Monday, 20 May 2013

The Caged Sea

Once again here's a blog post about the gestation of a recently published story, this time "The Caged Sea" which appears in #4 of Unspoken Water magazine.

When writing I always need a title before I can begin a story, and in some instances the title itself is the spark for the story. In this case, the title came to me whilst at the coast (unsurprisingly I guess), whilst I was stood by some steps on the sea defences. The platform at the top of the steps implied a cage over the sea, as seen by this photograph. I made a note of the title and filed it in my memory for later.

I knew the title would act as a metaphor rather than to be used literally. After all, what can cage the sea? By it's very nature it cannot be held by bars. But as a concept I knew I could work with it. As with many of my stories I generally need three elements to converge in order to have a workable idea. One of these is always the title, and in this case I became aware of two other ideas which I knew I could work together as one. These were:

1. Everyone knows of the concept of déjà vu, but I had only recently become aware of jamais-vu. Wiki summarises it nicely: Often described as the opposite of déjà vu, jamais vu involves a sense of eeriness and the observer's impression of seeing the situation for the first time, despite rationally knowing that he or she has been in the situation before. Always obsessed with ideas of the perception of reality I knew this discovery would provide fodder for a story. I just hadn't been sure how to use it.

2. I had also been intrigued by stories of Aokigahara, a forest in Japan which is a popular place for those wishing to commit suicide. I've written several stories set in Japan, and again this concept was floating around my head waiting for something to harness it to. Doing some research on the topic I found that Aokigahara is also known as the Sea of Trees. Often in moments like this I wonder if there is an overseeing force teasing stories out of me, because "The Caged Sea" was obviously the perfect title for this story. It wasn't long before the concept of jamais-vu adhered itself and I realised I could work everything together.

Once these three elements were in place I simply added a seemingly solid yet potentially fractual relationship and the story was born. Of course, you'll have to read it to determine if you think it was effective and how it all came together. Unspoken Water #4 also contains stories and poetry by Mike Chinn, Marion Pitman, Lee Clark Zumpe, Derek Muk, Rebekah Memel Brown, Brian M. Milton, Richard King Perkins ll and Stephen Palmer.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Always Different, Always The Same

I don't normally blog gig reviews, mostly because I find I have little to say. Nowadays I tend to have the time/money only to see bands I know I'm going to like, so gig reviews would probably be restricted to effusive gushings that only diehards would be interested in reading. But then, of course, there will always be exceptions. And the exception here are The Fall.

I've seen them around half a dozen times since the mid-eighties. Most of their gigs begin with myself wondering why I've turned up, then suddenly something twists and I'm caught in a primal whirligig of relentless repetition, the music building on itself layer after layer, with Mark E Smith's barely discernible vocals/rant surfing the sounds whilst he himself resembles a dementia patient wandering around disorientated after escaping from a nursing home. Last night at The Waterfront in Norwich was one such gig.

But it wasn't just The Fall. Opening act Dingus Khan are an 8-piece band with three drummers and three bassists, an astonishingly happy frontman wearing your gran's calf-length purple nightdress, and an impressive set of tunes bordering on madness interspersed with whistling and extremely silly dances. Everything that's wrong with modern day pre-packaged music isn't wrong with Dingus Khan. Their jubilence was catching and I loved them.

Unfortunately there was also a second support act, There's Someone In The Pond. Bassist, guitarist, female drummer (resembling Noel Fielding); all the components were there for a top act, but when the first song started and I thought 'this sounds familiar' it quickly became apparent that all their songs sounded familiar because they had ripped off every riff you could think of and done nothing original with it. Their music was bland and I hated them.

And then we have The Fall. Keyboardist Elena Poulou arrives on stage, takes off her coat and lays it over some luggage she places on a chair beside her Korg. The other band members start playing, and shortly afterwards Smith stumbles and mumbles onto the stage, walking aimlessly fiddling with microphones and amplifiers, stands with his back to the audience, gives an occasional - piercing - direct look, sits at the back of the stage, and oversees proceedings like the bandleader he is. The music grows and is intense. Culled mostly from new album, "Re-Mit", the surprise of "Theme From Sparta FC" is welcomed heartily, and "Bury" from "Your Future Our Clutter" also rocks as does "I've Been Duped" from "Imperial Wax Solvent". Before the end of the set - who knows - Smith walks off, and after several long minutes the band return without him, Poulou mentioning something about him not wanting to work with those microphones.

What follows is structured anarchy. The band launch into "Reformation!" with the microphones handed out to members of Dingus Khan who have been in the audience for the gig. They enthusiastically shout "Reformation!" at the required intervals whilst the band ploughs on. Then they stage invade, Poulou leaves, security arrives, and a struggle ensues as they are wrestled to the ground against the beating drum bass guitar soundtrack. One is ejected but not before handing the microphone to another audience member. It wasn't beyond the realms of possibility that the microphone baton could be taken up by everyone in the audience until each were forced to leave the building leaving the band continuing "Reformation!" until the end before an empty auditorium. In any event, the song must have been extended by a good five minutes.

This is what gigs are supposed to be like. It crossed my mind that The Fall would have been buzzed off within ten seconds by the general public and their hideous facades on something like Britain's Got Talent. But Britain does have talent. And that talent is lead by Mark E Smith of The Fall.

So this is why I don't blog gig reviews because it's turned out to be sycophantically effusive anyway and still hasn't managed to capture the joy of being there. Oh well, as a counterbalance I should mention my tinnitus seems to have worsened. That's the pay off. And I had earplugs in too.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Three Wishes

We've all wondered what we might do if we had three wishes. For those amongst us who are sensible, the first wish must be to have an unlimited supply of wishes. Or maybe that should be the third wish, in order to gain an unlimited supply plus those first two wishes. Immortality would also be useful, although it's essential to be careful and specific as to how you wish for it - it would probably be best to throw in a preferred age and status of health with some 'not getting older' stuff into the mix. And we've all read books or seen movies where those granted wishes inadvertently use the term "I wish..." without actually thinking they're making a wish. The whole business is a bit fraught, which is why author Emma Newman's idea of making wishes come true seems down to earth and quite possibly achievable.

You'll have to read the exact guidelines on her Split Worlds website to see why the wishes I've chosen don't include immortality, great wealth, or a everlasting parade of long-snouted animals, but for the moment here are my three wishes:

1. my partner's put a lot of work into editing Fur-Lined Ghettos magazine. We'd like to sell more copies!

2. my novella, "And God Created Zombies", published in 2009 by NewCon Press was at one point being considered for adaptation as a graphic novel. That fell through. I'm hoping there might be someone out there to take it up again

3. I once sent a copy of my comic novella, "Ponthe Oldenguine", to Noel Fielding from The Mighty Boosh suggesting he make it into a movie. It would be nice to receive a reply

So, there we have it. Make my wishes come true!

And here's the housekeeping bit:

"These three wishes are part of a wish-making community organised by author Emma Newman to celebrate the release of the second Split Worlds novel "Any Other Name". Can you make any of them come true? Come and see what other people are wishing for and find out how to join in at – who knows, perhaps someone could make one of your wishes come true."

Check out Emma's novels as well, if you are intrigued by the idea of Downton Abbey crossed with the Fae.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Proboscis Monkey

It's been a while since I made a post about my favourite kind of animal - those with particularly elongated snouts - so what better way to celebrate the 1st May than by showcasing an animal whose very name is derived from a word for snout?

Of course, it has to be the proboscis monkey:

I remember my first encounter with the probsocis monkey as a stuffed animal in the natural history collection at Norwich Castle Museum. This exhibit might even have initiated my love for long-snouted animals - who could fail to be enchanted by such a being.

From wiki: "The proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) or long-nosed monkey, known as the bekantan in Malay, is a reddish-brown arboreal Old World monkey that is endemic to the south-east Asian island of Borneo. The monkey also goes by the Malay name monyet belanda ("Dutch monkey"), or even orang belanda ("Dutchman"), as Indonesians remarked that the Dutch colonisers often had similarly large bellies and noses."

I love that wiki also goes on to explain: "This species of monkey is easily identifiable because of its unusually large nose." Although I do prefer the word snout.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the proboscis monkey:

Just gasp at the size of that snout!