Thursday, 27 March 2014

Bedroom Ballistics

She whipped out the automatic and pressed its muzzle into his belly. In her fury she envisioned his flabby gut enveloping the gun and absorbing it into its mass. Her professional override clicked in and offered V²/(2xS) instead. The bullet’s kiss off would likely be smothered not by his bulk, but by his proximity. The projectile would not possess enough time to accelerate from the subsonic to supersonic velocity in order to wreak its trauma. Limited acceleration, limited damage according to F=MxV². Fortunately his reflexive backing away helped unblock that particular stricture. Recoil ushers in recoil, as her countenance shot him a rictus smile with the unassailable truth of KE (Kinetic Energy) = ½mv² 

His palms were splayed out in front of him in the timeworn gesture of soothing. Dampening down. Importuning her to take it easy. With the triangulation of her, him and the gun, she plotted whether the upraised palms were protecting some vital part of his body. Not that it would matter, she could shoot him through the hand and it will still likely carry on to penetrate his vitals. VRt = VR Cos r.

His hands would only serve as crosshairs for her as he continued his backing away. Zeroing her in on his nether regions. Or never seen regions in the fat lump. Again he was unwittingly doing her a favour. She pictured the projectile scything through his imploring fingers. Those duplicitous fingers that had plied and kneaded the flesh of another woman. The fingers had strayed, could the flesh and bone now deflect the unerring reproach of her snub-nosed love letter? Did he imagine himself to be some sort of super-hero? He was about as far removed from one as you could get. As witnessed by his unheroic continued retreating. 

That was the thing about living a double life. You were still only possessed of a single body. Quantum mechanics EΨ ≠ HΨ be damned. Well might he continue to paw at me at night, but she could tell that it was desultory. Cursory. That his appetites had already been sated elsewhere and there was no real hunger behind the dead pressure on her breast or neck. She could see through his charade. And soon after the bullets do as bullets do, she would be able to see through his body too.

He was still backing away. She wondered how far he’d have to retreat before he was out of range. From the gun if not her yet more searing wrath. Actually it was no wonder at all. Simple precession equation, with little in the way of temperature or atmospheric pressure fluctuation to account for. Ergo R = vo√(2h/g). Course their house wasn’t large enough for him to escape the range of the bullet. Even though he’d almost reached the stairs now. 

She opted to close the gap once again and started advancing upon him. Normally he could easily outstride her as when they walked together out in the street, how that should have been a warning as to how much of a mismatch they were. But here he was walking backwards, plus going down the stairs, while some of his momentum was also diverted into the downward thrust of his hands still gesturing her like a lion tamer ∫ = Fdt.

She caught up to him double quick and this time she pushed the barrel of the gun into his cheek. She marvelled at the displacement of flesh as the barrel bevelled into his skin according to σ = C:ε. Was this how her flesh rucked and ridged under his leaden touch? When he customarily pinched her lips shut. Actually no, she surmised more applicable might be R: = ∇ x F  = 0. Mind you if she kept increasing the pressure of the barrel against his flesh, it becomes R: = ∇ x (∇ x ε). Infinitesimal strain theory, never was something so aptly named. 


“There, that sufficiently spice things up for you?”
“Yeah, yeah it did Babe. In parts”.
“Yeah, there were stages where I could tell you were really feeling it. Etched right across your fizzog, so that you had me believe you might even go ahead and pull the damn trigger... But then, there were also those points where that pretty brow of yours pursed and furrowed and I could see how you were struggling to disengage that planet sized brain of yours from dragging you out of the moment by overthinking it-”

FD = ½ρv² CDA

Taken from the flash fiction collection "Extra-Curricular" available in print and e-book from Amazon, CreateSpace and I-Tunes

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Music Genre versus Literary Genre

In my non-writing professional life, I worked for almost 20 years in the music industry. You work there for longer than 10 years and you start to see the same musical trends coming back round for a second or third time. For rock/pop is a relatively young art form, only really being in existence since the 1950s (and the rise of the teenager with spending power).

We started with rock and roll, which in the 1960s morphed into psychedelia and the first rumble of heavy metal. In the 70s we had Prog and Glam rock which in turn prompted the oppositional punk rock which soon burned out and mutated into New Wave. Reggae too established itself as a music of protest in the UK and the Caribbean. There was also funk which gradually led to disco at the end of the decade and hip-hop and rap in the next decade. In the 80s there was also the synthesiser led New Romanticism. The 90s saw the explosion of dance music, in too many categories to comprehensively list, but let's offer Trance, House, Acid House, Rave, Ambient etc etc. Rock tried to strike back with Grunge in the US and Brit Pop by appointment to HM Government in the UK.

I've missed out a few along the way, but these are broadly the different genres in the short span of rock. But then somehow not only were some of these genres revisited (as against reinvented) such as Nu-Rave or New Wave of The New Wave, but the above genres fragmented into a myriad of sub-genres. Hip-hop and rap had several offshoots when combined with some dance music trends, so we had Jungle, Grime, Drum & Bass, Dub Step, R&B. No longer did we have good old Heavy metal, but Nu-Metal, Speed Metal, Death Metal, Rap Metal, Grindcore, Industrial Metal, Thrash Metal, Christian Metal and so it goes on.

Such fracturing makes for tribalism among fans as they rigorously defend their corners and practise exclusionism of those close cousins who somehow minutely differ in definition. For such a relatively young art form, the whole form seems moribund having repeatedly cut the cake of musical possibility finer and finer until only the crumbs remain. Yes the revolution of the industry through downloads and digital access and the machinations of the likes of Simon Cowell's TV-tie in music production have delivered crushing blows to musical creativity. But I believe it is this fracturing into sub-genres of music that have stifled the potential and possibilities of musical creativity.

It is of course possible that there are no new combinations of sounds and notes that have not already been committed to recording. But the opposite is true of the novel. Though an art form a good couple of centuries older and with a much larger back catalogue to call upon, the novel has barely begun to explore its own possibilities. There was a brief flourishing under literary modernism which took narrative and language in different directions, but that soon faded out for whatever reasons (of which I will not accept that it was an artistic and intellectual dead end).

So the novel stands replete with possibility and bristling with potentia. There are whole new bodies of knowledge opened up that allow us to interrogate mankind & the world around us with different images, paradigms and languages should we authors wish to explore them. Theories of mind, of matter and the universe to name but three. However, if the novel allows itself to continually fragment and divide itself down lines of genre and sub-genre as music has done, then it stands little chance of being big and bold enough to rise to these challenges and possibilities. Instead, as with music, it will channel itself down furrows and reduced horizons, fighting petty and insignificant battles over territory and definition. Who cares that what we once called scifi has now fractured into Space Opera, Hard Scifi, Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Apocalyptic/dystopian, Slipstream, SciFi-Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, New Weird. Just give me the radical ideas and linguistic inquiry of "Solaris", "Embassytown" or "The Embedding". Ambition is always shrunken by genre, perhaps because of the proscription of the rules behind genre definitions, perhaps because of the expectations of the readership demanding more of the same.

It's all just fiction right? It's all about the novel (unless it's about short stories of course). And the novel remains fertile ground ripe for exploration. Please let's avoid the mistakes of the music industry. While the production and distribution upheavals in the digital age are similar within both music and literature, there's no reason for the practitioners, for the authors to make the same mistakes of their music peers and succumb to a rigid and limiting prescription of labels. We have a much longer and possibly grander tradition to uphold. And we can only do that by striking out into fresh pastures, not regurgitating what has come before and trying to make out by some quodlibet of definition that it is truly different. The New Wave of The New wave indeed...

If you don't believe me about the tribalism of music genres, then check out the comments to this YouTube video. The Nu Rave band Klaxons dared to cover an Old Skool dance track called "The Bouncer" and thus was battle enjoined...

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Word To Come - Friday Flash

She came round lying in the recovery position. Her mouth was dry and gritty, while her leaden tongue felt like a lump of rock. She wasn’t in her bed however, as her hand groped sightlessly under her. To judge by the impression reported by her fingers, she appeared to be prone on a ceramic floor. She granted herself five more minutes rest and turned on to her back. Something careened in her mouth, as she experienced the hard smack of an object against her teeth. Yet no pain signals lit up the nerves. Come to think of it, her roster of aches and pains that was habitually ushered in with the dawn, was also absent. 

She pincered two fingers together and delved into her mouth, as she finally batted open an eye. Instead of the expected fleshy grub of her tongue, her digits encountered something smooth and unyielding. She withdrew it carefully and inspected the mineral interloper. It was a red gemstone, garnet in all likelihood, cut into the shape of a heart, but not one she recalled from her personal trove. She was well acquainted with garnet, since it represented her birthstone. 

She sat upright and tried to take in her surroundings. There didn’t seem to be a door set into any of the walls. Looking down she saw that the floor was composed of tessellated tiles, each which had a letter of the alphabet inlaid into it, cast in differing precious stones. She rose up on to her bare feet. She was nervous about treading on the stones in case they had rough edges that might tear into the flesh of her soles. So she sank once again to her haunches and gingerly brushed her hand over the gems of the letter ‘E’. They seemed flush enough. 

She scuffed her way to the perimeter and proceeded to trace a circuit around the entire room, her hand breasting the walls searching for a depression or anything that might suggest a portal. There wasn’t one to be found, but she did note that the dully twinkling stones in the floor letters didn’t contain garnet. She deduced that she already held the key in her hand. Now to find the lock.

The letters must be telling her something. She studied them and discerned just twenty-six, one for each letter, with four blank tiles in the corners. Blanks weren’t worth points in Scrabble she ruefully recalled. The letters did not seem to be arranged in alphabetical order, nor as on a Qwerty keyboard. Stood in the middle to where she had returned, were an ‘E’, ‘A’, ‘S” and ‘T’. Craning her neck she saw that ‘J’, ‘Q’, ‘Z’ and ‘X’ abutted the blank tiles. Clearly they were arrayed according to frequency and that meant that she was probably expected to transcribe messages by walking on them to spell out words.

She traversed the word ‘Help’, except that in order to move from the ‘H’ through to the ‘P’ involved divagations through extraneous characters, so that she actually spelled out ‘Hearldvp’. Nothing doing. Then it struck her, she might employ the garnet like a marker in the game of Hopscotch. She gently lobbed it towards the ‘H’ but it bounced and settled on the neighbouring ‘Y’. While she was berating herself for lifelong inability at anything sporty, the gems fabricating the shape of the ‘Y’ lit up. That must be it then, how to eliminate  the effect of walking on intermediary letters. The letters she deliberately lit up would solely be the ones spelling out the words. Now all she had to ensure was the surety of her aim in targeting her chosen characters. Throwing involved too much uncontrollable caroming. She would have to slide the gemstone along like a shuffleboard if she wanted to escape her prison.

She transcribed a path to spell out the plea ‘Let me live’, but immediately wanted to edit it to ‘let me out’. She wondered how she could delete things. Perhaps the blanks held the key, that they represented an erase function. But why were they perched in the corners and the least accessible? An encouragement to getting it right first time she supposed. She decided to try and merely reverse the order of the word to be struck out, even though in this case she was transcribing the word ‘evil’. It seemed to work, as instead of the gems remaining illuminated, they were extinguished. She completed her plaintive ‘let me out’ but the room did not shift its architecture to accede to her request. 

She then re-rendered the message, this time using the blank tiles as spacers between the three words. It still yielded no ‘Open sesame’, even after she spelled out that very injunction. She sat back down forlornly to consider her options. She had been moving along a life-sized Ouija Board. The very thought sent a shiver down her spine. Yet she wasn’t cold, despite bare feet on cold-fired clay. Nor was she hungry or thirsty, or in need of relieving herself. She felt none of the physical sensations of a ravaged body. Including not one of her customary pains. Was she dead? Had she passed over into this atrium in limbo? Was the garnet, her personal birthstone, there to endow her rebirth? Presumably as this was March, or at least it was the last time she was aware, she would be reborn with a new birthstone to mark it.

Then the question became what she was supposed to write on this floor keypad. Was she supposed to petition for her life, one letter at a time? By doing what, begging for a new one, or accounting for her old one so that it merited a second spin of the wheel? It would take an eternity to account her whole past life just ended. Ended, but not concluded she reminded herself. Or maybe this was Eternity itself, an endless retelling of her story? To stave off the final surcease of extinction, she had to keep talking, or in this case spelling. She had to sustain the inlaid floor gems spangling like a low-rent disco Scheherazade. She slid the garnet over to the letter ‘I’...

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Nu Skin - flash story

The amino acid readers had levelled the playing field for love. You saw someone you fancied in the arms of another man. At a glance you can see you do not match up to her physical type. So you merely whip out your reader and scan the paramour’s DNA. His reaction would inevitably be conflicted. Flattered that you recognised him as a superior looking man worthy of emulation. Moderately perturbed that you were about to challenge him. The reader’s particle field serving as a gauntlet being slapped across the love rival’s cheek. For, after a single night having your DNA reconfigured under the auspices of the machine, the next morning there you were a perfect physical replica of the beau. Then it was solely down to charisma and personality to swing the women’s choice between her two identical specimens.  

Yet it wasn’t quite so simple. The body might have changed overnight, but the psyche had to permit itself time to get used to it. In the same way that first time you shaved your new face and its unfamiliarity would trip you up time and again and lead you to slice your visage to ribbons, you also had to project your new features appropriately. You could not carry yourself the same way as you had with your former body. You had to ease into your gait, figure out the space it inhabited, how it moved and gestured. Too precipitant and you would sink any chance you had with your object of desire, since your mismatched clumsiness with your own self would paint you as inherently undesirable. For all the instant  transformation, the shrewd suitor still had to play the long game of love.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

National Anthems - Songs About Countries

10 songs with countries in the titles. Let's get these adopted as the national anthems of these countries!

1) Armenia - Einsturzende Neubauten
Based on an Armenian folk tune, the metal deconstructionists do what they always do and cast their ineffable stamp over it so that it's not anything you or I would recognise as a folk song! But at its heart it retains its soulful wail.

2) America The Beautiful - DOA
Canadians have a chip on their shoulder about their neighbours to the south don't they? Still, they have a point here perhaps...

3) Castles In Spain - The Armoury Show
When Magazine broke up they formed an even more arty group called The Armoury Show with half of the members from the band Skids. This was perhaps their most famous song as they didn't last terribly long.

4) Sweden - The Stranglers
This video is baffling, unless you realise that mysterious drummer Jet Black who never spoke in the band, was from Sweden, so when they go "all quiet on the Eastern front" while laying a head on patient Black's midriff, that might just explain what's going on. But that's probably no help at all is it?

5) Lebanon - The Human League
So the band that sung about suits pursued in cocktail bars and exclaimed how they only played synths because they couldn't master guitars here suddenly go all serious minded  and resort to guitar strings too. *Shakes head*

6) Israel - Siouxie and The Banshees
Yes that is Robert smith of The Cure playing guitar in the video. He helped the band out for a while, so you had the King and Queen of Brit Goth Pop temporarily in the same band. No idea what this somg is on about mind...

7) Holiday in Cambodia - Dead Kennedys
If I could get serious for a moment here, this song did more than anything to prompt me to keep aware of the situation in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, an interest I've maintained undimmed over the last 30 years. And it's actually a song to beat trendy liberals with rather than the situation in Cambodia at the time back in 1977.

8) Haiti - Arcade Fire
I have one album by arty band Arcade Fire, most of the tracks on it are called "Neighborhood", though this track is on it too. Note, when you have that many musicians in an indie band, it is impossible to make any money. Just sayin'

9) Vietnam - Jimmy Cliff
Something slightly incongruous about this jaunty reggae beat backdropping a song about the Vietnam War and a mother being informed of her son's death.

10) India - Psychedelic Furs
I never quite got the Psychedelic Furs, though I did like "Pretty in Pink"