Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Laziness is its own reward

You’ve seen WALL-E right? The Disney/Pixar film about a time when we’ve crapped on Mother Nature for so long that we’ve actually had to go into space to enable us to keep doing it from above.  I mean it’s a lovely, heartwarming story about a trash recycling robot cannibalizing the corpses of his dead compatriots to lengthen his own, worthless, existence. At least, we assume that this is how he gets his spare parts – I mean, he could hide behind piles of rubbish that he’s personally collected and hi-jack other WALL-E units when they come to clear it up and tear them to pieces with a pound-shop tin-opener that he came across one day.  But anyway… Remember the last third of the film where he finds his way onto the BnL liner Axiom and all the humans are obese and swan around in floaty chairs and have all their needs catered for by a central computer (and presumably a lot of hidden vacuum tubes)?

All rights reserved Disney/Pixar - Whoever

Did you feel a pang of guilt the first time you watched that? Did you look down at yourself and think, “Am I really supposed to be able to balance a ready-meal for four hungry adults on my stomach? Even when I'm crying heavy tears of self-loathing onto myself?” before fumbling around to grab the remote control that’s just about to slide down between the sofa cushion and the arm and you remember that last time you had to use the app on your phone to claim on your house insurance because it got caught up in the auto-reclining mechanism and you had to tell them that next door’s dog broke in and ate it?

No? Really? Are you sure? Because I’ve seen naked pictures of you and… To be honest… It’s gonna take more than a seaweed wrap and a quinoa & kale smoothie to sort either of us out.  But it’s not our fault is it? Not really, when you think about it.

It’s technology’s fault… The modern world is changing how we interact with everyday life.

Science, certainly every major scientific discovery of the past hundred years or so, has been to make our life easier.  Everything now is remote controlled, or heuristic, or there’s an app for it, or a prophylactic against it, or it’s more difficult to die from, or easier to insert into an orifice, or you don’t need to actually stand up to do it, or lie down, or squat precariously over a drain.  You get the picture right? You don’t have to actually ‘do’ anything anymore. If you snap your toilet seat in half, you can just tell your phone (or your broadband connected personal assistant presence) to order you a new one. If you do this before 6:00pm, the chances are that it’ll be dropped off later that same day by drone.

If you want to watch virtually any film that’s ever been produced ever, you can find it online, you can watch it on your 60” Smart TV without suffering the ignominy of walking down to Blockbuster… Or even getting up from your chair. You can have your shopping delivered directly to your front door with alternatives provided where those items have proved too popular (but not where you’ve made unhealthy food choices) You can change electricity supplier, entertainment supplier, sexual partner and/or pet with the touch of a virtual button.

When was the last time any of us hunted or gathered?  Have you ever chased down an Impala on the boundless plains of the Serengeti?  Have you ever even eaten a fish that you’ve caught yourself? Or opened a tin of ravioli with a hammer and chisel because you’ve broken the tin opener and can’t be bothered to go to the corner shop for a new one?

Have you ever looked at your monthly outgoings and shook your head because half of your outgoings are spent on labour saving devices and the other half is your gym membership?

Is it that we’re lazy? Is it because it’s how we display our dominance nowadays?

‘Look at how much I don’t have to do’ – ‘I’m so important that I don’t even have to actually exist anymore’ – ‘look at me fading away until there’s nothing left except the recurring reminder on Outlook activating the voice synthesizer on my phone telling my Google Home to buy more parrot food every three weeks.’, 'Look at the skeleton of my parrot.'

Maybe it’s time for us all to go off-grid and start afresh?

Just let me Google where the best place for me to do that would be. Should just take a minute.


Monday, 12 June 2017

Forever Girl (a deeply unapologetic advert)

Some of you will know that as well as writing, I also write… Wait... I mean, I write books as well as these memory-dump things I occasionally inflict upon you here – I think I may have mentioned it before on a couple of separate occasions.

This is what Forever Girl looks like so you aren't confused

My most recent book, Forever Girl, was a collection of unconnected short stories that I wrote over the past year or so.  There were ‘Flash’ pieces, like what I used to write back in the day. (Stories with 500 words or less) There were stories from my Edward Teach universe (More on this later) and then there are just stories based on random thoughts that I had on the bus, or on the tube, or on the toilet, or whilst someone was talking to me and I was just nodding at them and making ‘pew-pew’ noises in my head that drowned out what they were saying.

Does that ever happen to you? You’re nodding away and suddenly the person stops talking and says, “Do you agree?” and your anal sphincter tightens up and your mouth goes dry and you reply, “Erm…” and you look across to your mate who’s making the ‘Careful what you say next, you imbecile!’ face and frowning so heavily that it looks like someone’s just injected malt vinegar into his eyes with an icing syringe. So, because you have to say something, you say, “Yes?” Then he looks all gleeful and goose-steps out of Woolworths while your mate informs you that you’ve just agreed with someone who started their conversation with “Did you know that Hitler was just Ron Mael out of the band ‘Sparks’ wearing a jaunty sun-hat and I’ve got a mongoose in the front pocket of my cargo shorts?”


Just me then?

Oh… Right you are.

Anywho, back to the subject in hand, and the question I was about to ask… I’ll be blunt… Have you bought a copy? No? Well, I’ll tell you what I’ll do as a special favour – I’ll let you know what the included 28 stories are all about to whet your appetite. Then you can get it (from Amazon, I don’t just sell my stuff out of a shoebox by the side of the road you know)

  • The train now standing – The first story I ever read out loud at an event. About the passengers in a railway waiting room, on a rainy night in December.
  • A walk in the woods – A story set in my ‘Edward Teach’ airship Universe, Where our long-suffering first officer, Mr. Britt, takes a long tumble into danger – on his birthday.
  • Born from an egg? – Another Mr. Britt birthday story. This time explaining the plot of his favourite TV program… In detail - You might learn something.
  • Nexus 7 – More Edward Teachery, this time a story about my own daughter and her general disregard for authority.
  • A nautical gentleman – More birthdays, on airships, this time for Lee’Sahr, a crewman (crew-woman?) who has suffered a great personal ignominy.
  • It’s a setup! – A 495 word flash story, the entirety of which is really just a carrier for a groan-inducing final line.
  • Virtuality – An Artificial Intelligence (who swears that he most definitely isn’t) discovers that he’s more human than a lot of real humans are.
  • A Goswick railwayman – Why do I write so many stories about trains? I don’t even like trains that much. Here Death take things into his own anthropomorphised hands to correct a seventy year old mistake.
  • A breath of fresh air – One of the few stories where readers have taken the time to contact me and say that it left an impression on them. A young boy wishes that he’d done no more than been a better son.  A bit like myself.
  • A frozen image – Have you ever seen one of those ‘Snails do the funniest things’ clip-shows? Have you ever paused it at the very moment the baseball hit the camera? I wonder what you’d see.
  • Horner of the G.A.A. – Horner was an experiment, to see if I could over-describe everything, like Dan Brown does. He might actually star in his own deeply confusing novella one day.
  • Nowhere – My shortest story, at 150 words. About the last few seconds of a motorcyclists life.
  • I remember when this was all fields – My one and only try at a western/cowboy story. I discovered I was no good at them, so from now on I’m just going to stick to what I know.
  • Warning! – My first piece of flash, which despite being about a delivery driver and a bit rubbish – I’m still quite proud of.
  • I believe in a thing called love – A Doctor in the far future (If 500 years makes it the far future) discovers the love of his life is not who she seems to be.
  • Then: More fire – Our wonderful Doctor once more, finds that fire has become a permanent, and very uncomfortable, part of his love-life.
  • It’s been a long time – A birthday story for a good friend of mine. One who, at the time of writing, had been dead some 700 years.
  • Forever Girl – Our eponymous story about a normal everyday girl, who happens to work at Oxford University and may have a pet time machine.
  • The Baroness’ Birthday – An introduction to the Matriarch of the central family of the ‘Edward Teach’ stories and her ‘no nonsense’ attitude.
  • An Inconvenience – Another story about the Baroness, this one taking place both directly after, and also one year later than the previous one. A story of revenge denied.
  • The Rescuer – As most of the ‘Edward Teach’ based action takes place in the sky, I thought a story set on the seabed might make a nice change of pace.
  • Dale and Samuelson, Solicitors – Steven is a nobody, a worker in a London based solicitor’s office, whose only distinguishing feature is that his trainers are always wet.
  • The deluxe model – Mike Tanaka reports from the 2056 Tokyo toy fair. Where attitudes towards gender have changed. But manufacturing methods have not.
  • Mirror – A descriptive section about one man’s last, long day of employment in a dusty dystopia.
  • And there are no more – Have you ever been on a very long journey where people lay on entertainment to pass the time faster? Our unlikely hero, Archimedes has. (Includes a free song you can sing at home)
  • Guns! – A short-short story that I don’t actually remember writing. It’s about a man who overcomes his embarrassment to save his friends lives during the war.
  • The good old days – A flash story about a boy and his unusual friends – And how peer pressure doesn’t always end well.
  • BEK – The story of a very particular kind of monster, with a very particular set of skills. (I read this at an event in a bookshop last year, and it made at least one of the audience go very pale indeed)

So there you go, almost 30 stories for £7.99 – that’s about 26p each or something – And that’s for the paperback… How can you afford not to buy it?

(Yes, I know that doesn’t technically make sense – Just go with it - I'm a struggling writer, not a using English words properly type person)

You can get it in paperback HERE
You can get it for your Kindle (or Kindle compatible device) HERE

Either way, you short-term satisfaction is guaranteed – Although I’m not going to be refunding your money just because you say you didn’t like it.  You strike me as particularly untrustworthy, Have you actually met you? And it goes against all sorts of Amazon rules probably too, I’d have thought.

Oh! I was going to give you some news too wasn’t I?  Well, Over the next few weeks, I shall be publishing the novel that started off this Edward Teach tomfoolery.  It’s 300+ pages of futuristic, airship heavy, swashbuckling, there’s a female main protagonist that passes the Bechdel test (well, most of it at least) and it’s rip-roaring fun of the old-school type… And there may be a talking horse in it too.

Keep your eyes peeled for further updates… soonish.