Tag Archives: Dystopia

The final Act, and the temptation to flee

Writing is like a salsa; for as many steps forward you make, there are as many back, but every once in a while you get to do a spin or a flourish, and those stay with you. They’re the good bits.So it is with me; I bear good news, with bad news, but my catalogue of narrative pirouettes thankfully continues to grow.

The good news? I’ve reached the final act of my novel, Citadel. It’s taken a long time to get to this point, a lot of forward motion, but with almost as much backtracking. Aside from a manuscript of around 105,000 words, I have documents of cut scenes and entire plot lines that amount to 80,000 words. That is a staggering amount of editing. And it sounds like a colossal waste of time, right? Still: FINAL ACT people. That is good news.

The bad news is I’m finding it difficult to wrap it up. I’ve escalated the peril to such a degree, all seems lost, as it should by the end of Act 4. But closing it out and reaching a neat conclusion is proving a challenge.

Continue reading The final Act, and the temptation to flee

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Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel – [Book Review]

I’m the first to admit, some of my book reviews can be somewhat scathing (my treatment of Rogue Forces by Dale Brown and The Hook by Donald E Westlake come to mind). I think that’s because it’s often more fun to find fault than it is to fathom finesse, if you’ll excuse the alliteration. It’s certainly easier to pick holes.

That’s why this review of Station Eleven by Canadian author Emily St John Mandel is so difficult. If there’s one word I can use to describe it, it’s “effortless”.

Effortless in the sense that I was never obstructed by some forced narrative technique, or distracted by a clumsy phrase or metaphor. I was taken by the hand around this fictional world, the events of interest pointed out but never laboured over, and never was my hand squeezed too tight or my head shoved to examine something uninteresting. It was effortless storytelling.

That makes it difficult to analyse. It kind of washed over me, leaving an evocation of regret in its wake – for that seems to me the central theme.

Continue reading Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel – [Book Review]

Wool – Hugh Howey – [Book Review]

If Plato was still around today, it’s likely he would have been a big fan of science fiction. After all, he used fantastical constructs to explore the human condition, pioneering a unique exploration of individuals’ perception. That’s pretty sci-fi.

Plato Cave
Plato’s Cave

We can assume, too, his favourite sub-genre would have been dystopian sci-fi, if his Allegory of the Cave is anything to go by. In it, he imagines the plight of chained captives, held in position underground, their reality controlled by restricting their vision to view nothing but shadow puppets cast upon a wall by the light of an unseen fire behind them.

With no frame of reference or experience of the outside world, the shadows on the wall would constitute reality for those hapless captives. The sounds of the captors’ footsteps and voices would reverberate in the cave, Plato thought, and thus the illusion would be formed that the sounds were made by those very shadows. This was Plato’s dystopian vision – a populace imprisoned and manipulated by their overlords to such a degree that they knew nothing of it.

It is perception and the revelation of truth that drives dystopian fiction. At its best, it represents a functional, albeit oppressed, society, unaware of the shackles that bind its citizens: take for instance the controlled happiness of Brave New World; the Papa John’s clones in Cloud Atlas; the history-incinerating regime of Fahrenheit 451. Drama is drawn from characters finally noticing their prison, and rebelling against it.

Continue reading Wool – Hugh Howey – [Book Review]

Third Life – Flash Fiction

Outside, thumping relentlessly on my windowpane, the ruptured Chiba sky pours its thick, sticky summer rain. I take a long drag on a knock-off Marlboro, synth-tobacco clinging to my throat with a taste like ozone.

The sky is a cold slab of television-grey, lit by the humming neon of the Shinjuku district as it slices through the smog from over a mile away. Sixty-five stories up and I can feel it – the Biz – far below on the streets, in the alleyways. The eternal hustle; a grey lawless economy, both sustained and frowned upon by the Zaibatsus who feed off its live-or-die vitality. In the bustle, amongst these thousands of hustlers, pimps, dealers, fixers, runners and marks, a hired door punk like me can feel God-damn alone. I need to get out, just for a few hours.

Continue reading Third Life – Flash Fiction

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley – [Book Review]

Authors! Remember all those writing tips you trawled through, hoping to find some secret formula to producing winning fiction? Remember all those RULES?

Rules like:

A killer first page – punch your reader square in the chops with an attention-grabbing, scene-setting, character-revealing, action masterpiece that straps their eyes open like a Clockwork Orange civilising machine.

The hero’s journey – have your protagonist endure a change, struggle against adversity, suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and at the last, prevail!

Deep POV – write from inside the character’s head, so the reader feels what the character feels; but don’t jump around from mind to mind or you’ll confuse your audience – whose thoughts are these?!

Dialogue tags?! Kindly remove all your naïve instances of “bemoaned” or “murmured” or “whispered” or “specified” or “enquired” or whatever other word you found in the Thesaurus under “said”. Dear oh dear…

AND WHILE YOU’RE AT IT

Drag your adverbs from your writing and burn them in the street, thank you very much; and apologise to the Gods for your sacrilegious blasphemy. You may find it polite to flog your back with barb wire in penance, you fucking heathen.

Apologies. You read a lot of writing tips when you can’t bring yourself to actually write anything, because it makes you feel better. It almost feels like working – like you’re building up your power bar before re-entering the fray.

Continue reading Brave New World – Aldous Huxley – [Book Review]

Don’t waste your Tim

Long tail boat
A boat moored by the beach at Cabana Phangan Resort

We spent another few days on Kho Phangan after new year’s, hiring mopeds to seek secluded beach coves and jungle-covered waterfalls, and eating at a tremendous restaurant a short walk down the road from Phangan Cabana Resort (about which Carmella, in her inimitable manner, declared she would “Trip Advise the fuck out of this place”).

I’d heard cautionary tales of Koh Phangan, of raucous parties and corrupt police, overpopulated beaches and drunks at every turn, but I had enjoyed the place immensely, so it was with optimism and excitement that we packed and left for our next destination – the neighbouring island of Koh Samui.

We had done pitifully little research before we embarked just after Christmas, so were blissfully unaware of the unthinkable horrors that this island held in store for us. Continue reading Don’t waste your Tim

Fallen idol

My exposé of the most insidious
deception in human history

By Thomas Harrison, reporter, Channel 4 News
Thomas Harrison, reporter, Channel 4 News
Thomas Harrison, reporter, Channel 4 News

It is with a clear conscience that I endure the world’s venomous loathing. My actions, heinous to so many of you, were made in good faith, and with pure intentions. I offer no apology for the havoc I have supposedly reaped upon our planet.

We were duped – all of us. Continue reading Fallen idol