Thursday 11 April 2024


My short story titled "Betaville" has just been published in the anthology Unauthorised Departures edited by Rick McGrath for Terminal Press, and as usual I'm blogging a few words discussing how the story came to be written. There may be spoilers within.

"Betaville" is one of twelve stories I've recently written which takes French New Wave Cinema as a starting point and then runs with an alternative version of it. There will be no surprises here that the inspiration for this story comes from Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 SF movie, "Alphaville".

The conceit in my story is somewhat based on real events. In 1978 Deborah Harry and Chris Stein from Blondie were considering filming a remake of "Alphaville", with Amos Poe directing, Deborah in the Anna Karina role, and guitarist Robert Fripp in the role of the detective, Lemmy Caution. Some publicity stills were made and rumour has it that Deborah and Chris bought the rights to remake the film from Godard for $1000 however the rights weren't Godard's to sell. True or not, for whatever reason, the remake never went ahead. In "Alphaville", Lemmy Caution journeys to the eponymous city where Alpha 60 has outlawed free thought and emotion. There is a dictionary in every hotel room that is continuously updated when words that are deemed to evoke emotion are banned. In my story, "Betaville", Deborah journeys to the eponymous city governed by Beta 60 (Godard) in order to buy the rights to make their movie, however finds that Beta 60 is on a mission to exclude popular films from future history, so that movies subsequently disappear from the listings in Halliwell's Film Guide. The story works both as a playful accompaniment to "Alphaville", containing references which lovers of the film and of Blondie will connect with, as well as standing alone as a short story in its own right. It was a blast to write, and hopefully readers will engage with it too.

Deborah Harry & Robert Fripp 

Here's an extract: 

Deborah wears a black gabardine trench coat with a removable sherpa lining. The expressway is lit yellow both sides. Her foot is down hard on the accelerator of the 1967 Chevrolet Camaro coupe. Occasional overhead lights strobe her face. She is alone. A gun may or may not be in the glove compartment. She seems to have come from nowhere.

Chris has stayed in New York. It is her mission to buy the rights from Godard. An assignation has been arranged. They’ve done some preliminary photoshoots with Fripp. She’s wearing a black one-piece, her hair all 50s starlet, star lit. He’s donned black slacks, a black jacket. Not quite a suit. White shirt punctuated by a black tie. The larger end of the tie is higher up than the shorter end, as though knotted in the dark. There’s footage too. A screen test. Fripp can’t keep a straight face. Deborah wears dark glasses, pulls at her cheeks as if getting into character. Head shots.

The photographs have been printed and reside in a brown manilla envelope on the passenger seat. Collateral or a statement of intent.

She grits her teeth.

Godard has suggested they meet in the past.

There’s a junction somewhere in sidereal space.

She keeps her eyes to the road. Traffic merges at all angles, entering the stream on zipwires. Getting mighty crowded. The Camaro reverberates to a different timbre. The road surface deteriorates. Up ahead a lump of tarmac resembles a sleeping policeman. When she hits it, something triggers. The sultry voice of Paco Navarro on WKTU-FM is lost to crackle. Potato chip radio. There is a flash of darkness, an antithesis. It picks her up and spits her out. She maintains a steady fifty. Everything is black and white.

Beta 60 broadcasts. The recognisable voice mechanical, as if comprised of the aforementioned crackle.

< I am trying to change the world >

Regular readers of this blog will know I usually listen to music through headphones whilst writing, and this entire story was written to the mostly instrumental (and futuristic) song, "Europa", from Blondie's 1980 album, "Autoamerican", on continual repeat.

To reiterate, "Unauthorised Departures" is published by Terminal Press, and in addition to myself features stories from the following: Maxim Jakubowski, James Goddard, Hunter Liguore, Rhys Hughes, David Quantick, Paul A. Green, Ana Teresa Pereira, Tom Frick, Eugen Bacon, Lawrence Russell, Lyle Hopwood, Elana Gomel, D. Harlan Wilson, David Paddy, Andrew Frost, Don MacKay, and Paul H. Williams. Buy it here. The book comes in both paperback and hardback editions.

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