Writing course- piece for review: The Other.

Taylor was seven and three-quarters years old. And he had found another universe.

The problem was that his mum and dad couldn’t see it. Nor could his best friend Ben, nor Ben’s elder brother Nathan. And it was of absolutely no surprise whatsoever that his younger sister Sophie couldn’t see it. She was only four. And a girl.

Taylor presumed it was a universe. His only experience of these types of phenomena was through catching the odd ten minutes of Star Trek:The Next Generation when his mum was watching. He preferred Star Wars. And Star Wars only had a Galaxy. But he was sure his universe was a universe, a universe through a hole.

He first saw it two weeks ago. Meant to be trying to sleep (although how his mum and dad thought he could when it was so early and it was still light outside he’d never know) but instead he was racing his Ford Mustang and his Lamborghini Countach up and down his duvet. The Lamborghini was winning as he’d neared the bottom of his bed and his eyes had caught a sharp ray of light streaming across his dark green carpeted floor. Flopping down on his bed he’d examined this bright light. Bright, even in the golden mid-summer evening hue that flooded his bedroom.

He couldn’t see where it was coming from. Not from behind the football curtain. Not from the gap in the door that his mum left open.

He had followed the light then on the floor with the winner, crawling under his desk until it hit the wall. And hovering there above the skirting board was a perfect circle of yellow. As yellow as the sun on a clear hot July day. And it looked like it bubbled. Like the bubbles in a glass of coke newly poured.

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Writing Exercise for course-opening of a story: Screaming Streaming

The fire that the six of them had lit was more smoke than flames and it turned the clearing in Bromley woods in to some kind of ancient tribal haunt. That’s how they liked it, of course. They’d had one large bottle of Smirnoff, and various cocktail shots between the lot of them and Maddy was definitely feeling the drunk side of tipsy. She glanced, giggling, at Josh who she fancied ‘truly madly deeply’, as he sat the other side of the fire and who was engrossed in rolling a particularly large joint. She thought he looked like a meditating guru, his look of otherworldliness being so intense. This thought, for some reason known only to herself, made Maddy snort with laughter. Nat poked her in the ribs and Maddy’s exaggerated cry of pain brought Josh out if his reverie. He looked up and, sensing an opening, Maddy flicked her long, blonde, but by now, knotted hair over one shoulder and gave him the best pout she could muster in her somewhat incapacitated state.

The pout must have missed its mark for Josh, ignoring Maddy, turned his dark, curly-haired head and shouted in the deep voice that Maddy ‘could just die for’,

“Hey Steve, you want some of this or not?”

“Alright, alright mate”, returned a crispy voice from beyond the circle of smoke in the best Mockney you could ever hope to hear, “on my way, start without me Josh boy.”

As Josh leaned forward towards the glowing embers to light the joint, Steve emerged through the heavy smoke, coughing and doing up his flies to the disgust of Maddy and Nat.

“Ew Steve, do you mind?” said Nat in her heavy Polish accent. “Not at all love” came Steve’s reply as he sat next to Josh, “be nice to me else you don’t get.” Steve was Josh’s supplier and older than them all by about ten years. Like Nat, Maddy didn’t much like him. But he did get good stuff.

“What about Ben and whats-her-name? Shall I get ‘em Josh?” Maddy slurred in his direction, trying out her sexiest smile.

“Nah, leave ‘em,” answered Steve in his stead, “they’re busy”. And he gave Nat a wink to which she screwed up her nose, gave him the finger, then held out her hand for the joint.

Maddy loved Nat. This beautiful and sophisticated nineteen year old Pole had entered her life six months ago and the two of them had been inseparable since. Maddy’s mum called Nat a ‘bad influence’, but what did she know. Maddy had never felt more confident. She had swapped Health and Social Care for Beauty Therapy on Nat’s advice and loved it, and with Nat next to her she felt, well, safe. Even Ben, her twin, approved and that was saying something.

Now Nat was passing her the joint, which Maddy accepted, leaning her heavy head on Nat’s shoulder as she took a deep drag. She closed her eyes, allowing the drug to do it’s work while she listened to Nat giving Steve ‘what for’ about something or other and Josh strumming on the guitar that he always carried with him everywhere.

She was on her third drag when there came a shrill scream from the woods behind her.

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Back again after a break!

This is a character sketch that I have written for a short online writing course that I am participating in at the moment. Hope it intrigues!- Mrs Beeton:

I watch my landlady, Mrs Beeton (no relation), cross the empty road that runs through our seaside village. Using a walking frame, with her sturdy, mud brown ankle boots, she walks with a slow but steady pace. Not yet frail, simply careful and determined. She holds herself in a contained manner appearing unaccustomed to sudden, unplanned movement and her face has a concentrated look, self-aware rather than self-conscious. Not a face of spontaneous expression, and yet when she sees me standing in the corner of the bus shelter, her thin pink lips slip into a warm smile.

She is a small, hunched shouldered elderly lady in a pale blue polyester type overcoat; her face as narrow as the rest of her; her eyes watery and the colour a faded, tired version of her coat, like the hue of the misty sea in the harbour. As she nears I think that she looks tired today, her step up on to the pavement seems laboured and there are faint lilac shadows beneath those intelligent eyes. My landlady is an ex-spy. I know, because she told me. And as she passes me on her way to the shop, calling in her strident and forceful voice that she’s off to buy milk but will forgo the Haribo’s today, I see that the Marie Curie daffodil on her coat has been crushed.

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ODD

I am an odd fellow,

You may not think it

For I hide it well.

I’m an expert in camouflage,

Blending in with you,

And you,

And you too.

Yet I have a lower view,

I see beneath the hedges,

Through the grass,

The world upside down.

Try as you might,

You will never see my world

For it is as inaccessible to you

As yours truly is to me.

Yet I try to fit,

And make do

With you.

One day I shall strip

And astound you all,

And you,

And you too,

For the subterfuge is tiring

(My effort is degrading)

And you will see me

Standing with no shame

Shining in my oddness

Glorying in my imperfection.

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Woman

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Blood red bond

sister to sister

across the void

digging down

into solid dirt

tangled

in the roots

across the ages

through the stars

 

stare with me

across the void

find the answers

cut the branches

rip apart

pain and tears

bare soul

staining

 

sister to sister

shouting

through the mist

and thesterness

blood soaked

hands held

praying chanting

peace

 

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Freedom?

That’s the beauty of life isn’t it? You write a post about robots, then you end up watching a film that very same night which is full of them. It was ‘The World’s End’ written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, the third and perhaps last in the series of the so-called ‘Cornetto films’. It was a good film and I enjoyed watching it, however I am not about to write a review you will be glad to know, it was simply the fact that Science Fiction had yet again prompted a response, a thought, an opinion. And that is one of the best things about Science Fiction, don’t you agree?

 

The scene that prompted this post was near the end, the denouement, if you will.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-I4OTV5cIQg

 

By the way, look familiar?

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bf4YINfjQaQ&index=8&list=PLAb-P6yFAcdmnEp8ysn9jZqTgB86R6sno

 

(Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

 

It prompted me to consider just what we may consider freedom to be. The main character, Gary King, played by Pegg, shouts, “We are the human race and we don’t like being told what to do”. So is that the limit of our definition and ambition of being free? Simply to not be told what to do? And in that kind of freedom is the human race so noble and so wise that we have lifted ourselves from the barbarism of mere animals? It seems to me, from the film’s point of view, that that is not what we should wish for through our ‘freedom’ but that it is simply the freedom to be selfish.

 

It also made me wonder if this is also how many people wrongly see God. As some sort of over-bearing alien who wants to ‘control’ humanity, make us all into clones, in his image, yes, but a bland sheep like image that has no mind, no uniqueness, no identity. And to be honest, most churches I have come across do indeed perpetuate, no matter how much they may speak about God loving our uniqueness, this need to put people in little christian boxes. Which is why I do not attend a church any longer. For most churches do not seem to really be able to embrace true individuality.

 

And you know, really Pegg has it right, God allows us to fail, to be fuck-ups. He loves us just as much whether we seem ‘perfect’ or not. And he really does give us the true freedom to be ourselves. For most see freedom as the freedom to be able to ‘do things’ rather than to ‘be’. God gives us the freedom to ‘be’. In wholeness, without guilt at our failings, fractured into the images that society would have us believe is the way to freedom, the striving, the getting, the having, the me me me. God’s freedom frees us to be love.

 

But it still does seem that the world and humanity in general finds freedom in violence. That Christ’s sacrifice was in vain, his message misunderstood, that we still see a God of violence. We see him in our own image and not the other way round. We view him with our limited capacity to truly see the revolutionary nature of Christ. The world is hurting so very badly, bleeding from it’s very soul, tortured and twisted. This is what ‘our’ freedom does. Violence has become our God. Doesn’t it make you weep?

 

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More Than the Sum of its Parts

 Another theme found recurring in Science Fiction, is the artificial. The synthetic, the replicant of ‘Blade Runner’ or ‘Screamers’ (both of course from stories by Philip K Dick), the androids of the Alien series, the Asimov robots and their three laws, Data from Star Trek Next Generation and so on.

 I was reminded of this last night while watching the pilot of the series ‘Almost Human’ (Executive producer- J J Abrams). Borrowing heavily, in my opinion from both Blade Runner and I. Robot the series has as its main character detectives a ‘synthetic’ and a human, who however, through injury now has synthetic parts (a leg I believe). How we write about these things and how we respond to them tells us much about not only how we view what it is to ‘be human’, but how we view disability, and our spirituality.

 The synthetic, Dorian, has been programmed to have emotions (like Data when he has his emotion chip in!), so he then becomes a kind of superhuman in our eyes. Easily recognisable as human and yet, with the added bonus of the kind of things that computers can do. The best of both worlds? Of course the title ‘Almost Human’ really refers to the human, Detective John Kennex, traumatised by his injury and the loss of his ‘team’ and coming to terms with no longer being fully human. Coming to terms with being less than human?

 So being different, either as Dorian, or as Kennex, is not on. There is a desire to ‘be human’. To fit, belong, be the same as. It is seen in many films and books through the desire of the synthetic to become more human or to despise what they are, to find themselves disgusting, to want to improve, to prove they have a soul. Just as people with a disability have to prove they are more than they appear to be, striving for some sort of equality that is always slightly out of reach. Why? Because we are less than human and we must either fit, or try to fit. Not be ourselves, not just be. The sum of all our parts. No, that is not enough. We must either be superhuman (Dorian) or we must ‘come to terms’ with our ‘limitations’ and try and be as human as possible, like everyone else (Kennex).

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So, a soul? To be more than the sum of its parts? I will admit, this often confuses me. For in most Science Fiction to question the ‘meaning of life’ through synthetics is the quest for the soul, for finding the soul is the ‘proof’ of humanity. With Philip. K. Dick, he looks at this through memory, with others it is the capacity for emotions, compassion uppermost.

 But this is what puzzles me. For in the main, Science Fiction does not deal with spirituality, does not search for God, not without pulling it down, refuting, mocking, seeing it as pagan, proof of a lower intelligence, a lower evolved species. And yet, by default, most Science Fiction, especially through the use of synthetics, actually does the opposite, actually says, we are more than the sum of our parts, there is something apart from physiology, biology that makes us human. There is a soul and there is spirit. But that is as far as it goes.

 For me, it was easy. As a disabled child, in a body that was different from all my peers, that couldn’t quite do physical things as well as they, I knew I was more than the sum of all my parts. I knew that there was a part, separate, but a part that also connected to the world in a way not everyone could see. A part connected to the divine.

 All of these thoughts can of course be explored in much more depth. But it’s just a taster. How much there is around us that can be viewed from a different perspective. Maybe this view you have seen yourself before, maybe not. It is simple, but it is mine.

 

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