I’ve just released on AMAZON a previously published now updated old YA novella of mine combined with 10 short stories – 8 of which have been previously published in books now out of print.
I’ve just released on AMAZON a previously published now updated old YA novella of mine combined with 10 short stories – 8 of which have been previously published in books now out of print.
Interesting take on the artistic process by Maurice Sendak, the author/illustrator of Where the wild things are, among other texts:
“This dual apperception [of self as adult and child] does break down occasionally. That usually happens when my work is going badly. I get a sour feeling about books in general and my own in particular. The next stage is annoyance at my dependence on this dual apperception, and I reject it. Then I become depressed. When excitement about what I’m working on returns, so does the child. We’re on happy terms again…”
An excerpt from the novel called Kidnapping Douglas Adams – a kind of homage:
Tralfamadore is not so much planet as spectacle. Its whole landscape has become, indeed, the universe’s zoo; where planet begins and zoo entertainment ends cannot be unravelled. The place where Felix had put them down (un-intercepted, much to Douglas’s surprise) was in one part of the planet’s leading metropolis (itself part of the zoo, for Tralfamadorians had become exhibits in their own show); they were on a slight rise. As if in some grave fantasy (the ship being a jokester it would seem) they were nestled on the other side of said rise near some quaint English village of the 1920s, with signs in myriad languages proclaiming that this was indeed England and the village of Badshot Mills, county Sussex, complete with manor house, manor occupants, shops and disgruntled neighbours, some of them mere tenants.
Douglas determined that they hadn’t got it quite right but its verisimilitude was nonetheless remarkable, if not a little stereotyped. One could watch the squire and his wife squabble over kippers and the Sunday Times, see kitchen maids slyly sneak a durry, a young gardener filch a herring and lasciviously drop it into his mouth while smirking at a pretty young kitchen maid, a rather luscious young specimen, so Hendryck announced. The young gardener was indeed one Reggie Parkes, a hologramatic message announced when it noted Adams’s stopping to watch, and then the hologram added, as if it wanted to replicate the early 20th century’s disregard for the female, that the girl was one Eunice Dodt.
Being 16 and 15, once immediate danger had not appeared, both Hendryck and Douglas had come into this part of the zoo. Douglas was lured by its familiarity; Hendryck appeared to merely follow him. Anyone carefully studying his insouciance, however, would have detected ulterior motive – more on this later. Both stopped near a window in a rose garden. And looked into a kitchen. Thence to see most of the activities outlined in the preceding paragraph (they’d already observed the squire and his wife, but had stopped not very long, and with a yawn in Douglas’s case) . After a while Adams looked elsewhere (Foule was still staring at Eunice, who was – having slapped young Reggie’s hand away – now buttering toast). Adams was amazed to see that what appeared to be farmland; a lovely spread of agrarian activity but more in keeping with the west counties than Sussex, so Douglas told Hendryck. ‘Very real, nevertheless.’
‘I told you,’ said Foule. ‘It’s the universe’s most remarkable zoo. Everyone agrees on that.’
‘Just who is everyone, I’ve often wondered,’ Douglas said.
‘Me too. I’m just giving you what they call the Cook’s tour.’
‘Ah ha,’ said Douglas. ‘We haven’t come this way by accident, have we, despite your Shrewingers drive propensity for crazy destinations.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You wanted us to come this way, that’s why the ship brought us here.’
‘Well yes, since you put it that way. But wouldn’t you have missed this lovely recollection of home, if I hadn’t wanted Felix to deposit us here.’
‘I suppose so,’ Douglas conceded. After all, what did he care what Foule was up to. It was supposed to be an adventure. ‘So why did we come this way.’
Hendryck took a hold of Douglas’s shoulder (vertically inclined, given that Adams was nearly a foot taller than him) and stared him full, if angularly, in the face. He said nothing. The moment was marked, so his face was announcing, with great import.
‘What do you know of fornication?’ he asked.
‘You know. Making the beast with two backs. Doing it, rooting, humpty do…’
‘I know what fornication means. What I mean is… What! You’ve brought us here so you can do that.’
‘Yes. And I thought you might join me.’ (He recorded Douglas’s look of disdain, and thought, I’ll change your mind, or hormones will, and ploughed on.) ‘My records tell me that this Badshot Mills is indeed an exact replica of your England Badshot Mills, down to the somewhat larger house at one end of the village. Said house is a tavern and place of gambling (something else I’d like to try,’ Hendryck said with a grin, ‘but it’s most definitely number two on my list’) and also a bordello.’ Foule said the last word with such relish that Adams couldn’t help but grin. ‘There, with just the right password – and a source other than official records reveals what that password is – one can pass through the tavern and gaming room into a quiet little den; just three girls work this, all of them human, even here on Tralfamadore, and I mean with this’ (he dug in his pocket and revealed a gold credit card, which was perhaps the most amazing thing Douglas had seen so far) ‘to dally there and discover the delights of said fornication. Care to join me,’ he asked as they came to a house at the end of the village.
The house at the end of the village was in fact considerably larger than most in the village, almost as large as the manor house (shows you how much profit there is in sin, Douglas thought). It had a sign which read (only in English, this one; nice authentic touch, Adams thought) Nightshade House.
‘If they were going to get me,’ Hendryck said with real drama,’this would be the saddest place for them to do it.’
I’m reading Peter Carey’s His illegal self; the back cover blurb put me in mind of Bliss, my favourite of his novels. I have been mightily impressed (again) with his transitions: slick, poetic, expedient. Look at this one, paragraph 3 of chapter one, it follows 2 paragraphs of context and background on the boy (who is one of the novel’s key focalisers): ‘Then, when the boy was almost eight, a woman stepped out of the elevator into the apartment on East Sixty-second Street and he recognized her straightaway…’ The woman is his mother, the boy is Che (named, we know, for the revolutionary and icon of 60s protest) and the apartment into which this woman steps is Che’s grandmother’s; the woman who has kept him all these years.
We know, without being told, that this is Che’s mother. In a sentence or two we have a clever juxtaposition of context/background with a child’s here and now. With rescue.
And look at how Carey engineers the ruunign away of mother and son from the grandmother. ‘…out on Lexington Avenue and his grandma was looking for a taxi. The first cab would be theirs, always was [notice how those two final words characterise the grandmother: empowered, privileged; don’t we all want to run away]. Except that now his hand was inside his true mother’s hand and they were marsupials running down into the subway, laughing.’ No accidental diction here; look at true and marvel at its implications re Che’s perspectives; he is now with his true mother and not with the false one (his grandmother). Marsupials posits a love so close it is pouched, enveloping: the kangaroo with its joey. Coincidentally a metaphor more likely to have been chosen by aa Australian author, which of course Carey is. Lovely prose; still a ways to go with my reading so will need to consider all the other things that go into making books memorable before I add this to Bliss as a book worth re-reading.
Finished first full draft of Trafficville- dystopian cyberpunk fiction re gaming, social media and so on; it is 24,600 words, give or take. Probably merde – I’ll follow Mr. Hemingway’s advice and let it sit in my cyber kitchen drawer for a couple of weeks before I have another look.
The final chapter reads:
So here’s a sampling of key Q and A we here at Phantom have dealt with during the beta trial and first three weeks of full release (English version only). Feel free to send us more – remember; this game works best with your interactions built in.
Q from Randy in Dallas… If this is meant to be so American I don’t get how come there are no African-Americans in here?
A: I guess you just never played any bits of Trafficville with Benny Goodman, who is Normans’ best friend. He’s just one (the main one) of 17 African American characters written into the mainframe of Trafficville, and he gets a Hispanic girlfriend. Can’t get much more Yankee-doodle than that.
Surely you must have seen at least one darker than average character at some time while you played Trafficville! And no, we didn’t have the police force round them all up, nor shoot them, though that was one reality we did contemplate. Benny does get mobbed by rogue police. We didn’t put that one in – that was outside players messing with the program; we love that Trafficville can take on a life of its own.
Q from Sissy in Duluth Minnesota… How come Adolf Hitler got into the plot; I mean, that was a bit weird?
A: That actually came through one of our beta players and we were as surprised as you to see him walking down Merrie Yngland Drive. But we let it run and it worked out as a game, didn’t it? Had to have good old Norman climb the clock tower, didn’t we, to re-set. Who’d have thought we’d get that lesson in – how easy it is to become a Nazi. We liked what the game taught us with this one.
Q from Wayne in NY… I felt like the game got out of control sometimes; I mean I felt like I was just reacting, not in charge. Was that intentional?
A: Yes, and no. We’ve written so many possible pathways into this (and the lightspeed tech means they’ll run at a natural pace) that we knew the game offered stuff we hadn’t even thought of; it was meant to be like life, after all, unpredictable. We just didn’t know how life-like it could be.
I guess if you’re a real control freak that might get a bit much – but most of our feedback has been that players love that the game doesn’t repeat itself… It is good to just go with the flow…
Trafficville posits a world – a game space – of shifting possibilities; an ambiguous merging of real and not-real. A series of questions, really: Who is played and who is player? Who is in control: of themselves, of others, of place and time? Should someone be in control? Who accepts the blame should things go wrong? Is anyone responsible for the generalities of what happens? Are ethics even a question in simulated reality (think practice for a bombing run)? What is programming and who is programmed? Who?
SO… here are a few bits along those lines from the draft novel (novella, more like):
I PUT MY HEADPHONES ON
I walk out of my house and I build a wall, straight away. There’s too much out there for me to bear so I put my headphones on and listen to retro stuff; after all, we don’t need no education.
I’m not the only one, dude. Retro nuts, some of ‘em even carrying those old ghetto blasters on their shoulders, but all of us funked up with headies, walking the roads. No need to self drive those hover cars or get a hover bus and be en-canned with too many other folk. Just us, in fact just you, yourself, walking the roads and tuning out the noise.
I put my headphones on
So I can shut out the rest of humanity
I put my headphones on
So I get to live vicariously
And when I’ve got them on
That blues world slips away.
Who am I?
I’m a game player, baby….
USE OF THE I…
I like to play games. And that’s despite all the stuff they tell us about what’s wrong with on-line gaming, You know, the normal person plus anonymity plus on-line audience = idiotic behavior. They’ve got that right but you don’t have to play with the idiots. Me and my buddies (some of whom I don’t know from Adam, they might live in India for all I know, but they are still my buddies) – we rag each other but we don’t get nasty and shitty and call each other some of the stuff I’ve seen on-line and if someone new wants to join… Well, we vet them; they are on trial for a while. They know they’re on trial too, so it’s not a secret. We’ve got a good rep out there. Trafficville lets you block players, if you know how – and we do. Ryan, for example, has access to the town’s birth and death records and we could make a player simply disappear by erasing some records; it’s that easy, if you know how.
And why might you do this? Because- as one of my favorite on-line gaming commentators says – “Cheating, team-killing, entering a game but not playing, quitting before the game is over, and more, are all relatively common…’ This guru tells us that this stuff means that “normal people become f*5$^$# on-line.” And he’d know.
Girls don’t play so much as boys but I wonder if some of my gamer buddies are girls; there’s one called Des I figure might be a girl because of the way she plays – she seems to be more in touch with the characters feelings, that sounds sexist, I know, but she does and she plays different. And Des I reckon is short for Desilee (which is the name of one of my sister’s friends) or maybe Desiree and she – in the game – is this scrawny Japanese girl that moved to Trafficville after the Fukushima disaster; that’s her back-story. I reckon Des has got to be female; it’s good having a female player.
It was a Saturday morning and Norman Mene rode his bicycle past Mr Verdure’s greengrocery. It was exactly the sort of bicycle you’d expect a nerd to have, right down to it being a girl’s bike with a basket set atop the handlebars. Plastic tassels hung from the rubber grips at the end of the bars. They bothered Norman more than anything else about the bike. It was actually not his bike but his sister’s. There’s been a spate of robberies in Trafficville of late and Norman’s BMX was stolen. The police have not recovered it.
And he was, at that moment, as God or whatever stared down at him, riding his borrowed bicycle exactly past what you’d expect a greengrocery that was slightly out of time and place to look like, riding it down a suburban street in a what-you’d-think-a-smallish-slightly-east-of-mid-western-town would look like. That is, if you’d never been to one and had not, did not, in fact, live in one.
So this was Trafficville…
￼ OR ￼
You can be like God, or an aeroplane, or even a camera and swoop down across Trafficville and take it all in.
Trafficville is one of those perfect little towns designed down to the last blade of grass. Even its mistakes, like Mrs. Spooner’s dog’s whoopsies in the Town Square (that someone has to clean up), seem intentional. Everything is really, really neat. The lines of the streets are perfect, although maybe too rectilinear, and the trees that hang down in the perfectly proportioned round or rectangular little concrete-girded plots of earth… well, those trees shimmer just so in all that wonderful Spring sunshine. It seems almost to be Spring almost all of the time, although, like Mrs. Spooner’s dog’s whoopsies, there sometimes come days of frowning storms and grey rain. They might do a little damage too, say to Mr Verdure’s grocery store, or, if you have really bad luck, maybe the hospital wing that houses the poor sick little children gets flooded and the whole town has to pitch in and help.
All the people are really neat too, though maybe they are all also creatures of habit. Aren’t we all? Take Mr. Lopez, who comes out every morning, picks up his Trafficville Herald from the front step where Jimmy Oldson has dropped it on his paper rounds. Then he walks out to Merrie Yngland Drive, turns left (most mornings, though some mornings, just for variety, he turns right) and goes down two or three blocks past all the mock Tudor homes and turns into Windsor Park. And then he kinda disappears for a long time. Then he comes back to his front door. Somehow or other he has lost his paper and it looks like a dog has chewed on his pant’s leg. He looks sour about the world and no one is surprised when he goes in and does not come out for the rest of the day. Everyone figures he must be independently wealthy but he doesn’t have any friends or even acquaintances who can help you not to make guesses. He doesn’t seem to work, just go for a long walk every morning, lose his paper on the way, get mugged by a dog and then come back looking dumped on. Maybe this is a habit Mr. Lopez wants to break.
You can summon all kinds of info about Trafficville too. You can take it in like a dream, or have pages slowly drift past you and words drift off them, or the knowledge can just slide into your head as if you’ve lived it. Tap on the street sign and see what happens. It’s up to you.
And now you know!
Trafficville has three small elementary schools, two of them with less than 250 kids. And depending on where you are you can pick to call them elementary schools, or they are called Primary or even Junior schools. In Trafficville they are elementary and there are three of them. And there is a medium sized Junior High or Middle School (depending on where you’re from – even some people in Trafficville use them interchangeably, because Trafficville is modern and cosmopolitan) and there’s a slightly bigger High School. That’s where most of the action happens, the High School.
Trafficville High is seething, actually, and in fact one of the reasons many of the words I have just used are probably wrong. I should have said Trafficville was almost perfect. It is like a virus got in or something and infected the place with some kind of madness.
As you’re about to find out, though first we need to stop elsewhere…
Norman Mene, who has just passed the greengrocery on his borrowed, girl’s, bicycle, was on his way home from school on the first Saturday of a new school year. Norman Mene weighed 123 pounds and some ounces, exactly the average for a 16-year-old American boy.
Mr. Caine, his Math teacher, had told him this. (What he’d failed to mention was that the statistics pre-dated McDonald’s.) ‘Mene,’ he’d said, drawing out the middle ‘ee’ of Norm’s name in that awful way he did, ‘you’re exactly what your name synonymises, average.’
Mr. Caine circled the graph being data projected onto the white board. His body made huge shadows loom. Mr Caine liked the data projector and the shadows it made because it enlarged his presence. Mr Caine is shorter than most of the kids in this class. He enjoyed his big shadow for a while then he moved to the side so he could write. ‘What was it again, Mene? One twenty three pounds?’
‘And seven ounces.’ Norman said.
‘Such insignificant anomalies can be ignored, Mene. Those ounces will vary regularly.’ He drew a faint line up from 16 years on the X-axis, then he found 123 pounds on the Y-axis and drew another line across. It intersected the 16 year’s line at a point in the hatched area which represented the area everyone was supposed to be in, as defined by the miniMom and maxiMom lines. Norman, despite Mr Caine’s doubts, had followed all this clearly. The little x grimly sat smack dab in the middle of the hatched area. ‘There you go, Norm – un. Precisely what your name says. Average. The norm. The mean.’ The moustache that sat above Mr. Caine’s top lip curled up into one of his hated smiles. ‘Your parents must have had your’ – he paused – ‘weight, in mind when they named you, Norm – un… Let’s move on to another example. Smith?’
Norman, too, moved on. He bought the butter and eggs and flour his mother wanted and he rode home. The basket was very handy, even if the tassels were not. He gave the groceries to his Mom or Mum (depending on where you are from) and then he slumped wearily (the truth was that Norman was a little overweight – a tad more than his reported 123 pounds) to his room.
Where nothing much happened, until…
Norman’s memory of Mr. Caine’s lesson kicked in.
That lesson had been yesterday. Friday. What had made Norman think of it was that he’d just seen Jenny Sweet, the girl next door, and his heart had rolled over in his chest. He was looking out the window and he’d seen her moving across the lawn, taking the recycling out. He couldn’t take his eyes off her, even though he knew it was wrong to be staring at a girl through your bedroom window – particularly if the girl happened to see you staring. He crouched down on his bed, just drinking her in. She had on one of those slinky dresses that make girls – girls like Jenny, anyway – look so good. He watched the way her body flexed beneath the dress’s material as she lifted the lid on the paper bin and dropped in her Dad’s Morning Chronicle. It’d be yesterday’s, Norman thought, while she put the lid back on. Norman thought this but was still watching her move. He looked at her cornflower blue eyes and the way her silky hair flowed with her movements, in the sunshine, like an ad’ for some cool new drink, and then he started (had he ever stopped?) watching the way she simply gracefully flowed through life’s mundane tasks. Norman smacked his face with an open hand.
‘Stop it,’ he whispered. Father Sinha had talked about the sin of lust and Norman knew that this was it. But he also knew it was normal adolescent behaviour; Mrs. Hope, his science teacher, had told them so. That was last year. Norman wondered if it was normal for it to go on so long. If he was average in this respect?
That’s what had him think about being average. And that was what made him remember Mr. Caine’s embarrassing lesson the day before. He didn’t know why but Mr. Caine had, for no apparent reason, hated him from the moment he’d entered Trafficville Junior High.
Norman looked at his mildly freckled, bespectacled, C average face in the looking glass above his bureau and smiled crookedly at it. He shook his head to clear it of memories of Mr. Caine and summoned up an image of the way Jenny had moved under that dress.
He could do that any time he liked today, and that memory would last him a good week. Longer, if he drew it…
He took out his secret art book from beneath his American Birds almanac – in the drawer that Mom never looked in. He got down his pencils and set to work. He whistled as he drew. He stretched her out across the recycling bin, just the way she had looked with the flex of her lithe body both revealed and hidden. Yes indeed, it had started out to be at least a sort-of-good day.