A Life Of Fiction CLXXXI

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Fiction In A Post-Truth World: Now we are all creators of fiction, whether on Fox News or on Facebook or in our blogs or elsewhere. Some claim the fake news to be the truth; and some of the biggest creators of fake news are the ones who claim that it is the liberal elite press who are lying. I don’t really want to get into politics here, as my very left of centre politics would no doubt offend a lot of people. No, instead, I wonder what the challenges are for authors in a world where there are fake news and alternative facts.
Does this make being a writer of fiction easier or harder, when you can no longer even trust sites which claim to carry the news? We have competition. Some of the things which have been claimed to be true are ones which I would never put in a story, because I know that people would not be able to suspend their disbelief.

I could not have written a short story where an American President was responsible for the rise of Al Qaeda or ISIS. It would not have been believable. I would not have expected my readers to suspend their disbelief. Yet Barack Obama was accused of doing just that.
Perhaps I should try writing something even more unbelievable than what I have written in the past. Maybe I will – after I have finished some of the many incomplete short stories I have on the go at the moment. I must try and finish that which I have started.

It is odd when truth becomes stranger than fiction. It is not just the election of a demagogue. Occasionally some very strange things occur. I don’t mean urban legends here, but the sort of things which can be proved. Some of them are by accident, some are by design.

Chance, itself, is stranger than most people think, unless you have a grounding in mathematics. I like mathematics, but I never went beyond an O Level grade. But I think that I am correct in saying that if you have at least thirty people in a pub it will be odds on that two of them will share a birthday. You might think that the chance would be around one in twelve. But such things are not doled out randomly. True random distribution can cause clusters to arise. If you don’t understand the strangeness of reality, and chance, you can get confused, and put those clusters down to things where a causal link has not been proved: cancer clusters and phone masts, suicide clusters and Facebook posts, and so on. those things do occur, even though they can look non-random.
Chance, though, generally only occasionally impinges on the fake news items. Some of the fakes are by design, to lead us astray politically. It was reported, in years back, that the EU were banning some bananas for being too bendy. That was nothing but a bit of an anti-TU propaganda by the then journalist, Boris Johnson. It was not in any way true. All that the EU did was to grade bananas on size and quality. At no stage was there ever any suggestion that any bananas should be banned. It was nothing but a lie, designed to sell newspapers, and appeal to some people’s innate dislike of the EU.

It is pretty easy to represent such lies in a story. Invent something ridiculous and have some self-aggrandizing fool repeat it, such as saying that the British government has a secret prison for terrorists on the top of Rockall, or that George ‘Dubya’ Bush really did choke to death on a pretzel, and the rest of his presidency was under a look-alike. Or that Donald Trump is a Manchurian Candidate (Or, in this case, Muscovian).

A large minority of American voters did vote for Donald Trump. Sorry to keep going back to this, but I found the American election fascinating. Did people vote for Trump because they believed what he said? Was it an anti-Clinton vote? Or did they vote purely on party lines, and simply because he was the official Republican candidate? Would they have voted for anyone?

Bernie Sanders has called Donald Trump a pathological liar. My fear is that a lot of Trump supporters will end up being disappointed; and that, because of the checks and balances of the American system, that a lot of what trump claimed was going to happen simply will not come about. I fear that those in the Rust Belt who either do not have a job, or have a very well-paid one, will not see their living conditions increase.

Trump did not have the greatest sized crowd turn out for his ‘coronation’. Fake news. the crowds for Obama were bigger. Jus compare the pictures if you don’t believe me. It was a cold day in January. What does it matter who had the biggest numbers? But, I guess, for Trump, such things do matter. He doesn’t like the idea of not being all that popular. He is the sort of person who needs to feel loved. He accuses the Press of telling lies when, in truth, it is the other way around.

I don’t like Trump. But I understand why so many Americans voted for him, and I was not the least bit surprised when he defeated Hillary Clinton.

So how do you write fiction in a world where you cannot be certain what is true or not? Well, you can make your novels even more fantastical. They are not just a series of unfortunate events. Invent the most fantastical thing which you can imagine before breakfast. Then stick it in your novel.

If you want some politician who is a serial killer then have a politician who is a serial killer. First, research the psychology of such characters, so that your literary treatment of the character is believable. Then imagine where combining politics and psychopathy will take your story, and go there. You may find that your character ends up behaving like quite a few politicians (both American and English). I won’t say who they are because I have no desire to be sued for libel.

This may sound odd, but make sure that you fully research such fantastical things. Plan it all out. Lies are more easily accepted if they stick to their own internal logic. Sometimes people are willing to accept simple lies rather than complex truths (see the debates against global warming, for example). People are also far more willing to accept things which are untrue if they are wrapped up in a conspiracy (man did not walk on the moon, Kennedy was killed by the man on the grassy knoll, our burning of massive amounts of fossil fuel is not heating up the atmosphere, and so on). We like the idea of the truth being kept from us by the government, even if, in the back of our minds, we know that most governments are too inept to keep much secret.

Remember, that however fantastical you make your tales, truth can often be stranger than fiction.

The next post will be on how to avoid writing a novel.

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A Life of Fiction CLXXX

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Goodbye Scary Canary: By the time that you read these words Scary Canary will be gone as a venue. Which means, of course, no more Permission To Speak (at least not there).
The Scary Canary was never my favourite venue in the entire world. But I was beginning to like it. The announcement, at the final Permission To Speak, that it was to close came as a shock to me, as I had thought that it was doing reasonably well. But, apparently, the person who owned the venue wanted to concentrate on her artwork, rather than run an interesting venue like the Scary Canary.

The Scary Canary was never just about Permission To Speak, of course. That only took place once a month. It was primarily a bar, although lots of other activities took place there, such as live music, films, open like nights, and board games. There aren’t many pubs around Stourbridge which did all that. But it was the spoken word night, once a month, which was the only one which really interested me. It had become about the only time that I ever went out.

Rob, the guy who ran the Permission To Speak evenings, is hopeful about finding some other venue for Permission To speak. But I am less hopeful than he is. There aren’t all that many decent places in Stourbridge. There’s Katie Fitzgerald’s, and the Duke William, and that is about it. But I don’t know if Eddie (at Katie’s) or Steve Craddock (at the Duke) would be interested in a monthly spoke word night. Besides, I don’t think that the Duke is really big enough, considering how many people we had at Scary Canary for the final Permission To Speak. Rob had really built up Permission To Speak over the couple of years that it had been running. The place was packed.

So I’m not sure if I will ever read out my poetry again. If Permission To Speak moves too far afield I simply will not be able to get there, with my fear of going on buses. It is possible that I will never say any of my poetry out loud. Which some people will say is not a great loss, I suppose.

Had I known, beforehand, that Scary Canary was coming to an end I might have chosen some different poems to read out. But that last night I took along a couple of poems from a recent collection (Thieves of the Amazon).

There is (as I write these words) to be a Permission To Shut Up, the final ever poetry at the Scary Canary. I think that I will go along to that, and do two or three poems. They will be ones which I have had good feedback to. I’m not sure, yet, which poems I will do. Maybe Waiting For Shelley will be one of them.

Anyway, here are the two poems, Cancelled and Birdsong Has Died, which I read out on the final regular Permission To Speak. Cancelled is, obviously, about the railway. Birdsong Has Died is about the American Passenger pigeon being hunted to extinction. The last ever Passenger Pigeon, Martha, died in Cincinnati zoo. It is something which has come up in my writing before now. The main hero in The Black Museum, I think, was writing a book about somebody writing a book which was partly about the extinction of those birds.

PS: Since writing this post Permission to Speak is back, at Claptrap.

Cancelled

Drizzle across the train tracks, sleepers wet;
The announcement has not come out, as yet;
Eyes glance down at digital watches, phones,
Wondering where the train is. Machine tones
Break through the muttered complaints, telling folk
The train is cancelled. Oh what a joke!
But no one laughs. There’s a collective groan;
The passengers feel that they should have known.
Just one more fuck-up from these privateers,
Profit-led pirates of the Tory years.
Nothing will change while the system remains,
So burn it down, scatter the cremains,
And start all over again.

Birdsong Has Died

Do not go down there, to that place
For the birdsong has died
Do not ask questions of my face
Or forgive my lack of grace
When silence echoes through the skies.

We shot them down, all over the lands
Killing them in myriad hordes
Guns firing in a thousand hands
And we all thought it grand
That an entire species should die.

Once millions arced through the blue
Passengers on the wind
Skies darkened as those victims flew
Now not even in Cincinnati zoo
Can those pigeons be found.

A Life Of fiction CLXXIX

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

On Stage: On stage at Permission To Speak the light is in my eyes, but I don’t want to see the audience anyway; just say the words which I have rehearsed inside my head. Tell them that I have my own WordPress site – not that any of them are going to check it out. They are very kind but I am not them and they are not me. Just recite old poems from years ago, because I hardly ever write new ones which I like.
The lines above were quickly scribbled down one first Thursday of the month, when I was at Permission To Speak, the spoken word night which occurs once a month at the Scary Canary in Stourbridge. I was trying to capture the way that I felt at the time, as remembrances of events are not always accurate. You think that they are. But they are not. Sometimes we choose to misremember things, for all manner of reasons.
I went on the stage to do three of my poems. I was stressed out, of course, but I feel stressed out almost every moment of my life. Anyway, I only went on after I had had three pints or so. Without that beer inside me I doubt whether I would have stood up to do my doggerel. Going out once a month to Permission To Speak is now the only time that I go out to be among people who I don’t really know. That, in itself, is stressful. I don’t go out to the pub otherwise. My friends have lost interest in such pursuits. They would rather drink around their houses. But that is their loss, I guess. Occasionally I like to get out of the house.

Anyway, these are the three poems I read out:

Pariahs

No tickertape parade for the Euro dragon slayed
By the kitten heels Boudicca
Wise sages burrow their minds into the Pink Un
While their Nostradamic prognostications
Are decried as unpatriotic verbiage.
But we have no vision but television,
No imagination beyond our own ambits
No skill in gambits
Trying to play draughts with pawns.
And I giggle at the disaster lurching towards Yeats’ Bethlehem
And the falcon with labyrinthitis
I can see it coming
I can see it looming
But it does not fit their dogma
And now they are wilfully dooming
Us all to being pariahs in the cold.

Alchemical Wedding

Supernova dust congealed around your finger,
Marking you down for all eternity.
Blow a kiss at your significant other,
Lips touching air molecules that have
Always been and always will –
From Big Bang to Entropic Freeze;
Just like most relationships, then.
Every proton in every atom of your body
Was formed in suns and supernovae;
They will continue forever –
Flesh to dust to new life to dust:
Atomic reincarnation, physical nirvana.
There is no death, only a transformation.
A geas linking you forever,
While music plays in the background,
A wedding march on superstrings
Life is but a melody
But did you catch the tune?

Raven-frost

The raven-frost
Black talons stealing warmth
Pecking at the stones
The crumble-time dust of aeons lost.

Abandoned sepulchres
New parliaments for the sky-folk
Beady intelligence dissecting our mistakes.
Raving
Laughing at our fooldom.

Ice-beak
Cold heart exhuming the entrails of fading desires
De-winged, we can no longer fly
As they do

And we let the cold still
The fluttering of inner-fires.

 

A Life of Fiction CLXXVIII

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Tapping Into The Darkness Within: Sometimes I am almost consumed by the darkness inside me, at self-destructive part of my personality which I carry around with me, and which I will carry around with me for the rest of my life. At those times I could wallow in despair, or o could actually try and use the darkness as a creative force. I try to choose the second option.
I try and let my depression power my poetry. I get a lot of bad poetry out of it. But it does help in exorcising my darker emotions. Sometimes, too, I get some piece of poetry which is not too bad, and which I feel that I can stick in one of my collections. But there is no way in which anybody would ever want to read everything which I have written, when powered by the darkness within. Nobody wants to read poem after poem on depression, darkness, and suicidal thoughts.
Writing is, of course, a distraction away from my personal darkness. When I am being creative I tend to forget how I feel, at least for a short while. It becomes all about the words. Writing is therapy, at least in part.
Some of my writing is, I guess, very depressing. But I try to limit the darkness breaking out in my words. I try to limit it to my poetry, rather than my novels or my short story writing. I don’t moan about being depressed on Twitter. Please shoot me if I start doing that.
Sometimes, when I am trying to exorcise the darkness within me, I will hit a purple patch, and I find myself writing poem after poem, and not just about depression or suicide or stuff like that. No, I knock off poems about all of the injustices of the world which concern me, whether how the Irish were treated in the past, or the futility of war, or kitchen sink murders, or whatever I feel driven to write about.
Despite that, though, I would rather not have this depressing darkness in the first place.

A Life Of Fiction CLXXVII

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Working my way through Dick: I am not trying to be rude here. The Dick in the title is the science fiction author Philip K Dick, who is one of my favourite authors of all time. I am currently working my way through his short stories and novels. I am reading Eye In The Sky at the moment, and I have Cantata 140 (The Crack In Space) lined up when that is finished.
Books I have already read include The Man In The High Castle, Radio Free Albemuth, Dr Bloodmoney or How we Got Along After The Bomb, Counter-Clock World, Solar Lottery, The World Jones Made, The Penultimate Truth, The Simulacra, Martian Time-slip, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, Our Friends From Frolix 8, and We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.
One of the reasons for my mentioning my love of Philip K Dick in my blog is because I think that Philip Kindred Dick was a great writer. His books are brimming with ideas. His books have been adapted into movies – some of them great, some of them less so. Minority Report was not a bad film, and Blade Runner (the filmed version of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep) is one of my favourite films of all time. The original version of Total Recall, with Arnold Schwarzenegger, was not bad. I did not think that the remake was that great, though. The plot does not even take them to Mars. It moved a bit too far away from the source material for my liking. And when Philip K Dick is adapted for the cinema the film producers, for some reason, rarely stick closely to Dick’s original (in this case We Can Remember It For You Wholesale), as though they do not trust the source. The film which is supposed to be closest to the source material (I haven’t read the book yet) is the Rotoscoped A Scanner Darkly, featuring Keanu Reeves. I must find the original and check it out.
Another reason for mentioning Philip K Dick in this post is because I guess that he has been a big influence on my work, even though we possess different writing styles. I am not so stupid as to try to write in the style of some other author. At best you produce a pastiche; at worst it is unreadable rubbish. But I have been influenced by Philip K Dick. Once I wrote a short story where the plot, I felt, was the sort of plot which Dick might have wrote, although I was not trying to rip him off. The story, actually, had its origin in a dream which I had. It is called Are You Dreamworthy? I am currently in the process of turning the original short story into a novella, although I have no idea as to when it might be completed. It is kind of on hiatus at the moment, as I work on other unfinished projects. But I will go back to it and finish it at some stage. I’m not sure when, though, as my creative juices are pretty low, at the moment.
Anyway, there are those out there who like to know what people are reading at the moment, and what I am doing is reading Philip K Dick. Why don’t you do the same?

A Life Of Fiction CLXXVI

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

New Year Resolutions: My New Year resolution, this year, was to try to get noticed. I have written a lot of stuff, in the past. Not counting unfinished stuff I have written more than ten and a half million words. But there is not much point in writing all that stuff – even though I primarily write for myself – unless people read my work. I want to have as wide an audience as possible. Doesn’t every author? I don’t think that there can be many audiences who might say that they are so elitist that they only want a few people to read their work.
Ultimately, I want to be an overnight success. It is turning out to be a very long night, though, considering that I first began writing over ten years ago. Back then, though, it really was a hobby. It was some time before I tried pitching any of my work to publishers. Most of them got back to me, and I now have a great number of rejection letters. In fact being rejected has given me ideas for two different works (not sure when either will be finished). The first of those is now a half-finished novel called Rejection, in which a serial killer, formerly a would-be author, goes around killing all of the people who sent him rejection letters. It was one way in getting rid of the annoyance which I felt in getting rejection letters which said that I could write, but that they did not think that my novel was commercial enough. It is sometimes liberating to have your main protagonist as a serial killer. Get it all out of your system. It is certainly a lot better than becoming a serial killer in real life. Not that I have ever been tempted to do that.
The other idea which I had for a book, inspired by my rejection letters, was a non-fiction work called How Not To Get Published, which, I suppose, you could say was a bit of satire. Basically, in that book, I will list all of the many mistakes which I have made. And I must have made lots of them, I suppose, over the years, even though I have tried to follow the advice in such things as the Writer’s and Artist’s yearbook. I will stick all of my failed pitching letters in that work, should I ever get around to finishing it.
Anyway, the point of this post was not about the many books which I have not yet got around to finishing. It is about my intent to try to do at least a little bit more to promote my works on Kindle. Oh, and to put a few more books on there, as well. I haven’t stuck anything on kindle in many months. During that period I have completed a couple of poetry collections, as well as a few novels and one short story collection. They might as well all go on Kindle. Poetry collections are never going to make you any money unless you bag the title of Poet Laureate – and I am afraid that that will never happen to me. I am not some great talent like John Masefield, although I do think that I do produce a decent poem now and then.
So I am going to stick everything which I can on Kindle. But that alone will not be enough. Sticking things on Kindle really is the simple bit. The hard bit is promoting your work, and I freely admit that it is a problem which I have not yet cracked.
I have begun going to a monthly spoken word night near where I live. I recite about three poems each time. I think that, now, it is about time to get commercial, and tell people that all of my poetry can be purchased on the Amazon Kindle site. I suppose that I might sell a couple more by doing something like that.
What I really need to do, though, is to try to increase my web presence. It is very small. But I intend to do that without Facebook. For reasons which I will not go into hear I am not a fan of Facebook. Well, I am on Twitter, but with only four followers I do not think that Twitter will be the path to fame and fortune. So I think that I will have to increase my net presence by contributing to other sites.
Those are my New Year resolutions. But, like all such resolutions, the chances are that I will not stick to them. What is it that they say bout the road to Hell…

 

A Life Of Fiction CLXXV

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Writing short stuff: As I have said, in the past, I am now on Twitter. Not that I actually tweet very often. I do not always have anything worthwhile to say, and I am not going to bore anybody with the minutiae of my day.
I do like the fact that you only get one hundred and forty characters on Twitter. That forces you not to meander all over the place while you are writing. I should probably state, here, that I am a big fan of haikus. I have also done a collection of prose stories which were exactly one hundred words long. One of them is featured below:

Red Ferrari

Roderick has bought a shiny bright red Ferrari to compensate for the fact that he has turned forty, and short, and going bald. He thinks that he’ll pull the women now. He is tired of going home alone on a Friday night. But alcohol and fast cars do not mix when being used by men who are not used to handling either; and all that Roderick achieves is wrapping his car around a tree. His safety belt saves him, albeit not his bruised pride, and he has to settle for his old battered Mini as a more accurate penis extension.

You can, of course, be more succinct than that. Here is a short story of only one hundred characters. It was originally written with the idea of doing a whole series of Twitter fiction:

My seafront chips, hot, vinegary, wrapped in old papers, are stolen from my hand by a gull. Two decades later I return with my sniper rifle.

And here is a haiku, one of the shortest verse forms:

ToyTiger

The striped Toy Tiger
Pouncing with feline fury
Plays with the toy mouse.

With writing short pieces let yourself be liberated by only having a few words with which to work. You will find yourself choosing your words very carefully. You can spend as long composing a haiku as on a sonnet. Writing short pieces can be a very good exercise, even if you do not intend to ever publish them.
Be succinct. Remember the saying that brevity is the soul of wit. Try not to repeat yourself.
Hm. A short piece on writing tersely.