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.


Friday Flash – This is what you want(?)

This is What You Want (?)

Turning from the languid fish in the city aquarium she stepped back into the heat and noise, watching the prototype children running, their dimpled knees and sandaled feet jerking as they yelled.

These days she used her clothes to keep people at a distance, her sun-glasses a blank visor framed by her straight, dark hair.  Walking towards the delicatessen she considered the sleek musculature of the perfect men and women selecting their new families.  Watching them she realised she no longer had any connection with their lives.

He had brought her a long way.


Brutal brilliant cynicsm – Killing Them Softly

A blackest of black comedies about the revenge organised crime exacts against some thieves who stole from them, set against the recent collapse of the global banking system.  In both cases, confidence in the system needs to be restored. In only one do those responsible pay the price. “It’s not what you do,” as one of the characters says, “It’s what other people think you’ve done.”

There is some superb acting from a fantastic cast. James Gandolfini’s portrayal of emotional disintegration as an unreliable hitman, Scoot McNairy’s frightened, weak, and human petty thief, and Ben Mendelsohn’s pathetically realistic drug addict who’s hopeless empty existence revolves around implausible schemes to make money, are all outstanding.  Among them, Brad Pitt’s coldy amused and business-like hitman comes across as less consistent and less well-rounded. However, he easily dominates the final scenes and his delivery of the final dialogue, the knockout punch of the whole film, is wonderful.

Among all this is the sheer banality of crime, the utter lack of imagination, the inability to conceive of consequences before actions that doom the them.  Some of these characters are so low they are standing under the barrel, looking up at the bottom and thinking it’s the sky.

In the scope that this film gives the actors room to act, Killing Them Softly  feels like an American “44-Inch Chest”, another gangster film I really like (though with a very different moral outcome). And, perhaps strangely, it also bears comparison to Ralph Feinnes “Coriolanus”, as well as the obvious influence of Tarantino’s bantering style from films like Pulp Fiction.

Killing Them Softly is theatrical in style, in that it is dialogue heavy, and it does also take a good few minutes to get up to speed with a prolonged opening explanation of the setup. Once past that the story, dialogue and acting are absorbing and tense.

A film as bleak and cynical as they come, and filled with good performances, I greatly enjoyed this.

Friday Flash – Twenty-Second Century Blues

Twenty-Second Century Blues

Chloe found Milo weeping by the ruins.

‘We’re so different from past civilisations,’ he said.

‘I feel sorry for them too.  Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, even the North American empires.  In the end their hopes and dreams were dashed because they consumed finite resources.  They were doomed by their own assumptions.’

‘No, I’m crying for us.  Everything we make is recycled.  When we’re gone, we’ll disappear without a trace.  Animals and plants can become fossils, we’re denied even that.  I want to leave a mark on eternity.’

I never realised archaeology could be so emotional, Chloe thought.


Friday Flash – Pretty Please

Pretty Please

Kaltenbruner checked Tiffany’s bonds. ‘Potassium metal placed on your scalp will burn as soon as it touches the moisture in your skin.  The reaction is highly exothermic.  Your skin will blister and break so bringing more water, in the form of blood, to sustain the reaction.’

Gripped by the tweezers, the potassium steamed in the air.

‘This  one centimeter cube will burn through your skull and drop into your brain, where combustion would continue.’

‘The flame has an attractive pale lilac colour.’ Kaltenbrunner licked his lips. ‘I’ve thought of everything, Ms Maddox.  You’ve got it, I want it.’


Friday Flash – Greyscale Ocean

Here’s the next of my 100 word stories in the Spiral Staircase sequence.

Greyscale Ocean

Grant’s blistered palms bled, the harness rubbed skin raw under his arms.  Still the great fish fought him, pitching its primeval strength against his skill and equipment.  It seemed a fair fight.

Finally it leapt, its huge dorsal fin glistening in the sun.  Seeing that desperation to be free, Grant knew he had won and gave a triumphant shout.  Life was a competition he was designed to win.

Later, as the fish lay belly up against the stern, futility overwhelmed him and he cut the dead thing free.

Waves slapped the hull as blood dripped from his fingers.


Here Comes Christmas

DSCN3105When I was young Christmas was, well – it was Christmas! The closer it came the more excited I got. I just couldn’t wait. As a small child tucked up in bed, wriggly with excitement and too excited to sleep, the anticipation of Christmas was about as exciting as things could get.

Decades pass, that anticipation hasn’t so much faded as moved to what feels like another season of gift-giving – Spring.

This time of year, watching the bulb tips emerge, the buds start to swell, seeing the early iris and clematis bloom, their colours so vivid in a landscape of brown twigs and cold earth, it feels like a kind of Christmas and every green shoot, every bud, is a present. Once again, I’m impatient, I can’t wait. I’m out in the garden every day, looking. Waiting.

Watching the sun-line creep down a frosty hedge.

One thing I didn’t properly learn as that young child was that wanting something doesn’t make it come any faster. Christmas still came on Christmas Day. Spring also makes me realise that many things come when they’re good and ready, and that there is also actually a great deal going on in these cold dark months. It’s there if you know where, and how, to look.

Even so, I can’t wait.