100% / Serpents

18 Aug

Very very very short post – so short in fact I had to stick three ‘verys’ into it to pad it out, as well as this explanation which is also now padding it out…

Ok, so my story ‘100% / Serpents’ is now on the brilliant Drunk Monkeys website as I mentioned about a week ago. You can see it by clicking here: 100% / Serpents on Drunk Monkeys.

Also, while you’re on there, check out the Cathy Ulrich story ‘Bitter Tea’. In fact, check that out first, it’s better than mine: Bitter Tea.

That’s all really. Step away from the blog, nothing else to see here on the blog.

News and utter nonsense

8 Aug

cobwebs

It’s been over a year since I wrote on this blog. A whole year. In that time I have been writing, a bit, but I was also blocked for a good portion of it. Have recently been a lot more productive and finally seem to be getting back on track.

At the moment I’m about one or two stories away from a new collection of shorts called (Slight Return). The story I had out in Litro last year – Werner Herzog Gets Shot – is in it, as are two more stories I have coming out in the next couple of months. I’ve had one called Metal Machine Music accepted by The Skylark Review and this will be out in November. I’ve also had a story called 100% / Serpents accepted by Drunk Monkeys, and this will be out soon too (date to be confirmed). More details to follow on these when I have them.

In the meantime I thought I’d post up some nonsense I’ve been playing about with. The story behind this is that I set myself the challenge of writing a sci-fi piece and I started on a story as a bit of a joke which was framed as a screen-play pitch. The sci-fi part was the film being pitched. But it turned out that bit was better than I expected it to be, so I dropped the whole pitch idea and started writing it seriously. So what I’ve been left with are these shitty film ideas that I put together and I had so much fun writing them I thought I’d stick them here. The very fact that one of them led to a semi-decent idea means I’ll probably keep doing it, but for now I have these:

  1. The Matrix meets Billy Elliot. But instead of about dancing, it’s about a musical prodigy in a digital age. (Believe it or not, this has become my story Dead Cities and it’s not as shit as it sounds, well not quite as shit as it sounds).
  2. Terminator meets Forest Gump. All the main historical events of the past are being controlled by a group of Anarchists in the future. That’s why everything seems so random. Henry VIII, he’s a cyborg. Napoleon, Lee Harvey Oswald, Ed Balls: all cyborgs. Sent back with the sole purpose of creating chaos.
  3. Avatar meets American History X. A genetically engineered skin head is controlled by FBI agents to infiltrate a group of Neo Nazis.
  4. Alien meets Footloose. Rogue Nanobots take over the people of a small town. They create replicas of people from their own tissue and the copies burst out of chests and do weird shit (though probably not teaching others how to dance).

Werner Herzog in Litro 136

7 Jul

As promised, link to the latest issue of Litro which has my story ‘Werner Herzog Gets Shot’ in it: Litro 136 – Music

More inane ramblings to follow later. Too tired tonight to add much else…

New Material

24 Jun

Just some shameless self-promotion really, for the spambots that target my blog and anyone else who may or may not still check in despite me neglecting the thing massively for months…

My first new material for ages, ‘Werner Herzog Gets Shot’, is going to be in July’s edition of Litro Magazine. More info to follow I guess, maybe a link if it goes on their website as well as in the magazine.

Comments now welcome on how to increase my penis size or collect the parcel I never ordered from UPS. Cheap Canadian meds? My favourite. Tax Refund? Only as long as I can stop the bank account I never opened from being suspended first.

#9 Dream

3 May

Bus lanes suspended
Use all lanes
Regular diesel 139.7
Everton 4 Kirkdale 5
Kebab Open Tattoos
News ‘n Booze
Sizzlazz
JADE football stadia
Lanes merge
96.7 Student Rooms
Hashtag DEMAND
The Car ton Pub ic Ho se
Gemma Walker is a Slag
Emergency Works
Garage in use 24 hours

What happened?

30 Nov

I watched Django Unchained last night. It’s taken me a while to get around to it for some reason, but I finally sat down and put it on and I loved it. Possibly the best thing Tarantino has done since Pulp Fiction. As is usual in his films, there was a 10 – 15 minute section which lost my attention a bit, but with the exception of Reservoir Dogs (which I still think is his best), this always seems to happen. I’m still waiting for him to get a decent editor who tells him to cut a little bit of the bagginess out and then I think we’ll get an undisputed masterpiece from him.

Anyway, that’s all besides the point really. I don’t want to talk specifically about Tarantino, but about contemporary cinema in general.

I used to watch a lot of films, and I mean a lot. Ten movies in a week wasn’t unheard of. These days I watch about ten a year, which probably skews my perspective a little bit, but is also, I think, a symptom of a serious decline in decent movie making. For me, there were twelve years between 1990 and 2002 in which some of the best, groundbreaking and challenging modern films were made. And since then – well, what is there to really shout about? Let’s do a little acid test. All of these films were made in that twelve year period:

Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Seven, Fight Club, American Beauty, The Usual Suspects, Momento, L.A. Confidential, Goodfellas, Fargo, Bad Lieutenant, The Big Lebowski, Miller’s Crossing, American History X, The Man Who Wasn’t There, The Royal Tenenbaums, Smoke, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, Lost in Translation. (Ok, the last one only just makes it in as it was released in 2003).

But this is even without considering some of the (arguably) more populist films like The Shawshank Redemption, The Matrix, Trainspotting etc. etc. (And I’m deliberately avoiding foreign language films as I could go on forever).

I’ve tried to do the same with films made between 2003 and 2013 which, admittedly, is a slightly shorter timeframe, but I’m struggling to get anywhere near as many dragged out of my memory. One or two at best. So unless there’s a glut in the next eighteen months, I suspect there’s going to be no comparison.

So what happened? Did the economic downturn force studios to restrict their risk to sequels and superhero movies only? Has television taken over with all the best screenwriters and filmmakers moving to HBO and FOX drama series instead? Or has the demographic just changed? There was an appetite in that period – I remember it well – for things that were quirky, and new, and stylish. That was the definition of cool. I’m not so sure that appetite still exists in quite the same way. Films that play around with genre, that self-reference themselves and all that has come before them – perhaps the audience just isn’t there for them as it was before. Or perhaps there is just a perception that it’s not there anymore and that popular interest just needs to be reawakened by something great. I hope so, and I hope something comes along soon to kick start a fresh look at the kind of thing studios make. Because I remember being enthused by Martin Scorsese’s claim that cinema was the main twentieth century art-form, and I just can’t be similarly enthused by Avengers Assemble or Thor.

Young Adult Fiction

22 Nov

I haven’t been around for a while, and thanks to Martin who reminded me of my recent blog-shy behaviour tonight, I thought I should probably come back and do something.

So, what’s been happening? Not a lot writing wise, I have to be honest. Lots of work and personal stuff going on. I hit a bit of a wall over the Summer with the collection of shorts I’m working on, and with the novel. Maybe I just needed the break. Maybe I’ve been having some kind of mild identity crisis. I’ve certainly been trying to get myself out of a bit of a rut I’d fallen into.

Which brings me to the title of my post. I’ve been trying out some books that I wouldn’t normally read. My partner recommended a whole load of Young Adult Fiction to me, something she’s quite enthusiastic about, and after some initial scepticism I decided to give it a go. After all, she had previously pushed Philip Pullman in my direction and that turned out extremely well. So I gave The Hunger Games a go and was pleasantly surprised. I whipped through the trilogy in a couple of days. And then, by sheer chance, we were given Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go to read on my uni course. So that was another trilogy I devoured in just over a week – the Chaos Walking trilogy. Of the two I probably prefer the latter (just), but they both made me realise I’d held far too many wrong preconceptions about Young Adult work. I’d assumed it was all like Twilight – tween romances with a heavy dose of fantasy. I expected overly simplistic plot devices and dumbed down language, all kinds of fluffy stuff the kids might like. I couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The Ness books in particular tackle some pretty heavy duty intellectual and ethical ideas about responsibility and culpability. They explore if and how it’s possible to move on once you’ve made a serious moral error. They deal with compromise and difficult decisions in an ethically ambivalent world. And they focus again and again on the difficulty of trying to forge your own identity in a storm of conflicting influences. What’s more, they do all this with style and with a frenetically paced plot to boot. But what I realised, and maybe it shouldn’t have been such a shock, is that whilst these themes may be particularly pertinent for an adolescent reader, they are far from irrelevant for adults. It’s a bit of a myth that you grapple with the big questions as a teenager and then settle them, or move beyond them, as you mature. The reality, as I’ve found it, is that you never really satisfy yourself on these things and you revisit them again and again whatever your age. Which is why, I think, the incessant self-doubt of the narrators in both series of books, the guilt and confusion they experience, resonate so strongly. These books are essentially introducing younger readers to some fundamental philosophical concepts and pull no punches whilst doing that. As a result they stand shoulder to shoulder with work written with an older audience in mind, the only really difference being they are somehow more thematically succinct – certainly no bad thing when you think about it.

If you haven’t read Ness, then I urge you to check him out. (Surely everyone, except me, had already read the Suzanne Collins books anyway). I’m moving onto the Gone series by Michael Grant next – I’ll update the blog when I’m done with those. But it’s fair to say I’m becoming a bit of a convert. I hate admitting I’m wrong, but from time to time I suppose you have to…

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