Thursday, 3 April 2014


Eagerly anticipated anthology NOIR, courtesy of the wonderful Newcon Press (and featuring my story 'Silent In Her Vastness') is now available from Amazon and Spacewitch (I'd go for the latter: support the little guy!). Featuring the likes of Adam Roberts, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Paul Graham Raven, Donna Scott and Simon Kurt Unsworth and many, many more, it is to contemporary speculative fiction what mighty Poseidon is to the seas!

Also, you can get it's twin sister La Femme. Get both and you will be a monarch amid your peers. Trust me on this.

(Here's the full running order for both plus musings about my story)

Saturday, 29 March 2014

British Multiculturalism: An Arrogant Proposal

Just had an anger-inducing phone call that's led to a 

brainstorm. A fellow midnight man from Birmingham called 

about work stuff then we talked about the job. He said the 

Asian community were trouble and when I called him on it he 


"Well that's Leicester ain't it? No offence mayte, but everyone 

knows you've let 'em walk over yow, isn't it?"

Before I thought I said, politely:

"No, it's that Birmingham's shit at multiculturalism. Sorry but 

that's a fact, mate. You're third division."

And here's where it gets interesting. The guy immediately 

started DEFENDING Brumie multiculture. A complete 180!

So here's my brainstorm moment: make multiculturalism like 

Premier League football. Framed like that, bigoted numbskulls 

start defending their hometown's diversity. Britain's city state 

tribal mentality is, it would appear, far stronger than its ethnic 

nationalism. If the government were to adopt this strategy 

UKIP and the EDL would sink overnight.

We can implement this overnight if we, the citizens of 

Leicester, start swaggering around like arrogant shits telling 

everyone we're the best at it (become the multi-culti equivalent 

of Man Utd, basically).

And, let's face it, everyone else 

IS shite 

compared to us.

(See? Got the ball rolling, there...)

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Happy B-Day, Big Man!

Happy birthday to my main man Publius Ovidius Naso, aka Ovid, aka LL Cool O. 2000 years young, even exile couldn't stop you being one smooth mother. Keep on blowing 1st year classics students minds, bro. And thanks for building the road Shakespeare, Marvin Gaye and all spec-fic authors ride down. You're the canis bollockum!!!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

First Person Present Tense: Why Am We Do It

I am sitting at my desk typing out another blog post with all my focus. How I am doing that and telling you simultaneously I'm not certain, but it's possible my brain has a third lobe.

"Why am I doing this?" I ask.

A futuristic woman materialises next to me. She has mirrorshaded retina, barcode tattoos, a usb port on the back of her neck: you know the drill.

"You're writing in First person Present Tense," she tells me. "It's very popular nowadays in near future or present day science fiction, particularly short stories."

I put some trousers on.

"What about space opera and high fantasy?" I say.

"No, they're too silly," she says. "The idea of first person present tense is to a lend a sense of immediacy to a story and, therefore, realism."

"Are you sure? TBH, I'm actually feeling a distancing effect right now. I refer you to the first paragraph above. When I write 'I am sitting at a desk' it just seems laboured and artificial."

"Not if you handle it right," the Futuristic Woman says. "If it helps, imagine it's you recounting it to someone in a bar. That's how I imagine it whenever I'm the protagonist in my stories."

"This bar," I ask, "has it got adrenalin-infused drinks and holographic strippers?"

"Ha," she says, "as if we had a choice."

"Still not convinced."

"You'll never win a Hugo with that attitude. I know: forget SF a minute. Why don't you try first person present tense with a childhood memory? That's very popular."

"What?" I say. "Like the time Happy Days' Tom Boswell embroiled me in the Iran embassy siege?"

"Oh God no! Far too eventful. It's got to be something superficially innocuous so that telling it in first person present tense lends it deep significance."

"Alright then."

I am five years old. I am happy. Why shouldn't I be? I've got a new autobot toy and the language and cognition capacities of a man in his thirties.

Father enters the room. Not 'Dad' or 'Pop'. In First Person Present Tense it's always Father. Deep significance and all that.

"Hey son," Father says. He is like a god to me, deified by my innocent eyes etc, etc. "Hey son; would you like to see the Queen's bottom?"

I am five years old. Of course I would.

He takes out a 1980s five pound note with its 1950's portrait of the queen. Using his fingers--Zeus-like fingers because I am too young to realise he is but human and fallible yet can deploy mythological similes hither and thither--he performs a crude origami, folding the fiver in such a way HRH Elizabeth's chin now resembles a pert arse.

"Thanks, Father," I say. "That's clever. But I recall it being hilarious when I was an actual kid and it never fails to raise a smile when I look back as an adult. But told like this it isn't as funny, to the tune of about minus 23% I'd say."

"It's not meant to be funny," Father says, his wise Odin face so very infallible to me (how could it have been so infallible?). "It's meant to be poignant, like those childhood memory stories you read in in The Guardian's supplements or hear on Radio 4. You, as the protagonist, learn some sad adult truth at the expense of losing a beautiful, fragile childhood preconception forever."

"I see."

"Now pull my finger."

I am back at my desk, an adult. I pull a modern five pound note with the 1990's portrait of the queen on it. I perform my father's folding trick only to find the queen's chin now turns into five lumpen buttocks instead of a pneumatic two. A tear wells in my eye.

"See?" the Futuristic Woman says. "Powerful stuff, huh?"

Before I can reply a middle aged man with weathered good looks and a tweed suit materialises.

"You thieving genre bitches," he says. "First Person Present Tense is the preserve of literary fiction. I mean real literary fiction, where a university lecturer's affair with a young student reveals some great truth about life and mortality."

"Way to justify a midlife crisis you dirty old bastard," says the Futuristic Woman.

"Sounds like you've got everything figured out, Professor," I say.

"Not really," the lecturer replies. "The trouble with seducing first year english students is they ask you to read their short stories after."

He pulls out a pistol and shoots me in the chest. The pain is excruciating: a torus of agony, of fire, so much so I'm compelled to describe the sensation in words. I hit the floor.

"That'll learn you," the Lecturer says. He vanishes.

"Darling," I say to the Futuristic Woman (Which I'll grant you is overfamiliar but if you can't get a bit fruity at St Peter's gate where can you be?), "what happens now?"

"Oh this is a good bit," she says. "The thing with First Person Present Tense SF short stories is , the narrator can be killed at the end, unlike past tense where it would be absurd. The idea is it comes as a shock. Everybodies doing it. In fact, FPPT SF stories have the highest homocide rate outside of Johannesburg." 

"So how do I go about it?"

"Well, you do a final paragraph that begins with fractured sentences like 'Colder now. Fading' and then round it off with a story-summarising profound truth."


She smiles and vanishes.

Colder now. Fading. But as I pass I learn to accept First Person Present Tense as a wild stallion that, when tamed by the authorial equivalent of Robert Redford, is the pride of any parade (i.e.- anthologies and magazines). At the very least, dear reader, be glad I did not attempt Second Person Present Tense. You hate that.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Forged Orwell: Famous Quotes He Never Made

I was struck by the quote above when I read it on the Internet. It's quintessentially Orwell:  stark, to the point, against the grain. In fact I was glad others out in Webland had memed the quote as my brain hadn't retained it at all. And the quote's had quite a life out there...

(Spool Note: Liam Neeson?)

Well I'm glad whoever got that tattoo (if it isn't just a bit of Photoshopping) didn't put Orwell's name beneath. Because Orwell never wrote it. At least, Wikipedia can't find it in the original canon (Though the earliest appearances are in academic texts from 1982 and, fittingly, 1984).

It's far from the only Faux-well. Here's another:

This one shares the same sentiment as the former and, for my money, was probably created by someone who once heard the 'universal deceit' quote but couldn't remember how it was phrased. A copy of a copy, if you will. Leastways, I haven't been able to find the source for this one either.

Both the above quotes are at least plausible (I can just about see 'The Guv'ner'* himself wishing he'd written the first). But check out this next one:

Here we have drifted into purest wishful thinking. As far as I can remember Orwell never used the term 'the media' in that sense, neither did most people back in the thirties and forties. More likely, someone with opinions on the current political landscape has replaced the term 'Big Brother' with a bogeyman of our own time. You have to wonder who the creator of this thinks George Orwell actually is.  The Smoking Man?

Here's another, similar example:

It's all over the web this one, but for the life of me I can't find a single recitation that can also give its source (a common result in this endeavor, I found out.). I've never known Orwell to use a colon so early in a sentence. He didn't have to: he wasn't in the business of making bullish memes. Even if he conveyed that idea somewhere in his journalism and this quote is a summarization you have to ask what George meant by 'liberal'. It's possible he was thinking more along the lines of David Lloyd-George than Al Gore.

OK, here a sentiment has been wrapped in new words (please note each quotation above begins differently). Orwell did say this:

"Those who ‘abjure’ violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf"

-Notes On Nationalism (1945)

Yet in The Tribune column itself he's specifically referring to the British pacifist movement before and during World War II, a viewpoint that neither Orwell nor the general gaze of history particularly entertains (In another column he describes pacifism in the face of Nazi aggression as being more like a mental illness than a political outlook. That's in The Lion And The Unicorn I think. Feel free to look it up). If George Orwell had intended the statement to be a salute to the 21st century US marines or Duck Dynasty I'm sure he would have come to the point. He was good like that.

Also, note the faux-Orwell quote's use of 'rough men' and their opposite, the (presumably) soft men's insistence on lounging in bed. Orwell's statement has been stretched, Flanderized, pumped full of steroids. Orwell's pacifists are at least portrayed as active voices, not limp-wristed somnambulists in onesies.

The faux-quote reeks of the increasing divide in modern day US politics or at least the right wing narrative of it:  the muscular doers of conservatism--White America's survivalist Spartans--having to carry the great democrat dandy, ingrate that he is. And for lack of an Orwell they can truly use they will happily construct one.

On the other hand, my searches turned up almost as many left wing uses of fake quotes, if you count the Occupy Movement and the greater part of Wikileaks and Anonymous. And perhaps that hints toward the cause of Orwell's explosion across social media and the political spectrum simultaneously.

Both the Tea Party and Occupy are newborn sociological beasts, stumbling to walk upright. It makes sense their afterbirth-damp palms would scrabble for a post to lean on, especially one proven so dependable over half a century or more.

And that's what Orwell, or at least the image of him, is:  a dependable post, a firm-but-not-painful handshake, a neighbor whom you can lend your Black & Decker Workmate. Revolutionary movements can find inspiration in any person consensus deems a rebel.

One could get all cantankerous about all this appropriation and downright rapine, start screaming about he who controls the past, 2 plus 2 being 4 and all that stuff. But I don't know as if you can really fight it. Humans make stuff up. You know that.

I'm not as defeatist here as you might think. Not in the long term. I think we have to accept all the beloved writers of the modern era will accumulate spurious quotes and apocryphal tales. All part and parcel of being beloved. It was the same for Homer and the ancients, except this time round technology allows us quick access to the original material and its historical context. Orwell will remain long after our current political zeit has geisted. So I dare say all that accumulation has been rendered harmless.

Or, as Quentin Crisp once said about the state of his home, 'I find the dust doesn't get any worse after the first three months'.

Ah... classic Crisp, that. I think... 


*One bleary night me and my pals wondered why famous authors don't get rock statesmen-like nicknames such as 'The King' or 'The Boss'. The Guv'ner seemed spot on for George and it's just sort of stuck. Feel free to use it, though right wing libertarian types need not apply (not that I can stop you). To truly earn the use of 'The Guv'ner' one must have a general leaning toward democratic socialism (so we can identify each other from the tinfoil hat brigade on the web) and--and this is the inner sanctum as it were--have a dislike of sugar in your tea.