Friday, 27 March 2015

The Frequency of Existence

My short story, "The Frequency of Existence", has recently been published in Black Static #45 and as usual I'm blogging about the gestation of that story. There may be spoilers for those who have yet to read it.

This piece is a curious one for me as I can't quite remember how it came about. I know I 'found' the title whilst flicking through a library reference book in one of my day jobs, seeing the phrase, and jotting it down. I remember deciding on the name Valerie at random when writing the first paragraph and then remembering Valerie Solanas (who had attempted to kill Andy Warhol) and then extrapolating that character into my character's life as I continued writing. I remember being interested in flicker books and the spaces in between, and the idea of a flicker book (or series of photographs) depicting the frequency of existence. But this is one of those pieces whose story develops as it is being written, where I had no plot in mind and only afterwards I can see it was about the fractal nature of relationships and how we grant some moments in life a power and potency which they may not, in fact, have. How we linger over broken relationships and find it difficult to move on.

Re-reading it for edits just before publication and then again following publication I've found that this story - which I can barely remember writing - actually packs an incredible emotional punch for me. When writing short fiction - which is usually fiction centred around one idea - I think the main aim is to do that idea justice. In this story, I genuinely think I nailed it.

I once set up the camera on a tripod and took repeated images of us making love by pressing a rubber bulb, yet the pull of the mechanism had altered the angle and when the images were developed they depicted only a wooden headboard over which shadows merged and reformed on a dirty white wall. It was my best work.

Normally I make a note of what music I play on repeat whilst writing a story, but in this instance I haven't done so. Incidentally, this year I've been creating a separate blog with the hope of posting one photograph a day (a 365-photo project). I've also titled that The Frequency of Existence.

Black Static #45 also contains new dark fiction by Steve Rasnic Tem, S.P. Miskowski, Laura Mauro, Stephen Hargadon, Emily B. Cataneo, Cate Gardner, and Danny Rhodes. The cover art is by Richard Wagner, and interior illustrations are by Richard Wagner, and Ben Baldwin. The usual features are present, including the regular comment columns by Stephen Volk (Coffinmaker's Blues) and Lynda E. Rucker (Notes From the Borderland); Blood Spectrum by Tony Lee (DVD/Blu-ray/VoD reviews); Case Notes by Peter Tennant (book reviews), which includes an extensive interview with Helen Marshall.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

You Can't Handle Love

My short story, "You Can't Handle Love", has recently been published in #6 of Fur-Lined Ghettos magazine. I should point out that whilst I assist in producing the magazine, it was the editor, my partner Sophie, who insisted she publish the piece. I wouldn't ordinarily submit to a project that I have direct involvement in and she had to twist my arm for me to agree she should do so.

This blog post will detail the genesis of the story and might contain spoilers for those who haven't read it.

I had the idea for this piece on a car journey whilst my partner was reading "Liberty or Love" by the surrealist Robert Desnos. I wanted to write a mood piece rooted in the everyday but stylistically surreal. The first line: "Love is letting her fuck other men" had been in my head for a while, and I found the idea of love in an open relationship intriguing. It's quite an explicit piece which complements the theme - but I don't think it's gratuitous.

Halfway through the story I realised it was concluded (in less than 600 words), so I then wrote the second half in reverse with more obscure surreal prose (an experiment I'm also working on in a novella titled "The Uneasy" which I'm co-writing with Sophie). If this all sounds complicated then rest assured it's much easier in the reading. Initially the story was titled "Butterman" which ultimately had no meaning to the finished piece, so - a very rare - change of title was required which I took from Bjork's "Five Years" song from the album "Homogenic".

Here's an extract:

We hit cities like driving through washing hung on low-slung lines. They fold into us, white reflected buildings contracted by October sky. I harden each time I think of her - a perpetual ache. Somewhere, Barry Adamson's Deja Morte plays on eternal repeat. Pascale Feuillée-Kendall's narration urgent: a pulse. My passenger turns a page of the Desnos, turns the pages of our life. Folds us into words as we have been folded into the cities; unfolds herself as I fold into her.

Perhaps unsurprisingly I listened to Barry Adamson's Deja Morte on repeat whilst I wrote this story.

Fur-Lined Ghettos #6 also contains poetry/prose from Michael Fontana, Rosy Gardner, Jonathan Gibbs, Alexa Masi, Katherine Osborne, Bob Schofield, Scherezade Siobhan, Misha Brandon Speck, King Stimie and Stephen Thom and can be purchased here.

Friday, 6 March 2015

The Last Mohican

As my short story, "The Last Mohican", has just been published in the punkPunk! anthology I'm blogging as usual about how the story was written. Please be aware there might be spoilers for those who haven't read it.

Just a note on the publication. "punkPunk!" is a book I've edited for DogHorn Publishing which is an anthology of punk-inspired fiction. I wrote "The Last Mohican" before I considered editing such an anthology, and it was this story and Mat Coward's "You Can Jump" which I had read years before which gave me the idea. Initially I hadn't considered including my piece as I'm not a great fan of editors publishing themselves, but after discussion with the publisher they read it and made that editorial decision. Just so you know.

Having had my formative years defined by punk in the late Seventies the music and can-do attitude has remained an inspiration. I always knew I would write a punk story and just had to wait for the right idea. When it came it was simple. I was watching a Remembrance Day parade where it was mentioned the veterans attending were getting fewer and fewer due to old age and death. It struck me that eventually there would be no one left who fought in the first World War and - as my own years are advancing - I applied the same thought to those who remembered punk. From this I developed an alternate reality story where the punk revolution extended beyond 1976 and created a viable, punk-fuelled society. I needed an event that could be annually commemorated for this society, and the classic Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall gig which the Sex Pistols played near the start of their career and which proved a catalyst for many aspiring bands was perfect. It was a gig that has gone down in legend, with the number of people claiming they were there seemingly over and above the venue's capacity.

So there was my story. We join the final survivor of the iconic gig at the anniversary of the event as he muses over his personal life which was intertwined and forever affected by punk.

1976: Britain was run down, rubbish piled high on the streets, electricity flickered intermittently due to strike action, unemployment reigned, and the education system taught you to keep your place. What did Rotten say? Out of all that came pretentious moi and the Sex Pistols and then a whole bunch of copycat wankers after us. Well, he would say that, and he had the right to say it. But whatever way you looked at it the Pistols were the catalyst for what had been brewing for a very long time. And - surprising us all - it worked. It bloody well worked.

Strangely I haven't made a note of the music I listened to on repeat when I wrote this story, but something is telling me it might have been Ramones' "The Anthology". If you've read the story or would like to ask me anything then please leave a comment.