I fucking LOVE books

Talking about the love of books. With a lot of swearing.

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Pair of Ducks: Weekly Flash Challenge.


Good old Chuck has done it again. Here are the rules for this one: You have 1000 words in which to write a story where “time travel” is a prominent feature.

And here’s my attempt, coming in at a neat 436 words. A bit more light-hearted than last weeks, which I think people will appreciate.

Pair of Ducks

“Time travel’s not possible, mate. It’s a – a – wassit. Pair of Ducks”

“Paradox,” said Seth.

Chris ignored him and drained the rest of his pint.

“I mean, I read an article about it once,” said Chris, raising his voice to be heard over the noise of the pub. “Said that if time travel were possible we’d already have evidence of it, right? Dead time travellers and the like. So, no dead time travellers means no time travel.”

Seth thought he should at least make the attempt. “Well, maybe, but not if the travellers have a way of ensuring their jaunts won’t be discovered, an emergency field or –“

Chris slammed his hands down onto the sticky table, making Seth jump.

”Listen to me, mate,” he said, leaning across until he was not far from Seths face. His breath stank of beer and stale cigarettes. “Weren’t you fucking listening? It’s not possible.”

He leaned back again, and folded his arms. Seth got the feeling that people always dropped the argument after that little display.

And perhaps it wasn’t worth it after all.

“Maybe you’re right,” said Seth. “It’s just nice to dream sometimes.”

“No point dreaming about something that’s never gonna happen.” Chris shook his head. “It’s been Time Travel all over the place lately. I can’t seem to go five minutes without someone wanting to talk about it. Tell you what, the world would be a right better place if people just concentrated on what’s real, not on some airy-fairy fantasies.”

“Perhaps.” And if your ancestors had thought of it that way, you’d probably be dead of cholera by now, Seth thought.

He left the pub, and walked past all the drunks. A group of giggling blondes on sky-high heels screeched at him and he gave them a wave before nipping down an alley. He had some business to attend to that required privacy.

In a deserted, over-grown bit of concrete, he dropped into a crouch. And with just a press of the right bits of his boots in sequence, he was stepping back home.

He arrived with a rushing sensation in his ears, to find his boss smiling at him.

“You went to visit Chris, didn’t you. Everyone visits Chris in their first week.”

“Yeah,” said Seth, walking into the bright, shining future of it all. “I just can’t believe he was her grandfather, you know? How did the mind that made all this possible come from that?”

“We may never know.”

“Mind you, I found out about our logo.”

The boss laughed, and they both glanced up at the logo of TimeSteppers – Two ducks, in silhouette.

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Review: The End of Everything by Megan Abbott


The End of Everything was sold to me by my good friend Scarlett Parrish describing it as ‘Lolita as written by Ruth Rendell.’ I started reading it as a reward for reaching 10k on my novel today, and didn’t stop till I was finished. Yes, it’s one of those.

Ultimately, The End of Everything is a story about the period directly following the abduction of a young girl, as told by her best friend. Complete with the sort of details about the hazy, dazy world of childhood and pubescence that only the unsentimental remember, it feels utterly honest and true. From the descriptions of the early stages of sexual development, to the simple, romantic imaginings of girls of that age, everything fitted neatly into a slot I know and remember well.

The prose. Oh. The prose. It’s beautiful. It completely captures that childhood feeling – the feeling of endless days and a wider world that barely makes sense, the feeling of grasping your way through fog, occasionally coming across barely realised adult horrors. As the young girls discuss Evies abduction, the prurient, eager dissection of the horrors she’ll undergo feels real, and I remember similar horrified-ecstatic conversations, always going on. Always there.

As it goes on, The End of Everything becomes an excellent examinaton of how a precocious young girl can be persuaded into believing she wants the ‘love’ of an older peadophile.

Evie felt Mr. Shaw’s love, and what girl wouldn’t eventually sink into that love, its dreamy promise? He, a man three times her age who’s seen the world and known things and knows most that she is the most special girl of all? She is everything and he would tear down his life for her. He would tear it down because just one downward glance from her would heal him, save him. She has that power. What girl wouldn’t want that power? […] “He told me it was like a piercing thing in his chest. One day, it just happened. He saw me and it happened, and after that there was nothing else. A hole in his chest like you could stick your finger in.” I feel a shudder right through me, quaking. I feel my thighs go loose and hot. Oh my, it’s a sickness. A sickness. I swoon into it. She is telling, she is finally telling. It’s like dipping your toe in a magical lake in some fairy tale.

Abbott, Megan (2011-08-19). The End of Everything (p. 186). Macmillan Publishers UK. Kindle Edition.

 

And  it breaks that lie, the lie that Humbert Humbert of Lolita tells, that’s it’s love, that’s it’s OK, that’s it’s magic. It breaks it’s own enchantment open on itself with brutality to tell you there is no dreamy, hazy reality in which a Nymphet is truly a willing and active participant, that there is no world in which the ‘seduction’ of a thirteen year old girl by a forty year-old man is anything other than a gross defilement.

In this it is still Lolita, but where Lolita can fool the less aware reader, the person who cannot read between the lines, this spells it out. The story told in the end is Lolita if Dolores Haze had her say, stripping it all of the illusionary romance of it.

And then the ending comes, and it connects everything, while still leaving you in doubt, never giving way, never giving you an easy answer, and you come back into the world feeling strange, feeling changed. Disconnected. A new knowledge in your breast. This is the way good books work.

 

Rescue: Weekly flash fiction challenge


The inimitable Chuck Wendig has ordered us to write another piece of flash fiction. As I want to get better at flash, I joined in. These are the rules for this week:

A few weeks back I was playing with that random sentence generator used in another flash fiction challenge, and I got what was, for me, a truly fascinating story-inspiring sentence.

That sentence:

“The noticed android walks past a wondering chamber.”

I don’t know what the fuck that means, but I like it.

So, your flash fiction challenge should utilize this sentence.

In fact, it should be your opening sentence.

After that, you’ve got up to 1000 words to tell the story, whatever that story may be.

Here is my attempt. It comes in at 727 words.

RESCUE:

The noticed android walks past a Wondering Chamber. It walks with a strange, halting gait – its left leg out of time with the rest of its body. As it walks, it disturbs the detritus of a dead civilisation. The notice on it’s back reads RESCUE in letters that must have been red, once, though now faded and peeling and coated in grime.

It walks past the Wondering Chamber as feral dogs and cats scatter before it. Just past the once glorious building, it halts. People came here in their droves. There is an alert set in it’s programming. People gathered here. A signal in the corroding mass of its mind. People. It is looking.

A Wondering Chamber: They come here as families, as lovers, alone. They come here and they laugh and love and dream. It doesn’t know what those mean, but the PROGRAMMER thought it was important. They come here and are human. Check. Check it Check it.

The outer door is locked, but the lock is rusted. The android can get through. The reception is dark, but the android can see through the dusty blackness. Computers are silent on desks. The android could talk to those computers if they were awake. They aren’t awake.

The inner doors are open and buckled. Force was used here. Great force. The Chamber lies at the end of a long, black corridor. The android switches on it’s recorder. What it sees and what happens transmits to a place where humans can pick it up. No-one has picked up a message since the start, but it’s part of the program.

The wondering chamber is huge. Information in the memory banks is available. The Wondering Chambers were made so that 100 human beings could comfortably co-exist within them, and never bump into each others space unless they wanted to. Metallic noises echo as the android searches it.

The android is programmed with the very best of analysis software. It can assess what has occured in any situation with 98% accuracy in order to make it more useful in its role. It is support staff for the RESCUE operation. Search and RESCUE.

They came here because the doors locked. Humans liked doors that locked. And the equipment that made the wonders, though delicate, was sturdy enough to keep the smaller humans (CHILDREN. Pay special attention to CHILDREN. Search and RESCUE) quiet as the fires burned outside. The doors would keep the screams out. People would come and save them.

No-one came. Humans do silly things when they are desperate. The android was too late. There were bones heaped in the corners of the Chamber, small ones and big ones. The smaller skulls had holes in the center of the forehead, the bigger ones had holes in the temple. The android was too late. They’d huddled in the corners, they’d killed their children, and then themselves.

The android can access recordings from the security droid that floated above this section. There are gaps in the memory, but it’s still good.  The fires had gone too long. The destruction had been too much. Everyone ran. The pictures are of that. Running and screaming and blood and fire. There were no videos from inside the Chamber, but the androids programming tells it it hadn’t failed. People do that.  Next one, Next one.

Instead, it picks up one of the smaller skulls. It has software to extrapolate faces even from wrecked messes. When giving people to hospitals it provides an image so that people can have faces again. It is important for humans to have faces. It picks up one of the smaller skulls, and it creates a face for it. It regards the face for a while. and saves it in it’s memory banks. A small query is raised in the programming, but it doesn’t matter. This is a thing that has to be done. It records the little girls face alongside the faces of CREATORS and PROGRAMMERS and V.I.P’s that must be long dead.

It stops and waits for a moment, surrounded by the bones of the dead. It thinks this might be MOURNING . MOURNING must not be interrupted unless humans are at risk. It is a necessary thing.

When it is finished, it leaves the Chamber and continues it’s search. It is a RESCUE droid, and it looks for survivors. It has been looking for twenty years.

 

If you like post-apocalyptia, why not check out In Case of Survival?

Supernova


Chuck Wendig asked his penmonkey minions to write a 1000 word flash updating a fairy story. This is my attempt. It’s my first attempt, and I’m not sure I’m especially good at flash, but hey. I can only get better.

When a rich man has a daughter, people expect her to be cosseted and spoiled. When that rich man owns the worlds largest private space-fleet, people exoect her to be named something silly like Supernova. When that man made his money in some less than ethical ways, the people who hate him will hate her. Which is why no-one outside of her fathers huge compound of houses ever saw the young Supernova from the day she was born till the day she turned sixteen.

 

It had been a lonely upbringing for the poor girl, of course, though she hadn’t known it, surrounded as she was by people who were paid to love her and care for her. In reality, she had no idea of how to talk to real people.

 

Still. As one of her three dressmakers put the finishing touches on her dress (value: The yearly profit of a small country) for her she whirled around the room, giddy.

 

“And daddy has said he might even introduce me to some boooys!”

 

“Yes miss.”

 

“And won’t they just think I’m the prettiest?” She stopped to look in the mirror, patting at her face.

 

“Yes miss.”

 

“Oh, I’m so excited!”

 

“Yes miss.”

 

On the day of the party, she was squeezed into the expensive dress, her hair dressed. She looked quite the little eligible heiress. Outside some hippy types were protesting, but, kept from everything but the most banal of entertainment channels, she had no idea.

 

Her party was excellent. She danced. She flirted, in her amateur, obvious way. She could have been shaped like a donkey and talked like a lumberjack, and none of the men would have cared. She was rich. The word had a beauty of its own. But somehow (don’t ask how, dear reader) a protestor found their way inside the ballroom. Dressed in a hire suit, the handsome young man danced with the girl… and she. Was. SMITTEN.

 

Rich girls always pick me who will upset their daddies.

 

Shame he was only dancing with her to inject her with a concentrated dose of Hyperflu, the illness that struck down her daddies worked. Within minutes she was writhing on the floor, dying.

 

Her daddy did the needful.  The needful being rushing her away to a cry chamber where she could sleep until the cure was found… and arresting the young man who’d given her the disease, who trust me, was already feeling pretty grateful. She’d had such pretty brown eyes, and she’d looked so unhappy when he stabbed her.

 

And so it was that they locked her in away. Even though he felt guilty, the young man (who’s name was Paul, but we all know the princes name isn’t important) refused to help her father develop the cure… unless the cure was given to the workers. Despite how her father loved his girl, he would not be blackmailed. So for two years, as they argued, she slept.

 

When the father gave in, it was discovered it would be one hundred years to develop the cure. At this, the young man and the father wept, because they had not expected it to take so long. The normal hyperflu could be fixed in a decade, but her dosage had been so high…

 

The father would die, long before she woke, but the young man worked on the cure until he was an old man, watching the business for her. It was kept in trust, long after it’s value was gone. The space fleet he’d built was outmoded. Still he worked, and when he got old, he grew a vat baby, and taught his ‘son’ how to complete the cure.

 

And then, one day, when 100 years had passed and the world was horribly changed, they went to give the girl a cure without thinking of how it would effect him. A young man in love with a girl he only knew from his fathers stories. The watchers of a dead legacy.

 

They gave her The Kiss, and she opened her eyes. They weren’t even brown. They were green. The young man (Paul II) had his heart shattered. And as for Supernova? We’ll I’d say it was better that she died, and for two years she felt that herself, but she managed. She married a starship engineer, and went travelling, and if sometimes she wondered what could have been, well, I don’t blame her.

 

And if you wonder how I could know such a thing… Well, she is my grandmother. So, though it was a cruel thing to do to a girl, I am grateful for her freezing.

 

 

 

(My other idea was Stilt, a short based on Rumplestiltskin about a girl who claims she can make any account go into profit, and bribes a hacker to help her out, but I didn’t know enough about hacking or banking. I still intend to write it soon.)

Best Books for Weird Teens.


I’ve noticed an unpleasant trend in YA books. They are filled with young women who lack agency, who believe their first love is to be their only love, who are controlled by the men around them. Obviously, there are those that aren’t – and those are the books I want to talk about today.

THE RULES: Every YA book in this post will:

  • Feature a woman/girl as one of the main characters
  • That woman may have a romance, but it won’t be the defining thing of her life
  • She lives her life for herself, even if it requires hard choices

My choices may not be yours, and thats fine. Feel free the recommend your favourites, ideally within these rules. THIS IS A TWILIGHT FREE ZONE. I LOATHE those fucking books and the message they send to young women, and I have no wish to get in an argument on the subject. Besides, this man can better explain my hatred. Read all of them.

Some of these books are older, some are newer. If you have a teenagerl, you could do worse.

Read more…

Wide Reading (makes you a better writer)


First things first, apologies for radio silence. It was easter bank holiday weekend and I spent it getting drunk and going to funfairs. I may love books and reading, but it doesn’t stop me being a bit of a party girl.

I want to talk about one of the negative aspects of reading a lot. They do exist!

They exist because not every book in the world can be a mind-expanding piece of glorious literature. That’s fine! Sometimes all you want is a bit of brain candy, especially if you’re having a hard time of it lately. And bear in mind, this is not a literary/genre thing, there are beautiful, soul enriching books among even the most poorly treated bits of genre fiction just as there are dire, emotionally mean and beige works among literary.

As I said, there is nothing wrong with these books. There is nothing wrong with reading something just for entertainment. The problem comes if you JUST read these books. It’s why I say a wide reading habit is the best thing you can do… it tests your beliefs and makes you think about different things, which has the effect of broadening your horizons. But if you ONLY read one type of stuff, ONLY read generic, brain candy books, you’ll do as much damage to your thinking as a diet of pure sugar would do to your body.

But why? Surely any kind of reading is good?

Well, yes and no, and if you’re someone who doesn’t really read (freak) then reading even imaginatively narrow and poorly written stuff is a start. But, in an ideal world, you would be increasing your reading habits to include things NOT in the favoured genre. Why? Because narrow reading= narrow mind.

Certain genres of books have their tropes – techniques they use to tell the story. The best examples of genres use these tropes well, abandon out dated or unpleasant ones, or outright subvert expected tropes. The average merely use those tropes competently. The poor, however, use them with no subtlety, and it often leads to unpleasant attitudes going unchallenged by the work. For example, thrillers often have a tendency to treat women like set dressing. They’re victims or seductresses, there for the man to win.  If you only read that one genre, you won’t have any opposing points of view to offset that. This can lead to problems. For example, recent controversies about racism and rape apologism in some Urban Fantasy books.

It becomes more important to read widely if you are a writer. It’s only through reading widely you can develop taste – by which I mean the ability to tell when a type of writing is bad or good –  and if you only stick to one genre of fiction, you artifically restrict your writing ability. Sure, you should read a lot of books in your chosen genre (and there’s a hell of a lot of sci-fi and fantasy on my shelves) but you should also read outside it. For your readers sake, if not for yours.

Format doesn’t matter to me (but I love stroking the covers)


In my first post I (briefly) mentioned a thing I have about format. It doesn’t matter to me. I like physical books and e-books and I don’t care how things come to me as long as I can read them, as long as I can sink myself into that world with luxurious abandon.

There are places I prefer one over the other – physical copy is better for reading in the bath, e-books for long journeys – but in general I don’t give a shit how I read.

However. There’s always a however.

I have an almost sexual lust for the smell of paper and the feel of book covers under my fingers.

Read more…

I fucking LOVE books.


I love books in physical form, and books in digital copy. I love books that make me think, and books that are throw away brain candy. I love books that make me cry and books that make me laugh.

This is where I talk about that book love. Part memoir, part love story to fiction, this is where I talk about the ways that books have kept me going, and in some cases have kept me alive.

Sometimes, I’ll do reviews.

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