Friday Flash – The Desert

The Desert

Ancient, desiccated cacti crumbled to nothing under Amroye’s boot. The sand was freezing, icy air leached heat from her face. The low sun hadn’t moved for hours, a distant pale disk.

It was the worst sort of lost. She knew exactly where she was.

The wild silence was here but it was just out of reach. Ice rimmed the dune flanks, a glittering, frangible crust. She began walking again, to keep warm. Then, down in the dry gulch, she saw the fox prints.

Too desperate to be relieved, too weary, Amroye followed the tracks at a ground-eating pace.

~

Audio narration available here

Jack Vance – Farewell

Jack Vance, one of the all-time great storytellers and literary stylists of genre fiction passed away on 26th March, 2013, aged 96.

I love his story-telling, his exuberant and unique writing style.

I’ve written a brief appreciation over at the Pornokitsch web site.

RIP Mr Vance. Thank you.

Friday Flash – Benny Checks In

Benny Checks In

Benny gripped the stolen handbag and got in the queue. He’d got the itch, got it bad. He couldn’t bear it. He went back down the alley.

It wasn’t fair. He’d sweated for that bag, he’d done the legwork, he’d taken the risks. It was his bag.

Swap it for a measly wrap? He had a better idea. He’d sell the plastic, the phone. A bag like that had to be worth something. He’d work hard, get clean…

That itch, cockroaches in his belly. He had it bad. Shaking and shuffling, Benny got back in the queue.

~

Audio narration of this story is available here.

Friday Flash – Jimmy Checks Out

Jimmy Checks Out

He’d caught a bullet.

Pow!

Snatch! Just like that.

He’d seen it coming he told them later. He’d snatched that motherfucker right out of the air. Burned his palm but that was OK. Anyways, it wasn’t a real bullet, it was a copy. Nice one, too.

How did Jimmy know? He knew because you couldn’t do that with real bullets. You couldn’t catch ‘em.

Jimmy flipped the bullet, caught it, and slipped it into his pocket. Guy who fired it wouldn’t mind. Guy like that, he’d have a whole bunch of bullets. He could spare a few.

~

The origins of this are pretty oblique, inspired by, but not necessarily about, book piracy. And that all came about from reading this blog post from Gaie Sebold.
Audio narration is available here.

Fiction and Climate Change

I’ve just finished reviewing Tony White’s riveting novel Shackleton’s Man Goes North for Arc magazine, a novel about the past, present, and future of climate change.

One thing he’s interested in is seeing how we can predict what the future may hold by looking at what is happening now.  And then he looks at what we humans are doing right now. As part of this he references the IPCC Special Report: Emissions Scenarios.

These scenarios are “alternative images of how the future might unfold and are an appropriate tool with which to analyse how driving forces may influence future emission outcomes and to assess the associated uncertainties.”

Now, the IPCC is a hugely important and influential organisation, and one that in my mind holds the authoritative high ground on pragmatic scientific accuracy, opinion and advice on this absolutely vital and urgent subject.  In its own words, the IPCC is

“the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.”

So, people, this is my challenge: go read this report. Specifically, use the slide-bar on the left and go to page 10. Read the first sentence of the firs paragraph, top left. You’ll probably want to because when I read it in Tony White’s book I wanted to check this out for myself.  If you don’t want to, this is what it says:

“All scenarios describe futures that are generally more affluent than today.”

So that’s fine. Whatever happens with global warming we’ll all be better off.

I write a lot of fiction, I write a lot of SF, but I have to admit to a failure of imagination here, because I never thought of that one. Or perhaps it’s because you just couldn’t make it up.

On  the Antarctic peninsula tough little grasses and lichen are expanding their ranges as the climate warms. What are we humans doing right now? It feels to me like we’re all part of that band playing on the decks of the Titanic.

(Shackleton’s Man Goes South is a great, adventurous and passionate book. It was commissioned by the Science Museum, and you can read it free on their web site.)

~

Times of Trouble anthology released

Times of Trouble (A Time Travel anthology) from Permuted Press

This is nice.

Times of Trouble (A Time-Travel Anthology) is released this week by Permuted Press. Edited by the ever-charming Lane Adamson, this includes my story, Previous, as well as contributions from Stephen Gaskell, Ruth Nestvold, and many more.

Permuted are promising a print edition in due course, for now you can find electronic editions on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Friday Flash – The Prison

This is the start of a new sequence and this time I’m taking inspiration from two sources: Titles are the chapter heading from my soon to be released SF novel, Shopocalypse; the stories and characters are inspired by current work in progress, ‘Beyond The Streets We Know’, a fantasy set in this world and others.

No spoilers here. I am riffing off the characters and stories in ‘Beyond The Streets’, not reprising them. Events in these stories will not happen in the book, think of them as alternatives, things that might have been, or are yet to come.

Shopocalypse has 68 chapter titles, so this could run for some time if I use them all. As before, exactly 100 words per story, including the title. Enjoy! And as ever, your comments are most welcome.

The Prison

Skorzaney sat on the thin, hard mattress and rubbed his chin. This was nothing, he had spent twice this long simply putting the plan together.

Those plans still existed. This was simply delay, postponement. What were a few more years? He’d get out when he got out, until then nothing was going to change. People had been waiting a long, long time. They, like he, could wait a little longer.

So the kid was dead. Bars and doors were simply a state of mind. Skorzaney settled back against the wall. He had all the time in the world.

~

Audio Narration available here

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.

~