All this happened so it must be true

Mostly stories, plus other odds and ends

Category: Uncategorized

The War

We interviewed the war. The war was depressed, smoking too much. And we were paying for the drinks. The war polished off three bottles of good red.

We were thinking “by the third bottle how can you even tell the difference?”

The war could tell the difference. The war had been doing this for years. And what did we know about anything anyway? We who weren’t the war. We who would never be the war.

The war was a mean drunk. The war said things about us that would have been better left unsaid. But wars, we discovered, do not apologise. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m thinking of you again tonight Vin Diesel

I’m thinking of you again tonight Vin Diesel, as I consider my dwindling options in a French seaside town, and the seagulls won’t let me sleep. The seagulls and everything else.

Vin, the Fast and Furious franchise has made you rich, with the eight films in the series having earned a combined worldwide gross of over $5 billion, but you didn’t appear in this summer’s spin-off Hobbs and Shaw, which was headlined by your F&F co-stars Jason Statham and Dwayne The Rock Johnson.

Vin is true about the feud between you and The Rock? Did you really refuse to play any scenes together during the filming of Fast and Furious 8: The Fate of the Furious?

Vin are you happy? Read the rest of this entry »

What We’re Teaching Our Sons #362: Martians

[Re-published in honour of Mars Rover Opportunity – rest in peace little friend!]

We’re teaching our sons about Martians.

For the last few weeks a group of lonely billionaires have been all over the news talking about their plans to populate the Red Planet. They’re auditioning for brave and clever and able-bodied young men and women to help them build dynamic new low-tax civilisations on Mars and across the asteroid belt.

In return they’re promising adventure and excitement and the potential for heroic deaths.

Naturally, our sons are intrigued. For as long as they can remember they’ve been following the adventures of the unmanned Curiosity and Opportunity rovers as they roam the planet’s dusty surface. Those brave robots seem almost like family members.

“Can we go to Mars?” our sons ask us. Read the rest of this entry »

The Bodies

The bodies filled the streets, and people stopped and stared. There were bodies everywhere. They were all going about their business, just like that.

You were there somewhere, walking around.

Some of the bodies were considered remarkable. Some of the bodies were considered obscene. Some of the bodies were considered too big, or too small, or too old.

Some of the bodies were not considered at all. Read the rest of this entry »

The Top Ten Books I Should Have Written in 2018

Some I nearly finished writing, some I abandoned before I’d even started work, all would have probably been terrible, but these are The Top Ten Books I Should Have Written in 2018…

1. The Terrifying Horse

A dark, neo-gothic horror/romance set in a haunted North Yorkshire Moors village at the turn of the century. And there’s a ghostly horse, or similar.

2. Something Something Landscape Algorithm

Accidentally William Gibson-esq/Thomas Pynchon-ish waste of my and everyone else’s time.

3.Tiny Dioramas

A psychogeographical survey/walkthrough of classic model railway layouts (I still think this could work). Read the rest of this entry »

And You Will Stand on Windswept Beaches

And you will be a warning to others. And you will be a cautionary tale. And you will be the before in the before and after pictures. And you will be terrified, most of the time, and like an idiot you will visit your fear and pain on everyone around you. And one day everything will finally fall apart in front of you and you won’t even realise that this is the best thing that could possible have happened. And you will trudge across snowy fields keeping your eyes out for rogue polar bears because you never know. Read the rest of this entry »

What We’re Teaching Our Sons – Out Now!

WHAT2

 

The Giantess, Bathsheba

In the spring the marsh cattle return to the drained fields. Repairs are carried out on dikes and broken sluice gates. Huge flocks of migrant birds come back from their wintering grounds, argue over territory and resources for days.

In the covered wagon the man and the girl and the giant woman follow their noses east. On the raised roads running parallel to the ditches and canals that quarter the country, everyone is on the move. Medicine sellers, itinerant labourers, repairmen, field workers, travelling storytellers. Glasswort and cord grass and reeds grow along the creeks and inlets, on unreliable islands that have yet to be reclaimed from the water. Under the monstrous sky the world is flat as the sea. The man imagines the wagon is a ship and he is its captain. He believes that everyone has their place on earth and this is his.

Everywhere they stop they put on demonstrations and the giant woman performs feats of strength. She lifts saddleback sows over her head and drags boats ashore from the mud. She holds back waterwheels and the vanes of windmills. Children swing from her arms in threes and fours. And then she fights anyone who can afford the price of entry (“Step right up, lads, three-penny a go and treble your stake if you can put her down!”). Read the rest of this entry »

24 Rules for Writing Short Stories

Based on my years of experience in the writing game, I’ve come up with a list of 24 essential rules for creating short stories that will engage, entertain and enthral. Feel free to use them when inventing your own stories!

1. A good short story should not contain a single wasted word. The reader should feel confident that the writer is in complete control of the story at all times. There should be no mystery, no element of chance in the writing of a short story. A short story is not a journey of discovery.

2. In the short story, setting is everything. Appropriate settings for short stories include mountain tops, haunted council estates, low Earth orbit, enchanted forests, 1980s job centres, France, protest marches, swingers’ parties, alternate dimensions, a summer evening in the writer’s youth, The American West, radio newsrooms, and World War 2.

3. Avoid boring your reader. Consider breaking up long paragraphs with dialogue, or descriptions of the weather. If the scene you are writing doesn’t contain dialogue or weather, think about changing the location and adding extra characters. Or have someone go outside and start talking to themselves.

4. Always start a scene in the middle of the action. Or better yet, after the action has already finished.

5. Dogs and birds are not good subjects for short stories. If you are determined to write about dogs or birds, consider poetry or the novella format. Horses, on the other hand, almost always improve a short story. Read the rest of this entry »

The New Geography

When Taylor wakes up they’re in afternoon traffic on a ring road somewhere, driving into a late September sun. Taylor is relieved to find he’s in the passenger seat this time. He’s not sure he knows what day it is. They’ve been criss-crossing the continent for weeks now.

“Where are we?” he says.

“Belgium,” says Baumann, at the wheel, hunched over in that big down jacket. He looks like a bear. A bear that hasn’t slept for three days and is on a lot of recreational drugs. “Or possibly Germany. Or the Netherlands. Almost definitely not France.”

He squints into the distance.

“Somewhere in the Low Countries anyway.”

“I thought the Netherlands was the Low Countries?” Taylor says.

“Well, technically,” says Baumann, ‘Nederland’ is the low country. That’s what the Dutch call it. ‘The Low Countries’ is more of a general term for this whole…” he waves his hand toward the window.

Taylor looks out of the window. The same giant supermarkets, car showrooms and retail outlets they’ve been seeing for the last ten thousand miles. They could be anywhere in Northern Europe. On the outer edge of any medium sized town.

“It’s complicated,” says Taylor.

“It’s a fucking mess. Have you got any cigarettes?” Read the rest of this entry »