Friday Flash – Epilogue

Epilogue

‘Just leave him alone, Pablo.  He’s in one of his moods.’

Pablo looked at his grandfather more sympathetically than his mother.  The old man was rich, but he’d grown up poor, missing out on many things his own generation took for granted.

Pablo knelt beside his grandfather’s chair.  ‘What’s up, granddad?’

‘What’s up?  I’ll tell you, young man.  All my life I worked hard.  The things I did…  Now children can breathe under water, soon we’ll be able to live off sunlight and never grow old.  All I get is immunity to cancer.  And I’m supposed to be satisfied.’

~

Why I Hate Genre

Last week I went to see Karl Wallinger and World Party at the brilliant ‘Under the Bridge’ Venue. Chances are you’ll never have heard of them, though their second album, Goodbye Jumbo, was Q magazine album of the year (1990). Their biggest hit was probably ‘She’s the One’ as covered by Robbie Williams – though not with Wallinger’s permission.

Wallinger is a multi-instrumentalist singer/song-writer. Most of the work on his albums – guitars, keyboard, vocals, are all him. I think he’s a musical genius. If you have heard of World Party, then like me you’re probably a big fan.  I took my partner to see the band. She’s not into music on the same scale as me, but she had a good time. In fact, she was astonished: ‘Why isn’t this man more famous?’ It’s a good question and you hear it a lot, not just in music.

In a recent interview Wallinger said World Party never had a ‘Sound’ and speculated that was one reason they never broke big. For me that lack of ‘Sound’ is part of the pleasure, the sheer versatility and exuberance – you never know what you’re going to get next, but you do know it’s going to be good. It also makes the music hard to describe – World Party is folksy, rocky, a bit hippy, R&B, soul, melodic, angry, protesting, smart. Classic acoustic and electric band music – except when it isn’t. What is it? It’s World Party music.

Genre’s only function is to classify things in terms of other things. And we all have our opinions about those other things.  Genre doesn’t tell you if something is any good, it just tells you where to put it on the shelf.

Genre in the main preaches to the converted. It pigeon-holes people and their work into places other people never look. We’re humans, we love to classify, we’re pattern-matchers, it’s hard-wired into our brains, to an extent it’s what we do, it’s who we are. Genre is stupid, genre is the lowest-common-denominator of pattern-matching, a method that needs little thought and no imagination. Maybe that’s why it’s such a popular marketing tool. It’s dismissive and encourages you to dismiss. I can remember when JG Ballard was dismissed as just a science fiction writer.

Genre says ‘Hey Dave, you like ‘Rock Music’, so you’ll love this.’

Chances are, no I probably won’t.

‘But Dave, if you love these fantasy authors, then you’ll love this…’

Guess what?

I think genre is pretty stupid.

I like authors who write in this genre or that genre, I don’t like those genres. I like some bands, I don’t like bands who sound like them.  Why should I? That job’s already been taken by the best person for the job.

I’ve been astonished and delighted by music and writing outside of what I normally read and listen to, but I don’t like those genres, I like those artists. What I’m interested in are the bodies of work by particular people, particular artists, writers, musicians, directors, actors. I think those are the only genres worth bothering with. For me they include Mick Van Houten, JG Ballard, Karl Wallinger, Stephen Soderberg, Joni Mitchell, George Clooney, Chrissie Hynde, Philip Glass. Those people in particular, not people like them. I like what they themselves do, and how they do it.

I like the genre of Jack Vance stories, the genre of Brett Easton Ellis, of Chris Beckett. It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it, (I hate that song). And that’s how I write too. Yes, I’m most at home among the tropes of SF and fantasy, because it’s mostly there that I can do what I want to do in the way I want to do it. Mostly it’s where my mind takes me.  Mostly, but not always. Yes, I write science fiction, but I’m not a ‘science fiction writer’, I’m David Gullen and I write David Gullen stories. That’s my genre.

Genre is stupid.

Friday Flash – The Spade

The Spade

He loved the desert, loved the stillness and the parched sky.  Loved feeling the sun pushing down on the world like a hot hand.

It was so hot the entire universe seemed paralysed.  At night cold stars blazed down with freezing light. The desert was the best place to come for solitude, for regaining lost perspective.

He paused digging, filled with intense satisfaction.  Then he laughed, remembering how the spade had rung like a bell as it struck Kaltenbrunner’s hypercranial skull.  The man had been completely astonished.

And he loved the sand’s loose, easy depths.  Sand covered everything.

~

Shopocalypse cover art

shopocalypse_print_03bHere’s the cover art for ‘Shopocalypse’, my near future SF novel, and now officially announced by Clarion Publishing.

The artist is Ben Baldwin,  I think he has absolutely caught the mood of the book, and it looks great. Right now I couldn’t be happier.

Friday Flash – Cold Comfort Farm

Cold Comfort Farm

‘What are you doing?’ he cried, clutching his briefcase.  ‘Where are your morals?’

Kim sprawled naked on the king-size bed, half buried in heaps of euros, yen and rouble notes.  ‘You can’t blame a girl for having certain – appetites.’

He turned away.  ‘I didn’t come here for this.’

The bed rustled as she writhed on her back, tossing handfuls of paper money into the air.  ‘Not for me, baby?  Are you sure?’

‘Oh Christ,’ he gasped, opening his case and tipping hundreds of used dollar bills onto the nude woman.

She opened her arms.  ‘Come here, lover.’

~

Friday Flash – It’s Just ‘Me, me, me’

It’s just ‘Me, me me’

‘Oh, for God’s sake.’  Taylor banged the tinned tuna onto the worktop, glaring at the can opener.

‘What’s up?’

‘You’d think by now we’d be able to make something that doesn’t break.’

Leaning on the door, she shrugged.  ‘We think we’re so clever.  We can’t even feed everyone when there’s enough food.’

‘That’s politics.’

Fitting the can and opener together, Tiffany twisted the handle.  ‘I think our brains are no good at big concepts.  It’s easier to empathise the needs of one person than a million.’

‘That’s just human nature.’

‘Change that, you change everything.’

~

Friday Flash – Down, but not out

Down, but not out

Tension drained from him as he watched the land drop away.  Settling back into his seat, thoughts of the glittering beaches of his destination filled him with less enthusiasm than he hoped.  Despite everything, the past year had depleted both his body and spirit.  Exhaustion was ingrained like coalminer’s dust.

The light plane lost height, skimming over the Caribbean waves.  Reflexively he touched the slim aluminium briefcase then, regarded the still-sleeping young woman with the freshly bandaged head.

As he watched, she woke up.  Turning to him, she smiled.  ‘I know exactly what you’re thinking.’

~

Journey Planet – Hugo Nominated

JP15Journey Planet is one of the best fanzines there is, with each issue themed on one of the many facets of genre fiction, fandom, books, writing, and society. Now it’s been nominated for the Hugo Award for best fanzine, for issues 12, 13 & 14. I think this recognition is very much deserved.

Issue 15 of Journey Planet is now out, with guest editor Lynda Rucker. This issue is called ‘The Write Stuff’ and is all about writing. I’m very pleased to say it contains my article ‘Don’t Save the Rhino’. You can download The Write Stuff  from the Journey Planet web site, or from efanzines.

Congratulations to James Bacon and Chris Garcia, and guest editors Emma King and Helen Montgomery and Pete Young for the Hugo nomination!

Friday Flash – Neon God

Neon God

Three things were certain: she was beautiful, naked, and dead.

The bullet holes in her forehead and between her dazzling breasts were actually the halves of maraschino cherries dripping red syrup, the needle marks in the crook of her elbow nothing more sinister than vaccine-flea bites.  Even the circular bruises on her inner thighs matched her own thumbprints.

Rubbing his enlarged, hairless head, Kaltenbrunner relished the intellectual challenge.  All he had to go on were the unusual stains on her lips and the remote control in her hand.

That, and the expression of utter bliss on her face.

~

Friday Flash – Fashionably Late

Fashionably Late

“To facilitate our meeting I will wear a green carnation in the button-hole of my Pedro Agenbite suite, a salmon-pink Ben Broccolli shirt, and shoes by Gabriel Kriepescu.  A copy of Pravda will be on the table and my armoured Zil will be parked outside.

If all you see is a forty-something Englishman with shoulder length brown hair, a goatee beard, and a leather trench coat, accompanied by a curvaceous blonde of somewhat fewer years, then I have been unexpectedly ‘Called Away’.  These are my scions.  Introduce yourselves.  They have been briefed.”

Tiffany carefully burnt the note.

~