Monsters (and what you should do when you encounter one)

My dad’s a embarrassing, and he tries his best to squeeze a little into every moment we’ve shared. My mum on the other hand is weird, and this is obvious looking back on a lifetime of encouraged monster movies.

I knew I was strange as a child, watching films like: Frankenstein, King Kong, and Godzilla (which all ended with me in tears), I realised that I had a soft spot for monsters. It might seem odd to see a gigantic reptile’s demise move a child of about four to a blubbering mess, but there is method to the madness.

I think the understanding that society had created this monster (whether intentionally with Frankenstein, or unintentionally with the cold cultural response with most of the monster movies), and somewhere in the destruction of what could have been a new form of understanding, we’re reminded that monsters aren’t to be tolerated in the modern world.

I remember thinking that this was unfair, and it took Jurassic Park’s Matriarchal and all round feminist T-Rex to rekindle my love of life. It wasn’t the killing of the monster that terrorised my dreams as much as the lack of care when interacting it. Imagine how the Monster would have been if Frankenstein had only told it to sit down, have a cup of tea, and try and be open minded.

This takes me to a thought that has been swimming around my head is what to do with the monsters that lurk inside our own psyches. And I should point out before you think that humanity isn’t full of monsters, and it’s purely a result of environmental conditioning, then look at all of history and tell me it’s just a coincidence.

There’s far too much placed on the environmental side, which is something that annoyed me in school when we started learning about the evil Nazis. I didn’t see bad people, I saw a country on its knees, and a silver-tongued warrior that promised them heaven if only they gave him complete control, and the weird thing is he kept his word. For a time.

We all have monsters lurking inside, and they like to come out when victimised, chased up the street by an angry mob armed with pitchforks and firebrands. Monsters take all sorts of forms, but all have the capacity for great harm (both themselves and others).

It’s important to know what kind of monster lurks within, and just like I thought as a little boy as I watched king Kong peppered with bullets as he tried to give Fey Rey a squeeze “Don’t kill the monster! Teach it.”

You can devote your life to silencing all negative noise, or you can embrace that not so deep inside your civility is a beast that will hurt people if provoked. You owe it to yourself to provide parental care that Frankenstein neglected in his pursuit of his genius.

For me Shelly’s story isn’t one of how humanity shouldn’t play God, but how if you are going to then you better be ready to take responsibility for it. Environment does shape us, but saying that it is the only factor is like saying the reason why the Swan can fly is because he’s lucky enough to have grown up in the right neighbourhood.

We’ve all got monsters lurking around in the dark, so we better learn how to teach it not to eat the postman when you accidentally leave the cellar door unlocked. “Don’t kill the monster! Teach it”, and what you’ll have is a kind and considerate person, with the power to stand up for yourself when you really need to.

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Optimism (and other strange things)

 

 

My dad’s embarrassing. He’s so embarrassing in fact that he made me want to start this blog. I was ill a lot as a child, so it meant the house was often full with children’s medicine. One time in particular my father decided to drink a bottle of my prescribed cough medicine.

He tells me that the details over the next couple of days were hazy, but one thing that he does remember is a moment of lucidity in his parents house, where he proceeded to punch a crumpet flat.

We don’t know what the crumpet had done, and it would be twenty years before he heard of the Pikelete (or flat crumpet), so we don’t know why he had done it. Well that’s a lie, it was the cough mixture that created a moment of pure rage, resulting in a crumpets death.

The cough medicine may have given my father the power of foresight, allowing him to see the superiority of the Pikelete, but alas we’ll never know. What we do know is children’s medicine is not to trifled with, so consider this your friendly warning. Don’t let crumpets suffer because of a loss in reasoning.

 

***

 

In the aftermath of what I think is an apocalyptic mix between Ebola and Milton’s rings of Hell (and my girlfriend Holly refers to as “a bit of the sniffles”), i’ve been doing some thinking.

Thinking is a wonderful way to spend the day (as long as you’re lucky enough to live in a country that doesn’t mind you taking five minutes out to explore the existential quandaries before forcing back down the acid mines). I couldn’t recommend more, especially if you have a good book, or someone who doesn’t mind you kissing them.

A handful of days with no writing, except writing a blog post or two (after all it’s not really work), normally has me trying to pull my hair out. Instead i’ve used the time to relax, get back to base, and try and not void all life from my body in-between watching episodes of Charlie Brooker’s Wipes.

I find that life makes sense if only you’d relax long enough to tell you what’s wrong. There’s something wonderful about solving a problem, even if it’s giving it a name and an address so you know what to shout as you track it down and kick the crap out of it.

In writery news I just finished The Legend of Deathwalker by David Gemmell, for the second time. In times of strife we all fall back to the creature comforts that keep us snug and warm while the world rattles around us, and for me Druss does this perfectly.

I think that’s because Druss is not the cave where you flee from the storm, but the axe-wielding hero that comes out screaming so terrifyingly that the rain decides to hop on a bus, without any regard for destination or sense.

From the first page you’re greeted with a war and a scared young man who (like us) has grossly misinterpreted the true horror of war. Luckily he is greeted by Druss, the axe wielding hero, who while waiting for the greatest army of the age to attack decides to tell another tale of unlikely heroes.

In a world of toxic masculinity, controlling patriarchy, and the great polarisation in the world, it’s great to see classic tales of defiance, love, and magic eyeballs. I had forgotten how real Gemmell’s tales are, even in their obvious mythological context.

He was the kind of writer you could imagine stood in a great hall, his words causing the hairs on the back of your neck to stand on end, as people take turns feeding the fire in corner.

 

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Sick Days

My dad is embarrassing. I don’t know whether it was intentional, or the innate skills of a Lokiesque childhood upbringing. But what is clear is just how good he was.

That wasn’t always the case, with days like today where my body does its best to remove any signs of life, but that kindness and care might have been necessary so i’ll one day improve and we can start all over again.

What I do know is I was ill a lot as a child. Every Christmas I had a cross between Dengue fever crossed with some sort of mind melt. I was Gomez in Adams Family Values, singing out to some ethereal entity while I patiently wait for the end.

I’ve had chickenpox more than once, and Shingles before I was ten (lucky me). It was so bad I can comfortably look back on a lifetime spent in a sick bed, even puberty was mingled with terrible growth spurts that would leave me bed bound (growing over two feet in a couple of months will do that to a person).

To say I hated it (and all subsequent illnesses) would be an understatement, but one thing tends to crop up in these miserable moments, my Father. My mum did her best with sickness, but a tendency to avoid anything gross, and a suspicious nature that would kick in whenever it was a school night, left us at odds as far as good sick days are concerned.

I do remember my father’s way of knowing exactly what to do, whether it be the cold compress when the migraines started, or the buckets of warm salt water when the pores on my feet decided to see how far they could stretch.

Even now the idea of such an alpha-male, gorilla man expressing such tenderness and sensitivity leaves me with a sense of awe. Like most families I struggled to express myself to my parents, but when it came to being ill it was as if he knew exactly what to do.

He’d probably poke my ribs and call me gay for saying it, but I was lucky to have him there when I needed him most. So here’s to my dad, and all the other parents who spring into action when the time calls for it.

Tender Minds

I’ve been feeling pretty bad today, so i’ll try and be brief.

My dad is embarrassing, even in his mid forties the man knows his way around a blushing cheek. He doesn’t make me want the world to swallow me as much, which might be because of my age, or his diminished skills, but whenever I feel a little down all I have to do is look back on a lifetime of silliness.

He had these slippers in the shape of boxing gorillas, which he had decided would be better if he unstitched the mittens, and stretched them out so it looked like they were punching the floor as he walked.

That’s not so bad, but what I still don’t understand to this day is why he had to wear them out in public. A simian stroll to the shops is bad enough, but the man decided that it was socially acceptable to go bounding off in public areas, likely in a dressing gown and gravy stained T-shirt.

***

I’m hopeful for the future, and i’m happy to be a twenty something adult in this day and age. I know it’s not a popular view, being a straight white male in the throws of the regressive lefts attempt to crush me and all the rest of patriarchy, while the right tries to coax Trump away from the nuke codes with a novelty sized cookie, but that’s me; i’m an optimist.

I am also a writer, and as a writer I like to look at things, shrug, and write something that will hopefully distract me, while looking like i’m at least trying to act like an adult. I have fallen quite hard for a handful of new writers (new as in relation to me, not time), and even in the midst of little sleep and a terrible ongoing headache, i’m happy.

The Enemy of the West (and why we need more silliness in the world)

 

So my dad use to like embarrassing me (hence the need to start a blog), and as the giver he was, he liked to include as many people as possible. It was his gift to the world, like a trickster Santa he liked to drag people into funny situations, often screaming.

I remember (or at least I do. Damn flash bulb memories!) my dad walked around one of the local homeware stores, I think it was Wilkinsons, where he proceeded to open all the boxes of mouse traps, and set them up on the higher shelves out of most peoples eye-line.

This would be considered weird for any random passerby, and positively embarrassing for a boy of about nine. What was strange was the horrified look on a strangers face as she saw him set the trap, place it on the top shelf, and then start on another.

My father caught the strangers eye. Paused. Raised a finger to his lips, and told her to “Shh”, before proceeding with his escapades. It was asking to watching someone witness an alien abduction. I felt sorry for her, then felt envious; she got to go back to a normal life, whereas I would never be so lucky.

***

I’ve been looking for the right way to write it since I first realised, and as an optimistic existentialist I finally decided that the right was a matter of my way: Clean, simple, with the odd grammatical mistake. It’s not much of an opinion,

With the rise of the alt-right, and the somewhat baffling controversy surrounding the left (Known as the regressive left), it’s become a time of opinion posing as fact. It’s an issue that has followed our species like a bad smell.

The problem isn’t a new one, with people like Bill Hicks in the eighties talking about the anti-intelectualism that exists within America, and now thanks to the marvels of modern technology, we can proudly include the rest of the West, and indeed the entire world.

It comes down to Ignorance. Ignorance (like all behaviour) has its place, or it would have been bred out with all the other useless evolutionary baggage. Ignorance is a snap decision to create a thumbnail of opinion based on very little information.

People are ignorant for lots of reasons (not all of them should be tied to a heavy stone and dropped in the the deepest pool you can find). People are busy, they’re parents who don’t have the time to consider all manner of opinions. Instead they listen to the most compelling argument, and put it away, saving it for best.

That isn’t a problem. There’s a lot of information in the world, and we can’t be expected to know it all. The problem however is when ignorance is expressed as fact. Opinions can be prickly at the best of times, but once they become fact they become dangerous. Facts are worth fighting for. They’re worth dying for.

It can seem scary in a world of flat earths, universities silencing opinions they find undesirable, and the exposure of politics that Douglas Adams had predicted with The Hitchhikers  Zaph Beeblebrox, the president of the galaxy who acts as a spacefaring celebrity.

I’m not overly scared, and it’s not because these things don’t matter, but because amongst the madness are people who find themselves labelless in a culture struggling to find their identity.

People who are happy to upset both the left and the right in order to find the sensical minds amongst the braying calls of those who know all the facts. People like Jordan peterson, Amanda Palmer, Joe Rogan. People who have risked time and time again the anger of the internet in favour of expressing their opinion.

I watched an interview with Jordan Peterson explaining his stance on the pay gap and patriarchy (link below). It can be difficult watching an interview when there’s an agenda involved, but I found myself smiling as he made his way through as politely as possible.

There was a definite air of tension where the host baited and poked as she awaited her triumphant “Gotcha!” moment. What filled me with hope was seeing Jordan explain that “That wasn’t what I said” in-between explanations of the differences between what evidence shows, and what you may infer from that.

It makes me hopeful for a future where it’s not about left and right opposing each other, but both joining to laugh in-between trying to explain to the conspiracy theory based evidence, which has disguised itself as fact under the protection of public sway.

 

 

The Long and Short of It

Perhaps I should start with an explanation. The title of my blog is in reference to the popular opinion shared by my Father that all the weird things I do are because of him. So in honour of the man who did his best to raise me as oddly as possible, i’d like to share something about him.

I always thought if the Greeks were right, and gods often bedding mortals, then I must have the blood of a chaos god running through me. Luck has been consistent in my life, but whether it has been good or bad differs from second to second.

I tend to try and get all the bad look out of the way before leaving the house, that way i’m able to fully appreciate the nice things that happen afterwards. It’s the wishy-washy philosophical equivalent  of eating all your veggies before tucking into the meat.

My father carried a similar view, but instead of embracing it, somehow managed to direct the bad luck towards me. He was (and still is) an embarrassing man. The sort of person who would walk arm in arm to the shops, while pretending to be heavily disabled.

People wouldn’t comment on his actions, even as he knocked things off shelves, or kicked baskets across the isles. They couldn’t call him out on his antisocial behaviour because there might be the possibility he was actually disabled.

I’m still tempted to kick a basket, or flick over a pack of home-brand biscuits whenever I have to go shopping. I don’t, but I can still hear my dad, just out of sight, wailing like a cat in a bath.

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Here we are, looking cool for perhaps the first, and only time in our lives.

***

It’s been a long time since I wrote something on here, and i’ve been slowly itching to start up again. The problem with blogging in general is it falls into two categories: Marketing advertisement, or celebrities who want to share their personal thoughts with you. I am neither of these.

The idea of selling myself through any media isn’t something that sits well with my eighties comedy upbringing (I was a foetus at that stage, but I waited patiently to be born so I could enjoy it).

I am a writer, and blogging is another way to put all my thoughts away in a nice little shoebox, until it’s time to throw it in the air and see what makes sense as it falls around me.

With that in mind I am going to treat my blog as a diary, with the intention that it’s personal thoughts and moments will be shared by me (and perhaps a handful of inquisitive rogues who can overlook “DO NOT READ” in red scary letters, while picking the curious little brass lock).

With that in mind I am free to natter on about all the interesting stories, sights, and sounds that encourage me to carry on writing, and in my own way making the world a little less dull.

If at any point you feel inspired (or bored), then please return to your paintbrushes, books, or chunks of marble, and do something interesting with your life. I’ll still be here, in-between editing my novel and writing stories, jotting things down, possibly with a tongue stuck out of the side of my mouth (hopefully it’s my tongue, otherwise that’d be weird).

 

So it’s a few weeks into the new year and i’m happy to have found some new writers, and some excellent stories from those I have.  I like to read a short story or two before getting out of bed, and I have had the wonderful “One More For the Road” by Ray Bradbury to set up the rest of my day.

Today I read “Time Intervening” and “The Enemy In The Wheat”, now i’m not here to try and tell you what to think about these stories, or the works of Ray Bradbury in general. Those of you who like his works need no encouragement, and those who haven’t will likely not care enough to carry on reading.

I also recently acquired a big book on comic fantasy, and a few stories have pushed me to write something on here, even if it’s just to go “Look! It’s weird, and there’s stuff!”. “Press Ann” by Terry Bisson was one such story.

It’s small, simple, and exceptional. One of those stories that leaves you with the distinct impression that you’ve just witnessed something noteworthy (like your first Black Metal experience). You’re not sure what’s going on, but you know it’s definitely happening.

“Time Intervening” had a similar effect, but from a known source, like finding out that new band you love has six albums worth to get through. The story is quintessentially Bradburyesque: Personal, magical, and without warning or explanation.

I read the Martian Chronicles this time last year, and I instantly loved Ray, not only for his fantastical elements, or the bleeding heart that resonates throughout his work with a soft  thud, but his ability to blend it all together.

“One More For The Road” slips and slides from genre and style, but there’s a distinct note that seems present in all of them, like suddenly turning a camera on someones life, before popping it online without considering what any of it means.

It’s been an excellent start, finding new writers such as: Tom Holt, with Pizza To Go; Esther Friesner’s Death Swatch, and Avram Davidson’s confusing (but otherwise masterful) Peregrine:Alflandia.

Something special happens when you find a new way, all it takes is a little time, and a open mind.

 

2017

So 2017: I created a fantasy boardgame (Pictures soon to come). I finished a draft of my first novel, and then finished another. I wrote the first draft of a children’s novel involving masks and magic. I wrote 100k of short stories and have probably written the same again on various pads and scraps of paper.
I went to see Bat Out of Hell, which was good, except for the bad-touch-in-through-the-window scene. I saw Wednesday 13 unplugged, which was more akin to telling stories in drag, with a guitar to fill those little smiling moments in-between.
I did an editing job, which not only taught me the skills to develop my craft, but gave me lots of money to fill the house with books and comics, which helped me grow as a writer and a person in some unusual- but wonderful -ways.
I read a lot (And that’s saying something for me). I like to read three books at a time, usually one in bed before I get up, or if Holly’s not in bed before me, when I go to sleep. My lust for all manner of short stories is insatiable, but I still manage to find the time for the greats such as: Doyle, Orwell, Pratchett, Gaiman, R.R.Martin, a host of Victorian literature, King,-
I didn’t get to say goodbye to my oldest, fuzziest friend, but as a twenty year old cat who wasn’t in the habit of standing for that sort of thing, she buggered off anyway. I wrote a short story about her and a few other cats that i’ve seen scampering off after a little mouse or red dot-Whatever tricks Death employs to convince cats that they should come with him -and i’m pleased to say that i’ll soon be getting some art to go with it.
The year’s been strange, looming, and often inarticulate for the things i’ve found and forgotten, loved and lost. I’m proud to say that this year has been worthy of remembering. Serious and silly in equal, easy to swallow doses. I want to thank all you beautiful people for making it possible, for being strong enough to be weak once in a while.
Here’s to the next one.

The Din of a Million Little Voices

So i’ve been going over The Z-List my first attempt at writing a novel, and I think i’ve figured out how to write it in a way that sums up all of my feelings as an outsider living in a world full of outsiders. The answer is to not worry about the big questions and answers (because they don’t exist) and instead focus on the sound of a million little voices crying out all at once.

The novel follows the firing of Satan and the effects of the Prime Minister as she takes over as the ruler of Hell (The Devil). I’ve played around with lots of different directions and characters, and each time I felt that it wasn’t really working in the way that I wanted it to. Four months later, a written first draft of a second novel, and lots of editing of other stories has given me a new insight on what its been missing.

The novel follows a group of characters as they either react or attempt to ignore the effects of Hell on Earth, which is fun to write, but I always found myself more interested in the little characters that occupied the metaphorical quick glances of others actions. It sounds obvious now, but it recently made sense to have more stories providing the various opinions and lives the don’t represent the 1%, which is important as it’s the normal people that make up the 99% of the world acting as its Z-List.

I’ve started working on short stories to accompany the main artery of the novel, acting as little veins, each giving their own insight into the world of bullying and control. The great thing about writing short stories like this is that you get a very worldly view of the effects of there story, which I think is important as we’re all ultimately effected by the decisions of actions made in fear.

The story might sound political when considering the plot but in truth I can’t really say which political party is right, viewing more of a broken ride in need of some new safety regulations and modern insight to reduce the chance of people falling off it and hurting themselves.

The Z-List focuses more on the power of suggestion brought on by confident demagogues who seem to have all the answers to the worlds problems (Which they don’t), the dangers of shutting yourself off from those around you, and as seen with all the various demons and people the aged old message that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

The major push behind writing the novel was that I can’t ignore the hostility and fear going on around me, but i’m not exactly sure who to blame or what will work, instead I find myself paying attention to the energy and passion as people scream their opinion as loudly as possible.

I think we can all agree that the public have a lot more power than we think, and i’d like to think that with the rise of social media and wonderful sites to voice your opinions like this, that it’s only a matter of time before we stop viewing difference as a disease, people of different creeds and colours as insects or vermin, and take some comfort in the knowledge that nobody really knows what they’re doing.

Wednesday Worries

So today has been spent like a lot of says lately, worrying about pretty much everything from: politics, the environment, war, poverty, and anything in-between. I find myself in existential dread, wondering about the great madness of it all, and then I remember that i’m not the only one.

In the past I would look towards the big minds and social visionaries such as: Bill Hicks, Douglas Adams, George Carlin, and now I find myself surrounded by millions of minds thinking just as I do, wondering what the hell is going on. The beauty of the internet at times like these, surrounded by arguments supposedly defined by duality, is that there’s a lot of us who don’t see the world in black and white or even have a clue what colour it is at all (Mauve?).

Things are difficult across the world and there’s no ignoring that, but the hysteria that surrounds us on a daily basis seems about as helpful as someone trying to put out a fire by blowing petrol into your face. Things are difficult and this leads to us wanting to hide away and surround ourselves with something to take our minds off it.

Luckily we live in an age of television where we can surround ourselves with shows and films that we want to watch, unlike when I was a child where you had to take what you could from terrible films, effectively re-writing the entire story with your own misheard dialogue. Escapism is considered somewhat negative and childish, but for those of us who need to be somewhere else it provides something spectacular indeed.

The great thing about living in an age of such noisy information is that anything is possible with art, able to draw from inspiration across the world, and allowing you to connect to people in countries you had no idea existed. the amount of information can seem daunting, so you find yourself sending flags up all over the show, just so the world can hear that you’re hear and that you have something to say (hopefully it’s good).

It’s less worrying when you look around and see that everyone is going through their own little bit, and i’d like to think that it makes us a little nicer, or at least a little less eager to point the finger and throw a few rocks.

I love to create, especially when i’m stressed and don’t really know what’s going on, that’s the time the art comes out in all sorts of mad little ways. Whatever it is that you love to do, I hope you know that it’s not silly, and somewhere someone cares about it, even if in the short term it’s just you that knows it.

Keep creating. Keep going. Make a difference in the most positive way possible, by making shit up using the power of your mind.

Tuesday Tidbits

So i’ve just finishing editing a short story called Monday’s Menagerie which follows three people as they are guided around a kind of zoo for magical animals such as Chimera, giant bees, and Dragons. It sounds like a wonderful place but when you see that Monday uses the animals for his own gain such as fighting that it starts to raise questions on whether it’s better to subject animals to unnatural conditions or whether it’s better to risk them being subjected to human influences in the wild.

I wanted to have different characters that had their own view point on the subject as I wanted to play around with different attitudes, ultimately mocking all of the end all and be all attitudes found on all sides. The main character (M.C) plays role of someone in complete shock at the information that there are monsters in the world, but then finds it equally shocking when presented with such extreme opinions on how the animals should be treated.

The story started off with ideas about Victorian menageries which were often run by less than benevolent figures, people pitting lions against dogs, so the public could have some light entertainment while spending a sunny Sunday out with their family. I feel that the end paragraph is poignant with the M.C worried that they can’t find any monsters in the wild anymore, no matter how hard they look for them, hoping that their future isn’t in the hands of people like Monday.

It’s a big story of 6000 words (24 pages) and while it’s not quite finished it’s great to play around with a story that gets to mix all the things that I love together. I am looking forward to getting everything to work properly so I can share it with all you people with strange minds of your own. There’s stuff to make you think, but don’t worry it’s hidden behind humour and things that want to eat you.

In other news i’m around seventy pages through Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a story that i’ve avoid for many years because of the harsh review from my Dad. Being a pale Englishman i’ve read my fair share of Victorian literature, finding works such as Carmilla, Varney the Vampire, and Good Lady Ducayne to be wonderful works of literature, paving the way for vampiric lore. Dracula doesn’t strike me as the same sort of thing as what came before them.

The thing I like so much about Dracula is the style in which it’s written, a diary account of the oddities turned horrors as a stuck up Englishman finds himself unable to brush off the creeping dread around him. You find yourself furiously wishing that he’s just put aside his proper upbringing and just stand up for himself,  which seems to hinder Johnathan’s safety.

The novel came with some of Bram’s essays on Censorship which I find extremely interesting as in the same breath he implores the public to understand the significance of creative freedom, while condemning others from publishing literature which he deems as damaging to Christian morals.

The beautiful way in which Bram fights for fiction is inspiring for anyone dealing with their own inner or outer battle with life, something which escapist fiction is often regarded as damaging by groups throughout the ages. The fight for the repression of the inner evil and sin are where things getting murky and interesting as Bram move away from the public and focuses on his own issues on sexuality and society.

 

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