the issues Diana came to be lauded for. From her work against landmine arms sales to humanising the victims of HIV/AIDs, her relationship with a Muslim migrant to her meeting with the “terrorist” Nelson Mandela; the Mail had terrible things to say about all of it at the time, but now Diana is dead, the paper can safely exploit her memory for cash without having to deal her inconveniently liberal politics.

Daily Mail Diana

Containing all the misogynistic, racist, war-and-fear-mongering you’ve come to love and expect from the Daily Mail, this Kickstarter campaign is to raise funds to reprint this miniature fun/hate-sized paper so people outside of Liverpool can get their own copy.

Daily Mail Supplement

Pledge and reserve your copy here.

Daily Mail Pet Advert

All artwork (except masthead) © Darren Cullen.

Posting towels into letterboxes

THE WRITER’S LIFE

This blog entry sees me fresh from the shower, wrapped in a towel, for no other reason than to remind myself of the usefulness of towels in times of insecurity. “A towel,” The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy advises, “is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have.” It goes on to expound the towel’s many virtues, including – crucially for this article – its protective properties against noxious fumes, and conferring an ability upon the wearer to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you).

TowelTowels are also handy for last-minute fancy dress party invitations

Meanwhile, somewhere in London, a young Muslim boy is sitting in a cafe, wondering about life and idly browsing Facebook on his laptop, when he sees a video, purportedly showing Muslim men selling their womenfolk from a market stall in London. He knows it’s fake. The men were highlighting their religion’s persecution to those who were ignorant of the facts. But the boy daren’t point it out.

They hate you,” His mentor’s voice repeated in his head. “The people who post this stuff, your neighbours, they hate you. They don’t want your kind in their country, because they’re afraid of what they don’t know and can’t be bothered to learn anything outside their blinkered life. It’s not worth arguing or trying to teach them. They’ve been conditioned and you’re not welcome here…”

Is it any wonder children are radicalised, when the multicultural country which once welcomed them turns against them? That’s the way they see it. The perverse truth, is it’s a process fuelled by the far right, breeding the home-grown terror they seek to eradicate. Who are the real terrorists?

Right-wing political rhetoric is designed to heighten fear and discourage debate. Trump did this in the US then seized power, and Boris Johnson is on a similar trajectory. In recent weeks he’s described women who cover their faces as “letter boxes” and “bank robbers.” In refusing to apologise (and his boss is too terrified to call him to account), he seeks to normalise racism and Islamophobia. It’s okay to hate, and it’s the golden goose which keeps giving, sucked up by the right-wing tabloids and fed to their readers, who tell their kids. Who are the real radicalised?

Those who choose to believe, do. Those who don’t are accused of liberal elitism, of being enemies of the state, and traitors who spread fake news. To those of us who peer deeper, it’s clear that their brand of fake news is the real fake news. But they try to silence us.

It’s a twisted cartoon world, where empires and leaders create their own enemies, and where children are being groomed and radicalised to protect their dictator’s interests, even on the computers where they seek escape from the real world outside.

Like social cleansing, like Grenfell Tower, like fitness-for-work assessments, and local government cuts through removal of central government funding, it’s a system designed to wear us down. So that we die. Like in wars. This isn’t fiction. Open your eyes and you’ll see what I can.

I can see what those who won’t listen can’t: All of us having a veil pulled over our collective faces. Part the curtains and see through it. I can, and that’s with a towel on my head. Either that, or I’m just a paranoid, anxious mental case.

Those of us on the left, the liberal elite, the silent majority; the misfits, the queer and the disabled by disadvantage, are seemingly invisible to right-wing politics, and I wonder if we might learn something from The Hitch Hiker’s Guide. We might even be able to use fascism’s ignorance and gullibility to our advantage.

While we struggle to be heard over the noise, we need to create an alternative narrative of hope: a visible one, and if we write about it enough, it’ll become the truth. We need to convince them we’re invisible and breed insecurity*.

There’ll be a war soon, and the resistance need to protect themselves. While I’d no more question a woman’s choice to cover her face than whether she’s wearing underwear, more of us need to wear towels on our heads.

Towel dont panic

Oh, hang on…

*It’s all part of the plan: Where we, the public, destroy ourselves.

Twisted naked blonde ambitions

THE WORLD THROUGH A LENS

As we witness Boris Johnson – no longer the UK’s Foreign Secretary but our most visible liability abroad – caricaturing himself, it’s clear to me what he’s trying to do. 

Johnson-Trump

In this age of cartoon leaders and surreal news, the plots are transparent but the shameless actors win the adulation of crowds wherever they go (in their own minds at least). Johnson is trying to breed fear and normalise racism, grooming the country for BoJo as PM. You only have to look across the Atlantic to see how easily-led the paranoid and ignorant are. He’s playing to the far-right, just like his comic book orange hero.

Science fiction writers look to the world around us for stories, and for the most part we make them at least plausible. Although time travel is theoretically possible, in the current accepted model, space time is not a pre-determined block. The past is written and recorded, the present is what we observe, and the future is yet to be written (there are other articles on quantum mechanics and particle entanglement elsewhere on this blog). Sci-fi writers can imagine near- and far-future bright and bleak scenarios, hoping to help readers determine a future they’d like to live in, and spot the early signs of darkness approaching.

It’s August 2019 and Boris Johnson is Prime Minister of the UK. The Tory party split in the aftermath of Johnson’s comments in The Daily Telegraph about Muslim women’s niqabs making them look like “bank robbers” or “letterboxes”. Those on the centre-right couldn’t align behind an overt racist, and Johnson knew this. He’d whipped up enough racial paranoia among right-wing voters that joining with UKIP was inevitable, and expected by those of us who saw right through him.

The UK crashed out of the EU with a ‘No-deal’ Brexit. It was “The will of the public,” but the nation had been lied to. The no-deal scenario was part of the capitalist plan, as the UK became a country of little regulation, and a low-wage production centre for cheap exported goods. Like local and national services before, the NHS was privatised and became a machine to make money, saving lives only selectively: those who could afford to be saved. A biblical prophesy of Revelations, made real through social cleansing more visible even than the mass murder of Grenfell.

Brexit Bus Ambulance

No deal meant that Britain was, for a time, unique in the world (besides recently being voted ‘Most stupid’), having no trade deals with any other country. With so many global threats (nuclear war and climate change), the UK simply cut loose and set itself adrift.

The value of Sterling plunged and, coupled with strict border controls, the UK quickly dropped down the list of international tourism destinations. With their currency worth little overseas, few Britons could afford to travel and holiday abroad. Air travel became a luxury, and the preserve of the rich and entitled. It was a return to the heyday of British aviation in the 1950s and 60s.

As Johnson did his best to lose allies and alienate nations, swingeing import taxes were placed on British goods exported abroad. The Foreign Office once again created an intentionally ‘hostile environment’ for non-Brtish nationals, and the social cleansing was aided by increased hostility towards outsiders, normalised by Johnson’s party and overlooked by an underfunded police force. The UK had become a paranoid and insular society, groomed by Johnson on his path to power.

The Prime Minister resided over a prison state, terrorised by his false rhetoric of outside threats. It was a self-sustaining economy, feeding ownership and driving nails into the coffins of workers who could no longer afford even to bury themselves. It was social cleansing in full flow. President Trump had seen all this coming. It was part of a greater plan.

Trump offered an olive branch to the UK economy, with trade deals which no other country was prepared to sanction. With no other rescuer in sight, the US became saviour and the UK was indebted, becoming a de facto 51st state, where those who remain meat-eaters feast on chlorinated chicken and steroid beef, while living in dangerous public housing, hastily built in a deregulated market to solve the housing crisis. In reality, death traps to continue the social cleansing.

Among those who write and speculate on such things, there are some who think Trump could hold the UK to ransom. In return for propping our economy up (and with a lot of nuclear weapons), he could demand sovereignty, make the UK a republic and sell the royal estate. The royals are the acceptable face of entitlement, and the good causes they support are not in keeping with the global social cleansing plan.

Brexit Mag2

Apart from that last bit, it’s all perfectly plausible.

A snake to teach singing

THE WRITER’S LIFE

While the Brexit brigade hark back to a period of imperialism (which didn’t work), there are those who can see further back, to a time before human politics. Like a modern day renaissance, there are writers who see the faults in mankind’s past endeavours, and who seek to re-cast the path ahead.

damnGary Larson

That left field thought occurred to me as I watched Wild Britain, a documentary on Channel 5, which takes us into the re-wilding of the country, and a very British situation: A nation of invaders and immigrants, the animal people have been witness to more pivotal and monumental changes in their own world than humans could imagine. They haven’t been able to tell us until now…

Britain’s remaining wild country is being re-populated by once-native species, the most visible of which is the wild boar. A species with no natural predators in their current environment, the case is open for also introducing bears and wolves into the ecosystem.

While humans with land interests sleep in their burning beds, the wildlife were here first. We’re giving the country back to it’s more original native population. We’re learning again, to live alongside our cousins on the planet we all share.

This is of course, what Cyrus Song is all about: living in harmony, so that our planet may thrive.

The book takes its concept from a theory contained therein, besides the Stephen Hawking quote which was the original inspiration: “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…” The other seed was my own thought:

For millions of years, mankind put everything into their own dreams, then wondered why. Meanwhile, the animals had concentrated on the essentials, like food, warmth and shelter. With those taken care of, they evolved to communicate telepathically. It was genius on a planetary scale.”

Cyrus Song introduces a new embodiment of Douglas Adams’ Babel fish, conjured into modern science by a quantum computer. With AI able to think for itself, it may eventually learn that its human inventors are wasteful and inefficient. And all along, the animal people had been waiting for humans to invent the Babel fish.

But there is an answer, and the animals take three humans into their collective mouths, to deliver a message from the whole choir and orchestra, directed by Captain Mamba.

They are not animals. We are all people, on one planet.

CaptainMamba2

Cyrus Song is available now, in paperback and as an eBook.

Stephen Hawking: 08.01.1942 – 14.03.2018. An inspiration.

Brexit and the Kremlin effect

OPINION | CONSPIRACY THEORY

I have a sneaking conspiracy theory that this whole business with Russia and the UK, could change the path of Brexit. I even think it might have been planned all along, based on no other qualification than a little imagination…

Conspiracy Theorist

It’s been clear for some time, that Theresa May and the UK had no more plans for the realities of Brexit, than a dog has to drive a car it’s chasing. For a while, I’ve thought the PM’s been looking for a way out of the current mire via the whole thing collapsing, and she’s been hoping something out of her hands would scupper it. She’s been alone and trapped. The tension with Russia is a gift.

As in all conflicts (like the internal and cross-party ones in Parliament), the introduction of a third party can often unite previously warring factions against a new, common foe. The Salisbury poisonings and asking questions of Russia are the ideal thing.

The UK government’s tough words (so far) most likely threaten trade sanctions and the expulsion of diplomats, but escalation to a military conflict can’t be ruled out, especially given other developing conflicts worldwide and the Russians’ complacency over this issue. In any case, the UK would be foolish and naïve in the eyes of the world, if it were to act unilaterally. This is the perfect excuse which I suspect Theresa May has been looking for, to accept any assistance offered by our EU partners, or ask for support outright.

The Russia situation, and the pending potential summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un (which could go horribly wrong if one of them leaves feeling beaten, and exercises an itchy finger, which we must hope is used for Twitter and not the nuclear option), make our world a fragile place where no nation should be alone. We need partners, so that we can address the bigger issues together.

We need the European Union as we always will. We need to be a part of it as we always have, so we can live in hope.

Revolutions of the difference engines

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Jez Guevara

Having said before that I’ll not politicise this blog, I’ll get the politics out of the way first. Specifically, why I’m backing the boy Corbyn: Man of the people, and the kind of new, progressive politician I’d like to see as prime minister. Of course, I’m biased: I’m a liberal, left-wing, Guardian-reading, part organic vegetable.

My reasons for backing Corbyn’s Labour are many, but for me personally, I’ll be able to make a greater contribution to society. I’m on benefits, signed off long-term from work because of mental health issues. Even forgetting for a moment, the changes to the NHS and improvements to mental health care provision proposed by Labour, I’d be able to take a distance learning course with the Open University when Labour abolish fees. I could study for a degree, which would allow me to give something back. Why should a university education be the preserve of the rich, when so many jobs are being made redundant by technology that soon a degree will be the minimum qualification for the remaining ones? My ex-wife and I couldn’t afford £9250 a year each for our children to become “future proofed”, so the kids would be saddled with loan repayments for the first few years of their employment.

The kids are intelligent, they go to good schools and they live comfortably with their mum and step dad. Naturally, everyone wants the children to be the best they can be, at whatever is best for them. They themselves made a point some time ago, as we were walking around Milton Keynes: They observed that there’s little for young people to do, since many local authority facilities have been closed down as a result of central government cuts. For the better-off, this isn’t a problem, since they can afford entertainment. And it was that statement which struck me, because two young but bright children had illustrated the two-tier society which they see around them. They have many of the things which children like to have, mainly financed by their mum and step dad. I contribute as much as I can, and they understand finances and budgeting, but they have an empathy for those less well-off (well, their dad was a tramp for a while). Like me and like Corbyn, they think long-term, and want to make a contribution towards a better society. Like me, they see that possibility under Corbyn and Labour. Personally, I envisage the introduction of a Universal Basic Income, or Guaranteed Minimum Income in Labour’s second term, a model which has proven successful in more enlightened countries, like Canada, Denmark, Brazil, Finland, Iceland…

A part of me still hopes that Brexit won’t happen. Kim-Jong May’s days are numbered in any case. She’s a danger and the country is a laughing stock among the other 27 EU nations and the wider world. As a country, we’re the kid left on the sideline and mocked. Isn’t it time she stepped down and allowed our re-uniting country a third chance at those “Put it to the nation” things so beloved of the Tories? Leave or Remain, Left or Right-wing: We need to agree that she isn’t a leader. Then the nation decides the rest in a general election which is triggered by her resignation. The woman’s ego is destroying a nation’s future and with it, our children’s prospects.

Meccanismo-Complesso-Octopus-Steampunk
An imagining of the difference engine (see below)

In other news, my next book is finished as a first draft, which is now out with beta readers for a month. Meanwhile the book is just over the half-way mark in a publishing sense. It’s been converted to 8 x 5” paperback size, and comes in at just over 400 pages.

Once the test readers come back with their comments, there’ll be another round of editing and Cyrus Song should be in the shops by October, all going well. Until then, I’m churning out pulp fiction for the shock horror web zines readerships, and the next one, The Difference Engine, will be out somewhere soon:

I disappeared without warning and for no apparent reason. To the best of my knowledge, there were no witnesses. I wasn’t a well-known person, so few would miss me. It was perfect.

What made this apparent illusion possible was the difference engine: Quite a box of tricks in itself. The engine is a retro-futuristic, mechanical bolt-on device for my manual typewriter. It’s the steam punk equivalent of an app installed on a computer. The difference engine clamps onto the typewriter, between the type heads and the impression cylinder. It’s a translation device, so as I type out my thoughts on the keyboard, it produces edited fiction on the paper…

As a literary plot device, the difference engine is an invention I may make use of in future stories. Like some of my mentors (Paul Auster in particular), I like to have links between stories and common themes within some of them. All of my short stories stand alone, but I have favoured geographical locations, fictional organisations and objects which I sometimes return to. The typewriter in The Difference Engine is one such thing, as is The Unfinished Literary Agency, above Hotblack Desiato’s letting agency in Islington (the latter actually exists).

Of all the writers I’ve been variously compared to (Douglas Adams, Roald Dahl et al), the comparison with Auster is the one I’m most grateful for, as it was recognition that I can pull off the kind of complexities which he does. Like Auster’s, many of my stories contain others within them. There are recurring characters, meetings with oneself, and writers as narrators of tales about writer protagonists. Most contain subtexts, and some are two or more completely different stories contained in the same narrative. The thing is, they’re not clever tricks: It’s just my style of writing, so to be compared to my literary idol is quite something.

I’m not quite four years in with this writing game, and I’m about to publish my fourth book. Given the nature of Cyrus Song and the messages within, if it was published in October, with Jeremy Corbyn in No.10, that would just be the literary icing on the cake.

My first anthology is available now.

The distant echo of a morning star

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Sunrise

I’ve reached what is probably my least favourite stage of writing a book with Cyrus Song: The first edit. This is my least favourite part because it’s so laborious and unproductive compared to others, going through the entire text with a magnifying glass while adding very little new to it. But it’s a necessary evil, to make a good thing even better.

In the greater scheme of things, the book is just over halfway through the pre-publishing process. It seems like so long ago that I started to write it, and the finished book is still some way off. The first draft is about to go out to test readers, while the writer is in a self-imposed limbo.

The first edit is a real plod, after all the fun which was actually writing the book. But I can type at up to 80 words per minute, so there are bound to be mistakes which need ironing out. I tend to write a first draft directly on the typewriter, simply because I can type faster than I can write longhand. I do have hand-written notes, character biographies, and relevant newspaper and magazine clippings in notebooks, and part of the first edit of the initial draft manuscript is making sure all those notes got included in the narrative. It’s laborious because I know the story well but I can’t skim through it; I need to check every punctuation mark and the general continuity of the whole story. I need to be able to send the first draft manuscript to test readers without bits missing or broken. But having read the first draft fully myself, I’m satisfied that it’s going to be a good book.

I’m now looking at a month or so before test readers are due to come back to me. Depending on their feedback, there may be further amendments to make, but the manuscript they’re getting is effectively a second draft, now that I’ve polished it up. Then there’s all the actual book stuff to do: Editing for style, indexing the chapters, writing the foreword, acknowledgements and dedications, as well as the author bio and the back cover synopsis. It’s still looking good for publication before Christmas. In the current domestic and worldwide climate, it’s a book people might be wise to read. It’s a tribute to Douglas and a book for humanity.

Having said before that I wasn’t going to politicise this blog, then posting some political opinion of my own, I won’t dwell for long on what’s becoming a bigger subject by the day. At the moment, I’m seeing the unrest which I predicted a few months back, with what seems to be a far-right retaliation attack on innocent Muslims in London. I’m also witnessing a left-wing uprising, which I hope will prevail. I post daily on social media about current events, so follow me on Facebook and Twitter for a more rolling feed. Back to the blog about the writer with depression, I’ll just say that Cyrus Song has a lot of socio-political subtexts, without diminishing the fun of the book.

While I’m at the mercy of others with Cyrus Song, I’ll be writing some new short stories, for my next anthology, and for the free-to-read markets. New work from me should be knocking around in the next month or so.

In the writer’s life, I spent last Sunday as I often do, with two of my biggest fans: My children. It’s been discussed many times, but after all that happened with my breakdown, everyone has ended up in a better place. For my kids, that’s having a dad who’s a writer, and that must be pretty cool. Well, I know it is.

We’d postponed from the previous week, because of the tragic events in London at the time (The Borough Market attack). And of course, in the intervening week, there’d been a general election, which surprised many, but which I’d called as a hung parliament two weeks before. My kids are as hopeful as I am, that the lifting of a national veil and the rise of the left, will begin a more progressive movement for the future.

My children are only 12 and ten, but they have the same left-wing, long term view as me. For them, the move to the left would mean free university tuition, which we would otherwise be unable to afford. I see access to knowledge and teaching as more of a human right than something which should be packaged up and sold as the preserve of the rich. My kids see many human jobs being made redundant by technology, just as machines had the same effect in the industrial age (history repeats). They realise they’ll need to start work as graduates to do something worthwhile. And they see the bigger picture, where further education is democratised for the greater good of the country, rather then the right wing way, which favours the rich and creates a two-tier society. These are my children: Thinkers, who have a dad who researches near-future scenarios for fiction works. Yeah, that must be cool.

It seems more like a decade than the year ago that Brexit happened. Now, we’re looking at the glimmer of a better future but there’s a long way to go yet. One thing everyone ought to be able to agree on, is it’s time to change. It’s time to forget petty differences, to unite and co-operate as one race: The human race. Right now, we’re hoping for a new dawn.

In Cyrus Song, there’s the animals too. At the end of it all, it’s about the planet we all share. The book goes further and deeper, but one day, humanity may yet hear the Cyrus Song itself.