Slouchers (part one of Market Forces)
This is worrying. First, it is the first large scale work I ever completed, about five years ago – though completely rewritten and only the first part published here (it’s coming out in instalments). Second and more seriously, it could be described as science fiction, the publication of which could make certain people I know reluctant to take seriously anything I publish ever again. Well that’s a choice. In fact, I’d regard this work as speculative fiction, rather than SF. There are some great works of Science Fiction that I really admire (including several only published on Smashwords that deserve a wider audience) and it’s a long time since you needed to overlook writing styles to discover interesting ideas. However, as you’ll appreciate from this extract, I’m more concerned here with the social applications of technologies we already have. In a loose sort of way, Market Forces was conceived as one part of a tryptych (not trilogy as there’s no sequence) together with Sing Like You Know the Words and another book that so far I have only written sketches for, though I’ve persuaded myself it is fully formed in my head. I suppose from a writer’s perspective, the good thing about a serial is that if it does happen that no-one reads the first part, you can probably conclude that it would be a waste of effort to continue. Which reminds me; thanks to those kind people who have taken the time to say they have appreciated the writing so far: that is really encouraging. And I’m sorry there has been such a long time without new postings on the site due to circumstances beyond my control (no, I’ve not been in jail).
read Slouchers (part 1 of Market Forces)
Will it Snow in England?
Another children’s story, since Morton the Unfriendly Dolphin (posted on this site some time ago and a one that i really like – see below) is finally getting readers. This one is new and not in the current version of Sandgate Tales. A friend whose opinion I trust has recommended some changes but nice to hear what other people might think.
A play in three acts – life in a Spanish village (image BBC)
To Herr Marx on his birthday (5 May 1818)
Dear Karl Marx, dead these long years,
Feared for so long, now a kind of joke
Your dialectic vanished in the smoke
Of history, which we are told is ended:
A chain that broke and never can be mended
Or so it seems at least: your vanished proletariat
Which dreams, conspicuously consuming life with ease
No more aware of time than these
Ephemeral delights that tickle the unconscious collective
And please the eye but leave the mind neglected.
The chain of events may snap, but not
The chains of office, or of command.
Prerogatives of privilege and the ever more hidden ruling hand.
Your sermon failed, and yet you always claimed
Logic and science, not faith or hope
The means of production of a most secular pope.
You preached to factory workers, but poor farmers heard
And humans lost humanity, drunk on pseudo scientific words.
Like all the great religions in their season
Reason starts, but stutters; the realities of power
Grow monsters. In a flash the hour
Of idealists has passed and in its place
The dangerous years of the bureaucrat with his stony smirking face.
Gazing down from Highgate, your consolation is this,
The synthesis of cause and effect that we have so outgrown
Advances to the west to take its own
Short time upon the historic stage
Driven by unreason and unreason’s glowering rage.
The forces that hunger hides you did not see
Psychology, and imperatives of natural selection.
Economic determinism confounded by perceptions
Of your cousins in Vienna and the Galapagos
Altruism and desperation die together and the loss
Of purpose hurts you most, I think; unless you find
The festering times a call to academic action,
A seven volume treatise on the politics of dissatisfaction.
But you were never so detached (although you were not brave)
As our political scientists, who only spin and cannot save
The sacred texts come down to this
In words of each denomination
Do to others what they should do to you,
And all the rest is conversation.
who’s the other guy?
A Rash Inclusion
No doubt I’ll regret this – a work in progress that I’m not sure deserves to be finished unless maybe it is already. Worse still it’s a poem
Scraps of parchment in a digital storm
Snowblind; bungling, fumbling; can’t hold the pen
No way to get these mittens off now and then
Inkblots spread across the spotted paper.
Shape unfolds and Rorschach knew
The forms were never random, nothing left
To chance: was making art by process of selection
As nature does.
Sharp eyed I’m not so much
These days, ideas more disconnected
Impressions spread like lily patches
Across a cloudy pond where insects buzz.
And nowadays it’s hard to sell
Glimpsed at the edge of vision
Half seen through half closed eyes.
The times are high-def, high-res, high-five
Lo-fi, strangely. So much old
Computers old, the very word I read
Just now and thought, how quaint
An image of a solitary disconnected box
Intelligent perhaps but isolated
Cut off without a network and
Still buzzing but can never find the hive.
Mr Ayckbourn and I
Something a little different. This is a drama that written for the stage or radio or just to be read. A famous French philosopher meets an eminent comic
dramatist in a northern English town: or maybe he doesn’t. Existentialism the way it should be – with jokes. This was originally titled Sartre by the
Seaside. Feel free to read or download but please let me know if you’re intending to produce this work in any medium, since as with all content here,
copyright is reserved.
I’d love to hear comments about this.
This story is an extract from my book of children’s stories, Sandgate Tales. My son Tom Softley is the illustrator, but we only included a few pictures in the current version because of the cost and as we were feeling our way with the self publish formats at that stage. Hoping to put out another version soon with full illustrations in response to feedback from young readers, one of whom was kind enough to give me a picture for the story attached to this link.
In a way this is a true story because the dolphins of Moreton Bay were so fortunate as to be left alone by humans who had wrecked their food chain but also provided them with fast food from thrown back catches. The bay dolphins had forgotten how to fish for themselves until pods from outside came to their rescue.
The Piano Player
Another Madrid story. Click here to read El Pianista (complete in English)
Poetry Alert: extract below. Click on link for full poem.
i. The Prologue
When that April with its sweet showers
Has filled the planting tubs with yellow flowers
Then people start a pilgrimage of sorts
To far off places served by local airports.
Carlos Molina enjoyed taking a coffee each afternoon in the Bar Leon. He considered it a part of his business to see and be seen there; and Carlos had many business interests to occupy his time. In fact, to someone from outside the barrio, it might seem strange that a big shot like Carlos, who was doing so well that everyone could see it, would waste his time showing up every day at a place like the Bar Leon.
In spite of the grand name, the place was a dive, but in spite or because of this, it was where the people of the neighbourhood of a certain type came together. And if the Bar Leon was a small and murky pond, everyone knew that Carlos was the biggest fish who swam in it.
New Story added (complete). Click below to see:
Of the fact that Enrique Fernandez, missing for six weeks now, was dead, there was little doubt. The police were also reasonably comfortable with the assumption that he had been the victim of violent crime, since suicides and accident victims tended not to distribute their assorted body parts across sundry locations in the city. Bits of Enrique Fernandez had been turning up all over, since shortly after the first severed limbs were discovered at a city refuse dump and quickly identified as those previously attaching to the missing property magnate; but they still hadn’t recovered enough of Enrique to fill even a small sized coffin.
new story added (complete) click below to see
A black cat jumped up onto the sill of the half open window and down into the room. The effect was startling, but the creature looked like an ordinary street cat; thin and slightly battered. It ignored them completely and stalked to a corner of the room where a saucer and bowl were set out on the floor. Oscar could see that what remained of the contents of these had been there so long that it was fused with the plate. The cat inspected the situation then padded away in disgust: it remained, watching them from a safe distance.
new story added
Look away now, or click to see
As usual, José drove faster than was necessary. Oscar wasn´t prepared to talk about it anymore, but there was a note of exasperation in his voice as he told José to park at the foot of the small hill that led up to the house. He wanted time to get the feel of the place before they went in.
By the time they had walked up the steep road as far as the iron gates, the big man was wheezing heavily. He was strong, but he needed to lose some weight: Oscar had told him often enough.
New Story Added. Click to see.
Some random things I’ve learned about writing:
- It takes a lot of effort to be simple
- No one has to read the next page just because I think I may have something important to say
- There are people who write well and people who have something worth writing about, but they aren’t necessarily the same people
- Most authors get lazier as they get more successful
- It’s not that I’m arrogant: I doubt every word I’ve written until I look at what some others have published.
- The characters drive the plot, but you don’t understand who they are till you know what happens to them.
My friend claims that poetry is a dead sport and that I shouldn’t think of including anything under that name here. It might drive readers away, he said. I think it’s more that everyone should write verse and maybe they do, but next to no-one should publish it. Only one way to prove that, so here is a snippet below.
Don’t Buy Fish
Don’t buy fish from the market on Mondays.
It’s been in the freezer all weekend and then
They defrost it so quickly.
There’s always a queue at the vegetable stall, but the old lady
Can never wait. She forces her way to the front; menacingly waves
A lettuce in front of the store girl’s face.
And my friend grins and says, se cuela.
There’s a word for it because
None of the old ladies here can wait. They have
Places to be. Don’t ask me,
But it’s true.
There’s a cheese counter with a boy and his father.
The boy should learn, but the father doesn’t trust him
With the knife, and he wraps the cheese too slow.
The boy accepts a payment, but the old man
Already knows the change and hands it back
While Nacho still is counting with his fingers.
The son’s not learning much, but then
At least he has a job.
In the daytime, there’s always this one guy who
Everybody knows and no one’s seen him buy a drink
Since two thousand seven.
Stand him a beer, he’ll nod
And leave you alone
For an hour, smoking
Hand-rolled cigarettes and
Staring at the window.
Smoking’s not allowed in here.
My friend is from New York, can you believe?
He likes to drink martini vodka but
It has to be just right, so in this bar
He makes do with beer. Arrived here
Twenty years ago, so see what it was like
And one day he’s going back
He tells me about Paco, the young kid who was in here
Last week, talking big. If the poor don’t have bread,
He said, the rich shall not have peace. Paco stole
His boss’s BMW and crashed it
Into the kiosk where the lady sells lottery tickets in the afternoons.
Now he’s got a broken nose
And doesn’t dare to see the doctor
For the blood he left on the dash.
I like this bar: it’s never clean, but
I don’t mind the market smells
And it’s cool inside when the day is hot.