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.


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.