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Genre: The Big Myth?
As I have been writing in genres I didn’t expect to recently (horror, erotica), I thought I would post about the thorny subject of genre itself. I have always thought that it is some kind of mythical beast, or maybe a set of beasts, put on earth to enslave us. Along with the idea of there being a literary ‘canon’, genre prescribes to us what we should and shouldn’t like. Some might find this a controversial idea I know. But we all love a bit of controversy don’t we?
The literary canon is the idea that somehow some writing is definably better than others. To me this is at best laughable and at worst arbitrary. Many will hate me for saying this but my example is Shakespeare. Now the plays of the bard are seen by many, if not most, as being the pinnacle of writing, especially of plays and use of the English language. They seem to be lauded by all and endless theses are written by lofty academics about them. The question is about how such claims are judged. Well it’s simple. We believe they are the best plays because we are told they are the best plays. Told by ‘experts’, who have decided it to be so for us.
There are many problems with this approach. Firstly it leads to elitism. The idea that some art is automatically better than others. The idea of ‘high art’ or ‘high culture’, as opposed to more populist ‘low culture’. For example: Is Shakespeare’s work actually better than the script of a soap opera? All art is subjectively judged. We are active beings; we can actually decide for ourselves whether we like something or not. I would argue that more people don’t like Shakespeare than do. Maybe that is something to do with how we were often put off by it at school!
To be fair none of this means I don’t think Shakespeare is good, I just don’t get why he is so highly regarded. Why is he thought to be the ‘best’ by so many people? We don’t even know for sure that he wrote those plays, although we do know that the influence of those plays is almost endless. For me Shakespeare is best appreciated in the theatre. There it comes alive. And how few people have actually done that?
However just because something is popular doesn’t make it necessarily good. We can all think of things we hate to watch, read or listen to that lots of others love. Soaps for example drive me to distraction, yet millions watch (Eastenders anyone?). Care to share any examples? Justin Bieber??
All of this leads into the idea of genre. Genre too is tainted with the ideas of the literary canon. All art is equal but some genres are more equal than others. ‘Literary’ fiction is the highest in the charts of worthiness. It must be a very very good book if it is listed for the booker prize or some other marketing tool masquerading as a contest. Many great books are not even considered for such prizes. For example Kim Stanley Robinson (highly regarded SF author) argued that Adam Roberts book ‘Yellow Blue Tibia’ should have won the 2009 booker prize. It wasn’t listed, probably because it was labelled as ‘Science Fiction’. Now, that book has science and fiction and even parodies science fiction in it. BUT it is about so much more than simply that! (Read it it’s great!)
Genres other than ‘literary’ fiction often are seen as less serious, which in turn means less good, less well written. Genres like ‘romance’, ‘chick lit’ (sic), ‘crime’ as well as ‘SciFi’, ‘fantasy’ and ‘horror’. It’s almost like we could put these labels into a league of worth; of merit? I wonder which would come bottom of the league? ‘Erotica’? ‘Thriller’? ‘Airport novel’? What do you think? Can you write that league?
I do realise that genres exist to aid the reader (consumer?) to wade their way through the billions of books and ebooks out there. To help them narrow down the search for that elusive ‘page turner’ that will change their lives. The canon too, I guess, gives us pointers to those ‘classic’ works which many, many of us have cherished and loved. It allows every new generation to marvel at them. But I wonder too, how many ‘classics’ were missed? How many amazing works linger on bookshelves unread, maybe because they were labelled badly; put in patronisingly misleading genres.
Some writers attempt to cross-over or subvert genres, Margaret Atwood for example often debates whether she should be labelled as an SF writer or not. Other ‘literary’ writers like Kashio Ishiguro (‘Never let me go’) and Cormac McCarthy (‘The Road’) cross over and write SciFi and get heaped praise for it. Both I thought were excellent books but that other SF writers had used the same subject material and ideas perhaps better previously, but have not been recognised to the same degree because they were ‘SF genre’ writers. Notice that both those books were made into Hollywood films.
For writers, it seems then that genres present us with problems. Maybe problems we don’t realise. This can come down to the question of whether we write for ourselves or whether we write for our ‘audience’. If it is that latter then we may be tempted to fit the stereotypes of the genre, play it safe in order to please the reader. Nothing wrong with that in itself and there are scores of books that do this, some of my writing included I would say. I started writing thinking I was writing for myself and automatically began to write in the genre I enjoy most (SF) and this was fine, but I did wonder if I was really writing ‘copies’ or versions of the books that influence me. Again nothing intrinsically wrong with that. To learn to write is to read, and we are all influenced by our favourite things. Plagiarism is unavoidable! (Just don’t get caught!).
I guess what I am trying to say, as usual badly, is that I am beginning to feel stifled by the idea of genre. Maybe I just think too much, but I find it stifling as a reader. When I go to book shop (which I love to do) I, out of habit, go straight to the SF section to hunt out a new page turning space opera. But in the last couple of years, without really realising it, I have come across two problems. Firstly the science fiction section is always lumped in with ‘fantasy’. Now don’t get me wrong, I can love a bit of fantasy, but there seems to be endless books that look the same. No offence to any fantasy writers and twitter friends who love this genre but it feels like we have endless retreads of Tolkien-type fantasy. This puts me off. Just like there are now endless twighlightesque vampire/teen/werewolf type things. Again no offence if that is your thing.
The second problem is that the same thing is happening in SF. Books seem to be repeating the same patterns and formulas that sell and some books feel like repeats to me. As with all capitalism the market dictates. Maybe I am just a grumpy old dinosaur?
I guess you wonder where I am going with all of this? And as usual I am not sure. I am beginning to think I feel a bit stifled by genre as a writer to. It’s like when I tell people that I play guitar, sing and do gigs sometimes. The first question is always “What kind of music do you play?”, this would be easy to answer if I played covers of Bob Dylan, or something identifiable. But I play my own songs, so I never know how to answer this question. Even those who come to see me play find it hard to categorise. They might say “oh it’s kind of poppy, rocky music but that one was folky…err” They don’t know the genre, they just like the music. Shouldn’t writing and reading fiction be like that too?
Genres almost steer us away from that which we perceive to be ‘not for us’. I don’t like this. Genres trap us into reading and writing what we are told (even subconsciously) we should. I don’t like this. I am just a guilty as the rest of us. My reading and writing follows this safe pattern. I don’t like this. I still love my SciFi, always will…but…
So, what now? Well readers, I urge you to come out of your comfort zone! Read from any genre; forget genre. Challenge yourself to read things outside of your comfort zone. You will find untold treasures I am sure. And writers I urge you to do the same. Read outside of your chosen genre, this will undoubtedly influence your writing in a good way. Write outside of your chosen genre too, just for the hell of it. You never know, this maybe the way to writing a new classic. Worth a try! What do you think?
© 2011 Simon Poore
This new story just came to me. I heard someone say something about a man on a ledge on the TV and it got me thinking. Could I come up with a new twist for that old chestnut? I couldn’t resist and ended up writing yet again in another new genre! Maybe I need to write a blog piece about the myth of genre and how our creativity can perhaps be constrained by them. Not sure I want to be constrained by genre! Perhaps I will try romance next? Any suggestions? Anyway I hope you enjoy this excerpt of the story and as ever all comments gratefully received (to download a free copy of this ebook click below). What do you think?
Man on Ledge…
Forty six floors. Why did I choose forty six floors? I have no idea. Just got off the lift and found the nearest empty open room. It was easier than I thought. Maybe I was hoping it wouldn’t be easy? Four doors down the corridor and there was a door open, ajar, beckoning me to run into the abyss. The window was easy to open too. I wondered about the security. Don’t they ever have jumpers in this hotel? It was easy to lock the door behind me.
Now I am standing here, on the ledge. I feel strangely calm. It might rain; a few tiny spots in the breeze on my face. I am so very scared. Scared but calm. The wound is sore; weeping. I don’t want to weep.
I never imagined the end would feel like this, not for me. I don’t know what I imagined really. Dying an old man in my sleep I guess. That’s what we all think isn’t it? I’m too young for this. Please not me. Why me? God, why me?
I know inside this is the right thing to do. The only thing to do, no choice. I can feel that feeling coursing through my veins. Pumping. I would have used a gun if I had one. Mary would never let us have a gun in the house.
“It’s in the constitution!” I used to tell her. “I don’t care about the constitution,” she would say, “we’re not having one of those things in my house, not with kids around!” She always made me smile when she was angry; she had a way with it. A way that said ‘I love you honey but right now you’re being a jerk’. I wish I could tell her I loved her now. But if she knew why, really knew why, she would know that this is the right thing to do. Surely she would know. God I wish I could tell her. But I don’t really understand it myself. How could I possibly explain? I start to cry. I told myself I wouldn’t cry.
I look down at my feet for the first time. The breeze is beginning to tug at my trouser legs. I am shuffling from side to side, shifting my weight from foot to foot on the stone ledge. It isn’t quite wide enough and my toes stick over the edge. Beyond them the abyss. A wave of nausea fills me, makes me sway. I never did much like heights. I look down beyond my feet, again for the first time. The people are small, insignificant; just like me. Most walking about; going about their business. They don’t know. God I wish I didn’t know. A couple of people have spotted me; stopped in their tracks, looking up, pointing and gossiping. Another stops to stare up. I can see the first man taking out his cell phone. I had better do this soon. Before the cops and the TV crews and the shrinks and the ghouls get here. I don’t want to be a freak show.
Little Jimmy went to a shrink once. When he was five. I remember thinking how stupid it all was. He was just a kid. They said he didn’t pay attention in school. I said “He’s just a kid! Did you pay attention when you were five?” I was so angry. I took Jimmy to the baseball field afterwards, told him I was sorry I was angry while we ate ice cream in the sunshine. He didn’t say much; just hugged me. “Love my dad,” he said, and that was all. That was enough. He never went to a shrink again; me and Mary made damn sure of that. God I love that kid.
More people on the street now, looking up. The wind is stronger. If I don’t do it soon then maybe the wind will blow me off. The thought makes me laugh, though more tears come now at the thought of little Jimmy and Lou. Oh God, Lou, thinking of him hurts so much. Only a month old, not enough to know what he will be like. Just a baby. I haven’t even seen him smile yet. I hope I am wrong about all of this. I am not wrong. The feelings inside me tell me I am not wrong. I have no choice. If I could explain it to Mary she would understand. Please God she would understand. But I can’t even explain it to myself.
I would tell her how they jumped me in the alley. Two of them. In the dark alley. I couldn’t resist; tried to fight them but they were strong. Oh so strong. They took everything. They gave too, they gave me this pain. Such pain. Now they are going to take my life too. It’s their fault Mary, please understand, their fault not mine.
I look up at the drifting clouds…..
To download and read the rest of this story FREE – click here: Man on Ledge
© 2011 Simon Poore
Here is my latest published work: ‘Return of the Girl called Christmas’, now available for download – click here. It is the sequel to the previous short story: ‘The Girl called Christmas’ – click here.
Both of these stories stem from a conversation I had on Twitter where @themanicheans challenged me to write an erotic story, which is not my normal genre.
So I wrote the first story not expecting anything to come from it, but was very surprised at how popular it turned out to be! Some of the old cliches are true; sex sells. Some have even requested more, so who was I to turn people down?
I would not consider myself a writer who necessarily worries about my ‘audience’, if people like what I write then it’s a bonus to me. But in this case I have taken the advice of many of my female readers who wanted the next story to be more ‘graphic’. I guess the first story didn’t have enough sex in it for some! What do you think?
Not being one to disappoint, this new story is definitely far more graphic and contains much more ‘adult’ content. So if that’s not your thing then you know not to dabble in this story! If it is then please download and give it a try. As always comments and thoughts are welcome!
Return of the Girl Called Christmas
Tilly discovers her boyfriend Harry sleeping with someone else. Her life feels destroyed. How will a deeply erotic encounter with a mysterious hotel maid help her to rediscover her life? What will Harry get for Christmas when he meets her too? An erotic short story with a twist. The anticipated sequel to ‘The Girl called Christmas’. Adult themes.
Get your copy here
© 2011 Simon Poore
So another week and another wonderful guest post. I feel blessed that people are being so generous and contributing to my humble blog. I also feel a bit challenged and guilty that I haven’t contributed myself for a while! But when quality is offered who am I to refuse?
Today’s post is a thoughtful piece of short fiction from another of my great twitter compadres, Krystal Wade. You can contact her on twitter – @krystalwade or read more of her writing at her blog – www.krystalwade.blogspot.com or on Facebook Krystal Wade
Thanks to Krystal. As always all comments are highly welcomed…
Mark and Lilly
A chill crept its way into my sleeping bag, drawing my eyes open. I’d fallen asleep next to the fire and it had long since died down, leaving only a few cracking embers. Night fought against the first dim-gray lights of dawn, reminding me so much of my favorite time spent on this mountainside with Mark.
But now I found myself alone, sitting in the very spot he’d proposed.
My love was killed long ago. He lost his life in a senseless war, fought for reasons no one could possibly understand. I’m not even sure those who started it understood.
I breathed in the fresh mountain air, allowing the smells of pine and freshly fallen oak leaves to fill my weary soul.
Our children grew up without a father. I refused to remarry, refused to replace him in my heart. How could I? I promised to love him forever, in life and death. I couldn’t open my heart any wider than I already had for him. There wasn’t room for another love.
This place reminded me of who we were together. Who we dreamed of becoming together. When I sat on the rocky earth covered in slick dew, I felt connected to him, at peace, whole.
Being old made the trips to our spot more difficult. The children—if I could call them that anymore—tried to convince me not to come. Begged me even. Being eighty-three shouldn’t stop me from being me. Shouldn’t stop me from doing what I desire in my core. But the thin air must have played tricks on my mind. In all the years I’d hiked to Turk Gap, I’d never heard him speak to me before—and never had I wanted to speak to him so badly.
My organs gave out on me often, landing me in the hospital with my children and their children around me, exchanging worried glances, hugs, tears. But they didn’t know how much I welcomed my passing, how much I needed it. Those damned doctors brought me back every time, stealing me away from my hope for Heaven, for my hope to see Mark again.
“Lilly you old fool. Stand and face me.”
I closed my eyes, picturing the face that went along with the voice I kept hearing. Fair skin accentuated his high cheekbones and striking-blue eyes. His short brown hair is what I loved the most and how it complimented the rest of him. His jaw was chiseled. Mark’s lips were perfectly pink and never pouty. In our fifteen years together I never caught his gaze on any woman but me. Never saw him cradle a hand the way he did mine. We had love. We had hope. We had the world in our grasp, but then he was gone, and I had everything he left behind.
“I’m sorry, Lilly.” A warm, strong hand clamped my right shoulder. The touch, just like Mark’s, sent an ache to my heart, matching the pain I felt on the day of his funeral.
Giving into my aging desires, I looked up to face whoever it was disturbing my solitude. “Mark . . . ?”
But how could this be? He appeared the same as the last time we were here. The man before me couldn’t be my Mark, couldn’t be my love, could he? I pat his hand, feeling for the ring, for some sign this was anyone but him.
He smiled, genuine, loving, wide. “I know you don’t understand, Lilly, but take my hand and we can be together again.”
I glanced at my cane lying on the ground next to me. “You may have to help me up. I am nothing but an aged old woman now, Mark. Look at you . . . .”
Trembling, I broke down and cried. I was going crazy—losing my marbles as the grandchildren would say. My stomach stirred, agony ripped up my chest and escaped my mouth. “God, why? Why did you steal him from me? Why are you playing games with this old woman’s heart? Just end me. Let me be with him again. Let me be free.”
The hallucination gripped me under the arms and chuckled. “My dearest, Lilly, I’m here to bring you home. Please, take my hand.”
How could I say no? I couldn’t. Grasping Mark’s hand with my knobby fingers, I stood and walked with him through the forest. My breathing calmed. My aches and pains of age diminished. The world around us grew bright. Trees blended in with the light. Leaves and rocks no longer crunched under our feet. Night was replaced with nothing but soft white and Mark.
The way we were meant to be.
The way we would be for the rest of eternity.
© 2011 Krystal Wade
© 2011 Krystal Wade
Again I am proud and pleased to present another fab and interesting GUEST POST. This time from the wonderful Raine Thomas. She asks the difficult question about sex; when is it too much for young people to read about? Please give your comments and feelings about this subject and check out Raine’s books, blog and twitter listed below. Thanks Raine!
“Sex: How Much is Too Much in YA Fiction?”
Thank you, Simon, for thinking to invite me to take over your blog for this guest post. I’m honored and thrilled to be here!
I’m still getting the hang of this guest blogging thing, so I hope you’ll bear with me out there. I think the toughest part of any guest blog , especially for a Type A such as myself, is identifying a topic. What do you mean, I can write about anything? What do you mean, there aren’t any guidelines or restrictions? Really??
It’s almost enough to make a gal’s head implode.
But I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so here I am. In reviewing other guest posts featured on Simon’s (awesome) blog, I realized that some of the writers presented excerpts or samples of their work and that this was well-received. So I considered doing this myself and wondered how to package it in an engaging guest blog.
That got me thinking about just what excerpt I should present. I write young adult fantasy/romance. I know Simon’s specialty genre is science fiction, which is quite different. Would I even have an excerpt that would appeal to Simon’s blog audience?
And then it occurred to me…the one topic that interests just about everyone: sex.
Oh, don’t try to deny it. I’ve caught your attention now, haven’t I?
Romantic fiction doesn’t have to include graphic sex, though many romance novels do. In particular, YA romance doesn’t typically include sex. So when I decided to have my characters pair up, I had to ask myself this: just how much is too much in regard to scenes hinting at or directly involving sex when it comes to YA fiction?
This is a topic that has been written about quite a bit, and I knew when I made my decision to have my teenage characters engage in sex that I’d probably take some heat for it. Surprisingly, that hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps that’s because my heroines are all eighteen and my heroes are much older than that (being Estilorians and thus immortal). Then again, that might just be another point of contention for some readers. Time will tell.
Anyone who hasn’t had their head in a hole in the ground is aware of the popularity of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Without getting into spoiler territory, the last book of the series includes sex. The scenes were essential to the plot and occurred between characters who were at least nineteen, but Ms. Meyer still received criticism about them. Did this weigh into my decision to include sensuality in my books?
In my opinion, an essential part of being a young adult is exploring sex and intimacy. Any teen who isn’t curious about the birds and the bees is, well, outside of the norm. Thus, a YA romance (particularly one that features older teens and is targeted to high school-age readers and older) would practically be outside the norm NOT to touch on sex.
Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. That said, I’ll present you with an excerpt from my book Becoming, the first book in the Daughters of Saraqael Trilogy. The scene, featuring the main characters, Amber and Gabriel, is reflective of other scenes involving sensuality throughout the trilogy. I welcome your comments on whether you think this crosses a line in YA fiction:
Her stomach fluttered nervously as she reached for the doorknob, and she mentally chided herself. This was Gabriel, for goodness’ sake. She opened the door at last, but didn’t see him down the hallway. Figuring he was sitting in the living room, she tossed her bag onto the bed in their room and walked out to join him.
The back of his head was visible from where he sat on the sofa watching SportsCenter on the television. At the sound of her shoes on the wood floors, he called out, “You should’ve seen the highlight they just showed, Am.” He turned with a smile as she paused a few feet into the room. “You would’ve—” The smile dropped from his face, his mouth hanging open on whatever he had been about to say.
He slowly got to his feet, but his eyes never left her. Amber instantly decided all of her effort had been worth it just to see his expression right now.
As he stepped closer, his gaze moved from her head to her toes and lingered in places that brought a hot blush to her cheeks. His expression intense, he reached out, took her hands and slowly lifted both of her arms up above her head. When she felt the cooler air in the room against her suddenly bare midriff, she tried to pull her hands away from his.
“Uh-uh,” he argued, his grip tightening to hold her in place.
Then he started turning her, his gaze settled on her waistline. Fighting back her blush, she indulged him by turning in a complete circle.
“My, oh, my.”
He drawled out each of the words as she once again faced him and caught his gaze. His eyes had picked up the sharp blue of the T-shirt he wore and were filled with male appreciation. He released his hold so she could lower her arms, but his hands moved to either side of her hips to pull her within a couple of inches of his tall frame. His thumbs ended up resting against her skin where her sweater didn’t quite meet her jeans, and his touch evoked an excited stutter in her heartbeat.
“Wherever did this come from?” he asked, his gaze searching her makeup-enhanced features.
Trying to sound nonchalant, she replied, “Alicia took me shopping. At the Gap.”
“Did she now?”
She nodded as his hands idly caressed the bottom edge of her sweater. Her skin flushed with heat wherever he touched. “And Victoria’s Secret.”
He blinked a couple of times as he processed that blurted admission. Finally, he managed, “Is that right?”
His eyes had darkened a bit in color and he had swallowed hard after her last statement. So she added, “And Bath and Body Works.”
Rather than comment, he closed the meager distance between them by pulling her up against him. Then he leaned down toward her neck and slowly drew in her scent. The feeling of his warm breath against her skin made her entire body simmer with pleasure. With barely a thought, she tilted her head sideways to give him better access. His lips gently brushed her exposed neck and collarbone, making her pulse race.
“I’d thank Alicia, but I think she’s trying to kill me,” he whispered into her ear. She gripped his arms and closed her eyes as all of her nerve-endings blazed. His lips then moved along her jaw line. “Still, I can see you intend this to be a kind of a present for me. I can’t help but appreciate it for what it is.”
Then he captured her mouth. Her every thought centered on him as passion flared. His scent: like the ocean wind before a storm, calm with the potential for aggression. His taste: rich, potent and heady. His body: hard, strong and enveloping.
As he kissed her, his hands moved slowly from her hips up along her ribcage, leaving a blazing path of sensation behind. She could barely breathe as he reached ever higher. His hands explored her leisurely, the feelings he generated with his touch both intensely pleasurable and inexplicably tormenting. She issued a ragged sound that might have been a sigh or a moan.
When he eventually broke away from her, he stepped back and held her at arm’s length, his head lowered as he caught his breath and struggled to center himself. Although the move had been abrupt, she couldn’t take offense. It was obvious she had inadvertently pushed him to an edge she hadn’t even realized existed. She warred with delight and guilt over having trampled on his usual gentlemanly sensibilities.
What do you think? Please leave a comment here and look me up at one of these handy places:
© 2011 Raine Thomas
Another amazing GUEST POST today from Amberr Meadows. How pleasing to present a piece of original new fiction from Amberr. Gives me goosebumps! Check out Amberr on Twitter: @Amberrisme or visit her marvellous and charming travel blog: http://www.amberrisme.com/ Thank you so much for sharing Amberr!
By: Amberr Meadows
Marla realized her error as soon as she saw the stream. She’d been wandering aimlessly through the forest, searching for butterflies and squirrels, and had forgotten about The Big Boys. The Big Boys were the mean kids from the neighborhood on the other side of the woods, and it seemed as if their pleasure rested solely in tormenting the smaller kids from Marla’s neighborhood.
Her mother had told her not to play in the woods alone, saying only, “Bad things happen to little girls in the woods by themselves.”
But Marla knew there was nothing worse than The Big Boys.
She’d seen her friend Randall come home with a busted lip and black eye after crossing paths with one of The Big Boys in the woods, and weeks before, Shelly had gotten her arm broken by one of them. Marla hadn’t been there when Shelly was roughed up by one of The Big Boys, but she’d heard of it afterwards.
The whole neighborhood had.
Shelly’s mother had run out of the house, screaming mad, when Shelly came home with the broken arm. The cops were called, but even Marla knew nothing would be done about the incident, and she was right.
The cops came by, pretended to be interested, and went on their way, but not before Marla heard one of them say, “Always something with the white trash in this neighborhood.” Marla didn’t understand what that meant, but she knew it wasn’t nice.
Shelly hadn’t been out to play since then, and Marla missed her badly. She’d been hoping to catch a few butterflies and bring them to Shelly to cheer her up about her busted arm, but as soon as she’d seen the horrible boy, she’d forgotten all about it.
He now eyed her menacingly, scowling darkly.
“Hey, little girl, little white trash girl!” taunted the boy, “Ready to get messed up, just like your little friend?”
Marla couldn’t speak. Her tongue was a dead thing in her cottony mouth. This was The Big Boy who had hurt Shelly, so there was no doubt he’d hurt her, too. She felt warmth running down her leg. Humiliated, she realized she had wet her pants. She knew she should run back to the safety of the forest, but she couldn’t move. The boy watched her, clutching something white in his hand.
It took Marla a minute to realize what it was. A plastic PVC pipe, about three meters long, with a wickedly sharpened point. Was he going to hurt her with it? She thought so, because she knew how bad those boys were from the other neighborhood. She had a sudden terrible vision of being pierced through by the makeshift spear, and she knew it would be worse than a busted arm. It would really hurt her–maybe even kill her. She didn’t want to die in the woods. She had to do something.
“I-I’m not scared of you!” she screamed, hoping to catch him off-guard.
His mean laughter filled the forest, but he made no move towards the water. Maybe he couldn’t swim? She realized the implications of this and realized that she’d be okay. He couldn’t hurt her—but wait, what was he doing?
The boy drew the spear back. Marla suddenly thought of a book she’d read without mama’s permission. It was called Lord of the Flies. In the book, the civilized boys had evolved into savages, in the absence of authority. That’s what The Big Boys all were—modern savages–and she feared ending up like Piggy.
“Don’t you throw that at me!” she called, “You’ll be sorry!”
He released the spear, and it went sailing. Marla threw her hands up. She hoped his aim was amiss, hoped he was off- the- mark, but he wasn’t. In a frozen moment, the spear seemed to be suspended overhead. She could even see the blue lettering on the pipe. The sharpened end was finely honed and deadly and pointed at her. The sun was in her eyes, but her hands were up as if to catch a football. This was the end. She was going to die in the middle of the woods, and become just another missing girl statistic.
The PVC pipe came down. She braced herself, waiting for the cutting impact, but nothing came. The weight of the PVC pipe felt funny in her hands. Startled, she realized what this meant. She had caught the pipe! It couldn’t hurt her. She didn’t know how she had caught the pipe. It was a miracle! The moment of tension dissipated, and she broke into sobs of relief. She then remembered The Big Boy.
“You can’t hurt me now, you bastard. I caught it!” she choked.
He looked at her in surprise. He hadn’t expected a little girl to catch the pipe and foil his plan. This she knew. She also knew he would be looking for her forever after, in the school hallways, in her neighborhood, and certainly in the woods. The struggle had just begun, but for today, she was safe.
Marla turned away from the stream. Screams of rage followed her, but she didn’t look back. Not until she was safely home, did she turn around. The sharpened PVC pipe was still in her hand. She decided to keep it.
The next time The Big Boys went looking for her, she’d be ready.
© 2011 Amberr Meadows
Science Fiction has always been to tool for entertainment and prediction, escape and speculation. I wasn’t born to write, but enjoyment of this genre has been with me for what seems like all my life. I simply love to escape in it…
Now I wonder why it has captivated me since an early age. I have no idea when I first knew I liked it, or even when I first realised what it was. I am not one of those people who seem to be able to remember this or that exact moment from their childhood. I often wonder if these memories are actually fictions; do those who claim to remember such detail from the earliest age really remember such things?
There are huge chunks missing from my memory of my earliest years, as I am sure huge chunks are missing from my adult memory too. Maybe this is just how my individual mind works. It’s almost as if my mind is the proverbial ‘jug’ that once it is full then arbitrarily the memories slip and spill over the edge to be forgotten for ever. Maybe too many brains cells have been destroyed by beer and fast living…though sometimes right now I yearn for so much more of that!
Memory is a strange and fickle thing, sometimes it behaves like a hidden demon within our subconscious. We cannot control what we remember and it forever plays tricks on us. Sometimes it is a conjuror pulling rabbits out of a hat as we remember things we had no idea we knew in the first place. Other times it teases us; showing us a glimpse of stocking as if to say you can have this when you can’t; the countless moments when a memory lingers on the tip of your tongue, never to be released. More frustrating still, memory can put a wall around what you should know but still fail to know. In my everyday life for example I am constantly stumped when I try to remember people’s names. Often people I see every day. Now I know full well that I have a problem with this, and this knowledge makes the problem worse. I have a mental block and the names don’t come, as if I consciously build the wall.
When thinking about this problem I wonder if it is because somehow, within myself I am deciding to remember what my subconscious thinks is important and simply discarding everything else. I don’t remember people’s names sometimes because I don’t care about them. Can this be true? I have no idea, I am not even sure I believe in this shaky hidden spectre that we call the ‘subconscious’, it is a being that by it’s very nature we cannot know it or see it, and yet it can control us somehow. Like a convenient scapegoat puppet master we can blame our subconscious for all our failings. But, as usual, I digress…
Another frustrating thing with memory is it’s complete lack of accuracy. For example, some of my earliest memories are now memories of memories of memories ad infinitum. I can, at least I think I can, remember being weighed as a naked squirming baby in the cold tin bowl of a weighing machine. I have no idea if this is in any way a real memory. Maybe I remembered something like it when I was 3 or 4, and then remembered remembering it later!
So what has this got to do with Science Fiction? My memory obviously doesn’t serve me well, but I think that I was taken with puppet shows in the 1960s like Fireball XL5 and the Thunderbirds when I was pretty small. And I think the moon landings had a big effect on me; my memory tells me we watched the white clad astronauts bouncing in the moon dust on a flickery TV at school. Later still Wednesday night was always a thrill for my brother and I as we got to walk around the corner and watch Star Trek on my Aunt’s colour television. Our TV was a black and white set with no remote control. Imagine that now, only 3 channels and you had to get out of your seat to turn it over! Gosh how I show my age…
After this I was bowled by things on the big wide silver screen. The cinema gave the ultimate escapist thrill. I can still almost feel the shudder of seeing the first massive imperial space cruiser appear in the opening scene of Star Wars. I remember looking upwards because I actually believed the spaceship was flying over me. Did I actually do that as a teenage boy, or is that a distorted memory of a memory?
I think what I loved about it, apart from the obvious romance of it all, was that SciFi allowed for all possibilities and pointed to fantastic futures where astonishing things would and could happen. Yes there might be an apocalypse or two, or some horrifying aliens, or wars to contend with but humanity would win out. We would exist with amazing technology and be enriched by discovery.
Of course the reality of life and the world never quite lives up to the imagined romance of the fiction. I remember thinking that when I grew up I would probably have a hover car and go on trips to the moon. However the reality is often just as astonishing. Star Trek for example had communicators and amazing computers. I sit here typing this on an iPad and the new IPhone takes orders by you speaking to it. We live in a post modern world of huge contradictions. Wars, poverty, conflict and the sickening inequality of capitalism depress me hugely. But at the same time I am still overjoyed and hooked by the thrill of the new. Still captivated by the romance of new discoveries and the possibilities that are flung at us from all sides.
How will I remember this time? Well probably with memories of memories. And I will measure it against the thrill and experience of my young daughter. Who knows what wonders she will behold in her life? What do you think?
© 2011 Simon Poore
I have the great pleasure of sharing my first ever GUEST POST today by the marvellous Johanna from New York, New York (so good they named it twice). She is a person that makes me tingle! Check her out on Twitter: @themanicheans, and on her blog: http://themanicheans.blogspot.com/ Many thanks to her! Read, enjoy and think! As ever all comments a welcomed…
I’ve just awoken from a nap, and I’m writing while listening to Open Arms by Journey.
A few nights ago, I was victim of the most horrifying nightmare. I attended a friends’ dinner party that turned to hell.
One of my friends who lives with her boyfriend decided to organize a dinner by cooking for us at her small apartment. I wasn’t too excited about it because I wanted to write, but a little voice told me to go since I couldn’t stay home writing all the time, and that I needed social contact too.
Therefore I went. And I really tried to enjoy it, but I couldn’t.
The conversation bizarrely revolved around topics I was either not familiar with, or not interested in. These topics included: the latest concerts and shows in town, obscure European brands I’ve never seen in Europe, manicures, wedding cakes, Halloween, a fish, and cigarette smoke. I guess.
I can’t exactly remember everything. I felt a bit lost, to say the least.
I tried to save myself by wandering in my fantasy world and put some sense into this mess, but instead, I imagined that my friends’ mouths became like clay and lost their shape under the constant pressure of my fingers on their features. After releasing all my frustration, their heads didn’t look like they used to. I faced empty eye sockets and gapping throats from where more unintelligible words kept pouring. I covered my ears to protect myself and I sought to run away, yet I remained stuck in place. They never shut up, almost deafening me with the crap they seemed so obsessed to chat about. I defended myself the best I could, but I miserably failed.
I had to listen to them.
Reading American Psycho before bed is maybe not the best way not to feel extreme criminal urges while having to stand worthless conversations like that. Thank goodness, I didn’t take pleasure at picturing my friends’ heads on sticks…
More words passed through me like hollow projectiles, exploding upon impact against my chest, leaving me disoriented and dizzy. I could hear them fade in the background: “5th avenue”, “latest boutique on the West Side”, “$300 haircuts at Bergdorf’s”, “swimming”, “Moby”, “church on the Lower East Side”, “prosciutto”, “sausage”, “sale”?
In return my brain reacted strangely, throwing some absurdities that nobody noticed. Slaying my noisy neighbors with a kitchen knife (American Psycho’s influence here again), doing intergalactic drugs at the back of a limo for Halloween (because I had bought the Star Trek costume that same day), and joking about my friend’s Eurotrash boyfriend’s sexual orientation since he: 1) adopted a pet and named the male fish “Fishionista” (so that’s where the fish came from); 2) when I asked whether the fish was gay, he responded yes, and then he added – he’s a European gay fish; 3) the boyfriend himself is European; 4) when I asked whether this meant that he considered himself a gay fish, he didn’t get it and changed subjects; 5) finally, he continuously walked among us – six of us including another guy – with an apron but no pants on…
I splashed cold water on my face and stared in the mirror for one long minute. The dinner party I was supposed to attend never actually happened, right?
After reassuring myself I hadn’t completely lost my mind, I still checked my calendar in a last moment of doubt…
There had been a dinner party scheduled on the same day I had this awful nightmare. I couldn’t swallow. My mouth felt utterly dry. I needed to drink something. Orange juice perhaps. I was hungry too.
I fixed myself a snack, and distracted my rushing thoughts by playing with my cats. Then, I looked at my calendar again. I didn’t misread the date.
Did everything I dreamt actually take place?
I went back in time, refreshing my recollection of the events by watching some catty reality television show, because I somehow trusted these things helped trigger repressed memories of traumatic episodes such as the one I was desperately attempting to remember… You know “superficiality always attracts emptiness” type of thing.
And like every catharsis, this one gave me the sad feeling I had indeed wasted 3 precious hours of my life that evening. I asked myself: was it really the price to pay for the sake of bowing to societal pressures? Mostly, I painfully became aware of one key element that caused me such discomfort.
Did I lose grip with the real world?
Writing and reading too much automatically pulled me from everything that wasn’t writing or reading. Everything else sounded rapidly so abstract and remote, I showed no pleasure in talking or even thinking about it. Why bother? As long as it didn’t deal with my WIP, my blog, or Twitter, I didn’t care anymore. Nothing could make me happier than the virtual world I created. No shoes, bags, haircuts, nice dresses and free champagne… I had become insensitive to them.
I looked at the people who I considered my close friends and I paused.
Was I meant to continue the journey without them? I knew I started to detach myself more and more because of my writing aspirations. It felt like I grasped everything with a pair of new eyes, and they all stayed hidden in the dark. None of them ever really read what I wrote either. I don’t know what they thought of my dream. Maybe they saw ME as the crazy one.
I searched for an easy answer, and tried to convince myself they were the folks I wanted to share my time with. Then, I suddenly recalled something.
When questioning whether New York City was still the place for me to be in, I uttered the idea of moving somewhere else, why not California? One of the girls immediately responded: “You want to be with fake people?”
I’m not sure if that was a rhetorical question…
You know what?
Yes! I want to remove myself from the fake. Maybe I’m an idealist and haven’t realized wherever I’ll go, I’ll always be surrounded by it, but I’ll give it a shot.
I didn’t lose grip with reality.
Being a writer pushed me to another dimension from where I experienced things differently. It didn’t make me better or worse! So what if all I thought of was how much I missed my computer and my books? You can’t ignore me and toss me to a corner because you don’t understand.
Have you ever recognized settling for the wrong kind of people led to the loss of your identity anyway? Well, that’s exactly how I felt.
Insignificant. Boring. Dead.
Yes: I’m the chick who writes. Yes: I’m the chick with crazy dreams. Yes: I enjoy my virtual world. I have tons of tweeps who I care for, and fans and good people who love to read what I put on paper. Every day I wake up and I think of them. They’re the ones who keep me going, who encourage me and support my ambition. And no: this isn’t a whim. I plan to write for the rest of my life.
I lost grip with the empty world a long time ago.
There never was a moment where I felt connected to superficiality. Every time I encountered it, I walked around it and I kept moving forward. The further I went, the more I saw people’s true colors. Yes, I got disappointed. Yes, I also became more lonely and secluded. Isn’t it what life is ultimately all about? Endlessly wandering the earth in search of kindred spirits?
I started my own quest.
A last thought hit me. This never was about LOSING grip. It always was about FINDING it.
© 2011 Johanna K P
Today I am supposed to be moving into my new home, after months of living out of the proverbial suitcase. I won’t go into the dull ins and outs of the reasons why, I figure that people aren’t necessarily interested in the minutiae of someone else’s problems or relationships. So why am I telling you about this if I don’t think you will be interested, I hear you asking?
Well, it seems to me that for that last few months I have been in a kind of limbo waiting for my life to start again. Or, more accurately the next chapter of my life. Or even, to quote The Waterboys: “A new life starts here” (google them if you don’t know it!)
So what is/was this ‘limbo’ all about? I did at first, see it as an escape, a withdrawal from life. Which it clearly was. But that withdrawal has been nothing to do with where I was living or who with, but an inner withdrawal. It made me wary and weary of human contact. Like some kind of primitive instinct I was in ‘fight or flight’ mode. I didn’t have the will for the fight, so flight was my modus operandi, which I think is often a typical male reaction. Instead of safety in numbers, where, for example women tend to turn to their girlfriends in times of trouble, the male tends to deliberately avoid contact. It’s like we need to lick our wounds alone. Not make a fuss. This is also perhaps an English trait; stiff-upper lipped reserve and all that…
I realise of course that words are failing me and I am typing cliches and stereotypes, but then maybe sometimes these exist because of some truth at the kernel of them, you just have to crack the nut. Other times of course such stereotypes are false and need to be challenged and tested, like a balloon that is crying out to be burst. Do you ever have that feeling? However, enough of digression…
Later, my limbo became routine, almost dependable, like a dear, but slightly annoying old friend who you knew would leave eventually. It was liveable and even nice at times, and the generosity of friends and family was wondrous to behold. But I couldn’t help the nagging feeling that I should be at least planning what this new life should be. This however was a fruitless task and ultimately impossible. How can you plan for something when you don’t know what it is. The wind had gone; the sails were flat and listless; the horizon empty.
Now I sit writing this when I should be moving boxes and trinkets into my new home. Of course it is typical that even at this last moment the tide is against me. Those moving out from my house have yet to move out. They are lovely people and I cannot complain. But this hiatus gives me pause for thought…and some of that thought is revelatory…
I now realise that my limbo wasn’t a limbo at all. I haven’t been becalmed but actually living in a liminal space. An in-between space. So while I was worrying about the tide and the lack of wind, I have actually been busy reinventing myself, almost without noticing.
I first realised about liminal spaces when I was at a music festival many years ago (Cambridge Folk Festival, if you wish to know!). A friend I was with explained why they loved festivals. It was because they are places where you are free from the constraints of normal, everyday life. In that space you can do, and be pretty much anything you wanted to be. You didn’t have to conform to the roles assigned by society. You know; employee, son, daughter, mother, father, even friend. These roles we play out everyday by doing what is expected of us. Like Shakespeare knew; “All the worlds a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
At the festival we drank delicious smooth pints of Guinness (the best outside of Ireland). We danced under the stars and dared each other to talk to strangers in the most delightful and stupidly funny ways. It all felt so happy, lovely and free, and all who were there craved that feeling for years afterwards.
Now I realise that some of that freedom of the liminal space has been returning to me without my even knowing. Like the light of morning seeping through the gap under the door, beckoning; open the door! I have begun my new life already and I wasn’t actually waiting. I have self published books, who would have thought? I have travelled to Asia. I have this modest blog. I have started to play gigs. I do actually have plans, even when I thought I didn’t, plans just for me.
So what if I it takes me a few more days to move into my home? It looks like my ship was travelling in the right direction all along.
So I urge you to seek out the liminal spaces, they can be most delightfully surprising. What do you think?
© 2011 Simon Poore