Wednesday, May 18, 2011

99 Words: Alice Does It With A Boy

So, Alice realised with alacrity, this is losing your virginity. The boy between her legs grunted; not in agreement (he wasn’t psychic), it’s just what boys do, she reasoned. His rigorous thrusting seemed primitively bestial to Alice, but she didn’t know any better. She’d once given drunken head to some man in the park after way too much Malibu, but that was all.

Alice was only doing this because waitressing was boring her. Sadly, his monochromatic, lacklustre lovemaking couldn’t dispel the ennui. Maybe I’ll give girls another try, she thought, rearranging her uniform in the staffroom mirror. Less messy.

Updates and GOLD and First Lines.

Blimey, that was quick!
Have just sent in my last assignment for the Open University Advanced Creative Writing course. One more module next academic year and I gets me a degree and that.

It's been a very formative year for my writing. Last year was really about experimentation: whereas this year has been honing and fine-tuning and developing my own style and voice and tone and all those kind of things.

The last assignment was to hand in the first 4000 words of a 'novel'. My 'novel'.
It's not the novel I thought I was going to write, but darn it if it ain't shaping up quite nicely.
Think I'm going to have to finish it - the three people who've read the first chapter all want to read more, so I can't disappoint my public now, can I.

Well I can, as this blog is a long-winded way of saying I am going to be doing a lot of writing, but not as much blogging - although, to be fair, my blogging is a tad sporadic at best.


Anyways, instead of reading things by me, go and buy some proper books. Like Gold by Dan Rhodes, which is my favourite novel at the moment. A charming story set in a seaside village in beautiful, raggedy Pembrokeshire, with lots of beer and walking and biscuits and funny old men and the deep complications of relationships and the importance we place on traditions and GOLD and tinned spaghetti on toast and watching contact lenses dance in a variety of styles and pub quizzes...

It captures all of that in a very humourous manner, and yet as you turn the last page OHMYGOD. I love the two other Rhodes books I've read, Anthropology and Timoleon Vieta Come Home: Gold takes all the humour and pathos and wonder from both of these and spraypaints it all into shining sunlight smiles and rainy winter days.


Oh, and one more thing, check out the brilliant Literary mag The First Line, which I've found a wonderful source of comfort and inspiration over the last year or so.
If you like the kind of short story that I write, then you *might* want to look out for their forthcoming Summer 2011 edition. Just saying, like ;)


Monday, May 9, 2011

99 Words: Fings Vey All-ways Says

rite whatchu no

i no football an musik an drinkin an druhgs an women an ntendo an readin ver gaurdjan on mondays for ver meedja jobs – not vat i cud get one cos i aint gonna gradjuate but i’d lyke ta doo sumfing in tv.

i no sittin in a room wiv my mpfree player smokin twenny superkings bfor havin ta look for money dan ver back off the setty ta by mor.

i no stealing an lifting so vat i can eet.

i no drinkin vodker an wine so i can sleep.

i no i need help.


Short Story: Michael Loses

Michael’s day is routine. He knows the route so well, that he doesn’t notice crossing the footbridge over the dual-carriageway. He doesn’t see the cars stuck in the school-run, the office-rush, the morning-delivery slot convergence, stop-starting under his feet. He hasn’t woken up yet, he never does until about half-ten. It makes the day go quicker. It makes the mornings less painful. He’s concentrating all his neural activity on his headphones, The Clash on Broadway (Disc 1) on MP3. He wishes he was Topper Headon. He wishes he was the drummer in a garage band in Garageland. He reaches into his pocket for his swipe card. Carefully and with a vague surreptitiousness, he flicks his spent cigarette into the same drain he always aims for. He misses. He reaches into his jeans pocket for his swipe card. It’s not there. Envisaging the awkward conversation with the security guards on the front desk, he tries his back pockets, his front pockets again, his coat pockets, nothing. Panicking, he starts to ransack his rucksack, trying not to spill leaking pens and expired bus tickets and the components of his not-very-well-packed lunch across the pavement in the hunt for this elusive identification and site access card.

Had he looked up earlier, he wouldn’t have bothered to continue the search. As it was, he had just reconciled himself to the reality that: (a) he had left it at home, and (b) that he would have to be condescended to by one of the physically intimidating and highly judgmental security guards, when he walked into the anxious throb of his colleagues, gathered at the gates of the warehouse-cum-aircraft-hanger in the middle of the regeneration zone. Michael takes his headphones out of his ears, and, like everyone else this morning, stares at the chained gates, as if an act of mass-concentration would lead to answers appearing on the Chubb High Security Cruiser padlock. Capital Radio One is now broadcasting to his collar-bones. He reaches into his inside pocket and turns off his personal stereo, an unbranded iPod imitator. He won it at work, for having the best attendance record. He’d have rather have had cash at the time, but now he had used it for a while, he wasn’t so disappointed. It wasn’t like he would have ever bought one for himself. Not with the interest rates on his wife’s credit cards. And the mortgage.

Half-an-hour later, a red-eyed former Communications Officer comes out of the building, escorted by two security guards. He tries to be officious and bureaucratic as he sellotapes laminated notices to the gates, and he’s ignoring all questions with a broken ‘it’s all on the statement, that’s all I know’. Michael has never really liked the guy, but that was then, in there. The way he loved the power, withholding information in a very extroverted oh-I-can’t-possibly-say manner. Now he was this cracked mouthpiece, sticking up the last rites of a fallen institution on a chicken-wire fence, being jostled and harassed by a swell of disgruntlement. Michael writes down the telephone number of the administrators, and as the local television news van drove up the access road, he puts his headphones back in, and started walking.

He may as well go home, he thought. The Citizen’s Advice place and the Job Centre can wait until tomorrow. Or next week. And he was already on the bus. He hadn’t noticed it. Autopilot again. Coffee. He had enough money to cover the mortgage for a couple of months. Some more money in an ISA, and there was that savings account he’d set up for a rainy day. It’ll be alright, we’ll be alright, he assured himself. There’s other minimum-hassle, minimum-wage call-centre jobs in town.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Star Wars Day and YES to AV

Today is the 4th of May. Some wag, a long time ago, decided that the punning nature of ‘May the 4th’ and the Star Wars line ‘May the force be with you’ should be honoured with the declaration of this day to be Intergalactic Star Wars Day, or something, until the end of time.

You’d think that for myself, that this day would be a glorious celebration. But that’s to underestimate the power of the force. In my house, every day is Star Wars day.

And what a fine achievement it is: that the most successful film series of all-time utilizes such a combination of documentary footage, found through deep-space historical research in 1977, and isn’t one of those fictional films that seem to fill the cinema seats, and bust-blocks.

I think that’s why I love the Star Wars so much. Because I relate to these people, Han, and Leia, and Luke, and Vader, and Chewie. These are real people, living similar lives to ours, facing the same struggles that we face, but deep in history, and far, far away. These are the kind of characterisations that ‘made-up’ and ‘scripted’ films can never come close to.

I’d like to think that if I’d lived then, I’d be some sort of space administrative: writing press releases, proof-reading the Rebellion Manifesto, laminating the X-Wing user manual and ordering flea-medication for walking carpets. I think this because I side against the Galactic Empire, but am a rubbish fighter and pilot.

Tomorrow is May the 5th. Tomorrow, we in the UK have a chance to make a significant change in our electoral procedure. We have the opportunity to re-establish democracy within our democracy. For hundreds of years, the legislature of the United Kingdom has been offered to the people with one hand, and taken away by the minority with the other.

For every act of emancipation, for those under 30, for women, for poor folk, the state still claws back even more. Our country is the United Kingdom. The Monarch still has the final word, no matter how we vote.

The House of Lords has been revamped, with the ongoing removal of hereditary peers. Yet instead Life Peers are created as a result of political opportunism, filling the benches of our upper chamber with a bunch of un-elected party cronies.

The House of Commons, ie: the bit we vote for, is just as ridiculous. We have all these wonderful ‘seats’ – that is to say, parts of the country divvyed up and gerrymandered in the pursuit of securing a power base. So few of these are ‘swing’ seats that voting in most of the country is irrelevant: in many areas a proverbial cardboard cut-out of a politician wearing the right-coloured rosette will get elected, no matter what.

And the Prime Minister, our fore-most politician and representative here on earth, well we don’t elect him – he’s chosen by the party that wins the most seats. It doesn’t even matter if his or her party failed to command 50% of the vote – regardless the winning party has near-enough unlimited power to refill the benches of the House of Lords with their highest-donating / most-loyal supporters.

We have the option of changing this, slightly – so that when I vote, my vote is not only counted, but my opinion is heard. The Alternative Vote system ensures that the majority of people in a constituency are represented by someone they chose. It’s not perfect. It’s not pure democracy, or pure proportional representation, it’s not even the Additional Member System, which I really like, but for now, it will do.

It’s certainly better, and fairer, and more representative than the awful First Past The Post system we operate now, where votes don’t count, and parties choose safe seats for their special favourites, and then promote those that fail into the ranks of the Lords anyway.

But enough about me: the Conservatives and the RACIST BNP SCUM are against it. Surely that says something, right?

In the spirit of today though, it’s worth examining the archives that Lucasfilm discovered, and see how our friends across the universe would vote.

Kashyyyk – home of the Wookies – says Rawwallawwweell to AV.

Yes, They'd rather have the Alternative Member System, or a proportionally-elected upper chamber, but anything is better than the legacy Wookie MPs who get elected no-matter-what in seats that no longer count. Also, Chewbacca would like a none-of-the- above option.

Tatooine – ruled by The Hutts – says No to AV

The Hutts love their safe seats in the Senate, and have no reason to want to change. Now, I'm not calling the Tory party a bunch of slug-like slime-oozing gangsters who only have their own interests (money, dancing girls, bloodsports) at heart, but there are similarities....

Naboo – ruled by pre-teen girls and Jar-Jar Binks’ species – says No to AV

No offence to 11 year-old girls, but they are quite easily misled. And the Binks and his underwater gang of buffoons are idiots. No wonder they say No.

Cloud City – Ruler Lando Calrissian – says Yes to AV

Lando was elected Head of State after receiving 32% of the vote in a four-candidate race. The other candidates were all more left-wing and liberal than Lando – and would never have pulled such a dodgy deal with The Empire. However, the anti-Lando vote was split, and that is why Bespin had a garrison of troops left there, and its citizens want a fairer electoral system.

Alderaan –ruled by Hereditary Royalty – says Yes to AV

Well, they would, but the selfish King decided to ignore democratic thoughts and allowed the rebellion to base their operations on his planet. And now, thanks to the awesome devastational power of the Death Star, a million voices calling out for a fair voting system were suddenly silenced....

Droids – y’know, metal robots – say Yes to AV

Droids are the second class citizens in the galaxy. The number of them who are eligible to vote is so low, that no droid representation is found in the Galactic Senate. This is why it is commonplace for many restaurants and public houses in the galaxy to bar droids and ‘their kind’ from their establishments.Droids want a balanced vote, and see the Yes to AV campaign as a building-block or stepping-stone to further progression in electoral fairness.