Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Evil Genius Blogfest!

The Golden Eagle is hosting a Blogfest here is my entry:

Fore Edgar Rice Burroughs

Mechanical men, row upon row of clockwork killers, razor sharp spines and karate hands of steel, lined up to do no good. Professor Gottlieb, the iron of his metal face glinting in the sun, laughed out loud: “I have won! My robot ruffians are poised to kill, you have no choice, you must bend to my will.”

Gottlieb, this evil genius whose face had been destroyed in a terrible accident when a pterodactyl had become enmeshed in the Bessemer Converter, his magnificent mind twisted beyond the reason of mortals. The demented scientist had manufactured a horde of automaton assassins and here they were before the very gates of the city.

I stood on the parapets and watched the implacable army of androids approach the peaceful city of Widnes. When Gottlieb had demanded that the honest citizens of the last city on Mars appoint him Tourist Czar, we thought him crazed. As the heat death of the universe grew ever closer, there were no visitors, for there were no other life forms, the stars had gutted, only Widnes remained. A dying city its glories so long gone, none could remember them.

“The jig is up, my time is at hand! My malevolent machines await my command.” His cackles muffled by his iron face, the jaw clanked as he continued: “I am the brainiest of chaps, I shall put Widnes back on the map, crowds shall flock from far and near, the city will thrive, the people cheer!”

“Oh you stupid, clever man, whose face is like an old tin can, there are no more life forms anywhere, the universe grows cold, entropy wins, do you not care?”

“Pah! Climate change was never true, entropy is a lie, you speak to make me blue.” Pushed too far he screamed out orders, the wind up warriors tottered forward. I yelled to the troops “Prepare for boarders!”

Clattering their lethal blades, the murderous machines advanced. Pumps primed I waited until we had their range and signalled the men. With a roar the jostling jets of salty water flew forward, soaking the delicate devices that powered this heartless horde. Screeching, screaming and skittering the invaders ground to a halt then tumbled to the red sand. Gottlieb was speechless, the water had rusted his jaw shut.

“I see for once Professor, you are at a loss for words.”


Monday, 27 February 2012

TAG, YOU’RE IT

P K Hrezo at http://pk-hrezo.blogspot.com/ has just tagged me after being tagged herself by Courtney Pearson at Writer By Day, Mother Always, so in my turn I am tagging YOU!

Here are the questions:

1 PLOTTER OR PANSTER

Not sure what panster means, if I am honest. I plan where the story will end up, I suppose a string of scenes then when I write I let the character navigate their way from one to the other. I find that the character will act in ways I would never have thought of. Usually stories will arrive as a scene or an idea that I can develop.

2 WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE CHARACTER AND WHY?

This is difficult, Sherlock Holmes springs to mind, Mendoza in Kage Baker’s majestic series, The Company, and Travis McGee. I know he’s a creature of his time, the 1960’s but there is a nobility about him, you know he will do the right thing. The other would be Gatsby, I find Gatsby to be such a well realised character.

3 NAME TWO THINGS WITHIN REACH

Tea cup full of pu erh tea and my mobile phone.

4 IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND DO ANYTHING AGAIN WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Nothing, life unfolds as it does, things happen and we learn from them.

5. A DATE WITH A CELEBRITY, WHO WOULD YOU PICK?

Leonard Cohen. I have been greatly influenced by Mr Cohen for most of my life.

6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE SONG?

Most difficult, possibly If It Be Your Will, by afore mentioned Mr Cohen, Red Right Ankle by The Decemberists, These Foolish Things by Billie Holiday (1936 version), The Trip by Art Pepper, Duke Ellington playing Lotus Blossom (the version on the original release of And His Mother Called Him Bill), oh the list is too long.

7. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE IN?

I write poetry, first and foremost, the other ghetto I slave away in is science fiction. The prebook of my graphic novel sequence CO2 was just launched at the Cardiff Comic Expo.

8. FAVOURITE THING YOU DO OTHER THAN WRITING

Cooking, I am a reasonable vegetarian cook, I find it relaxing, I make my own bread, pasta, wine and I just branching into beer.

9. THE COOLEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE?.

Watching my children being born.

10. COOLEST PLACE YOU’VE EVER BEEN?

Interesting... Barcelona, I go a lot and know people there. Barcelona is the coolest city on earth, the Catalans are a very cool people, I love the place.

11. FAVOURITE QUOTE?

“And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make” Beatles or “The glass is failing, hour by hour, the glass will fall forever, but if you break the bloody glass you won’t hold up the weather.” Louis MacNeice- Bagpipe Music

Now either reply in Comments or tell me that you've tagged and leave your url. I shall look and comment at all.

Friday, 24 February 2012

MOVING FORWARD





There I was last post saying how long things take and suddenly (or so it seems) last Sunday I am at the Exeter Comic Expo and tomorrow ( 25th) I am at the Cardiff Comic Expo (http://www.fantasyevents.org/cicae/) for the launch of CO2. Yes, the prebook is out tomorrow!

You will be relieved to hear that I have resisted posting a photo of me clutching CO2 with an inane grin on my face, instead we have a selection of the people who attend Exeter in all their finery.

This is a brief post today, partly because I am off to Cardiff this morning to set up and prepare for the weekend and partly because I am writing my entry for The Evil Genius Blogfest (http://thegoldeneaglesblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/announcing-evil-genius-blogfest.html ). Essentially it’s a short piece of writing, flash fiction or poetry that involves an evil genius. Being one myself it should be a cakewalk.

Must go, see you at Cardiff.

Friday, 17 February 2012

SITTING IN LIMBO



As you can see I have reblogged latest Corvus Press post, it echoes what I have been saying on this blog for some time, that the prebook of CO2 is finally at the printers and I am told we will have copies today or tomorrow! One thing I have learned since I entered the world of publishing is that it takes time. I am often reminded of those famous lines from Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress:

Our vegetable love would grow

Vaster than empires, and more slow.

You can read the whole of this marvelous poem (pun intended) here: http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/marvell/coy.htm Writing often seems like that, you work on a piece and it then goes off into the ether, from where it returns at some point later. Perhaps it’s the lack of control over the process but I suspect it’s because I’m impatient.



I am ready for the Exeter Comic Expo this Sunday (19th February) after which I shall be posting photos of the event. But today feels a little like limbo, so I am going to use this post to showcase some poems, after I explain where the title of the post comes from. Those copasetic readers will already be aware that Sitting In Limbo is the title of a song by the great Jimmy Cliff, one of the stars of Jamaican music. He is the only one of two musicians to be awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit (the other was Bob Marley).

For me the defining image of Jimmy Cliff is in the 1972 film The Harder They Come, in which he played Ivan Martin. This is simply one of the best films ever made. You can watch it here, if you’ve never seen it you’re in for a treat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kXf4cgmDiE&feature=fvst. Essentially the film is the tragic story of Ivan Martin a country boy who comes to Kingston to make it as a singer. Jimmy Cliff imbues the role with so much energy and panache that the eye is drawn to him every time he is on screen and the music! Classic Roots Rock Reggae with consciousness lyrics, seminal songs from Jimmy Cliff and Toots and The Maytals.

Anyway back to the poetry. This one I wrote quite quickly and is another in my series about the Magpie:

Magpie Maps

The magpie’s maps are not on paper,

They hang from certain synapses,

Motion/location tapestries.

They hold the history of her every heist:

“These were the best times I stole”

And the more secret times

When she would simply look.

Every magpie has such treasure.

A gallery in each head,

Look closely, you may then find your own.


This one came from me mishearing a friend of mine who I thought said:


“Is it my imagination,

Or does this place smell of Dreams?”- For Margaret

It is true

Dreams are here

They seep from our sleep

Remain in stubborn corners

Until we pass and taste

Each fragment of the night

They will melt on the tongue

Then they are no more

She actually said “does this place smell of drains?” and I misheard her! Still I got a poem out of it, we were in Barcelona hence this week’s photos.

Have a good weekend and I hope to meet you at the Exeter Expo.

Corvus Press UK: As I write the preview of CO2 is being sent to the...

Corvus Press UK: As I write the preview of CO2 is being sent to the...: As I write the preview of CO2 is being sent to the printers. We shall be launching the book at the Cardiff International Comic Expo ( http:...

Friday, 10 February 2012

THINGS FALL APART



I’ve nicked this posts title from Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian author, his book is about the destruction of a community in the late nineteen hundreds under the impact of colonialism. The hero is a good man who increasingly finds himself out of step with the changing world. Published in 1958, Things fall Apart, is regarded as the classic modern African novel written in English. It’s worth reading, as are all Achebe’s other books.

Here’s a link to Fela Kuti playing his 1975 hit He Miss Road, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI6ZZsCElTo this always reminds me of Okonkwo the hero of Things Fall Apart. Fela sings “If you miss your road, I beg you don’t come my way”, a reference to the continual persecution he experienced from the military dictatorship. It could be the prayer of Okonkwo.

Achebe himself took his title from a poem by William Bulter Yeats: http://www.potw.org/archive/potw351.html. Part of the poem paraphrases Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound http://www.bartleby.com/139/shel116.html. I often get that Russian Doll effect when I start to examine poetic influences.

What, you might ask, has this to do with the photograph of some old ship on its side, looking an almost wreck? Well everything really. Last Saturday, while in London, I visited my friend’s studio, he’s a talented artist and a skilled etcher. As I drove into the car park, I saw the sad profile of a ship on the other side of the flood wall. Something chimed within me about this wreck, but it was not until later when I was looking at it close up that I realised I recognised the ship. I had travelled on it many times when I was a child and I had heard the song inspired by the ferry journey many times.

It was The Royal Iris, a name that means nothing to you if you did not grow up near Liverpool. As a child I would be taken by my parents for a day out to New Brighton, which was across the river from Liverpool, on the ferry, this very ship. The Royal Iris is slightly older than me being launched in 1951on the Clyde and became a cultural icon in the north west, apart from being the ferry in the hit pop song by Gerry and The Pacemakers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loyRYFUYg9g. The Beatles, The Searchers and later on Elvis Costello all performed on it.

It has been moored, if such a term can be used to describe the forlorn state it has been reduced to, near Woolwich since 2002. The proposed plan to turn it into a nightclub seemingly put on hold since then and the poor old ship has become more and more derelict with every year. Have you ever encountered something from your past in unexpected surroundings?

Here are a couple of older poems, the first describes the times when the Royal Iris sailed the River Mersey.

CONFORMITY IN A NORTHERN TOWN

There were only two haircuts

In the land of my boyhood,

Two styles, this or that,

Short back and sides or a crew cut.

It sort of summed Widnes up,

The slow walk to the barbers

On the last day of the school holidays.

The choice was no choice.

In 1963 some enterprising clipper

Chalked up Bealte Cuts 2/6.

We queued in the main street,

All wanting this new norm,

To back vicariously in Beatlehood.

Walking back home with our Barry,

In my brown nylon anorak,

I thought I was dead cool.

Today 2/6 would be twelve pence. I was reading recently in White Heat, A history of Britain in the Swinging Sixties, by Dominic Sandbrook, that the decision to move the UK from pounds, shillings and pence (dear old LSD, as it was called) to a decimal currency was taken by just two people Harold Wilson, then Prime Minister and the Chancellor James Callahan. It seems strange that such a momentous decision can be made by just two people without asking the rest of the population for their opinion. My father, a lifelong Labour Party activist met Harold Wilson once, sometime in the 1960’s when he visited the Widnes Labour Club, he was not impressed, he thought Wilson was just going through the motions, and wasn't interested in being there.

Here’s one inspired by my youngest daughter when she was about five, she wandered up to me carrying this huge photo album waiting to know about the people in it.

For Lottie

My daughter brings her photo album,

It houses the dead within its pages.

“Tell me who these people are.”

We view our family at different ages.

An out of focus Aunty Eileen,

Always so clear in life.

“Here is one of you-just born,”

And one of my dear dead wife.

These people will age no more,

Forever they will remain,

And captured ourselves in turn

Will always be the same.

This last poem is about my days as a fitter, that means an engineer, and was when I worked in a huge chemical plant in Runcorn. The part I worked on made chlorine, caustic and hydrogen by “splitting” brine (salt water). Splitting is a local term for electrolysis, essential you run an electric current through salt water and chemical reactions take place that produce said chemicals. In those days chlorine was used to produce CFC’s – a chemical that was used in refrigeration systems and caused the hole in the ozone layer. It has since been outlawed, thankfully.

In the summer my work mates or as we said muckers, would sneak off the job and sunbathe on the roof of the big building we worked in. Mercury was used in the process and our mercury levels were monitored every two weeks, if the level of mercury in our bodies began to rise then you where taken out of the factory and given jobs outside until it was lower. If you wore the mask though it never rose as the mask filtered the mercury vapour out.

It was a farcical time, the companies tame scientists would argue that just because a hole had been discovered in the ozone layer now did not mean it had not been there for years. I do not know how such people slept at night. I left the company.

K-UNIT MAINTENANCE, CASTER-KELNER WORKS. SUMMER 1979

No one ever noticed the roof.

With its hidden castellation:

Touched by the sea blue corrugated sides.

Each rectangular trough, a silent, secret pool.

Sidestepping further tasks,

Fitters in summer hid here.

Beached, white, flabby flesh

Basking between blue walls and sky.

Curious, I only went up once,

The gravelled felt moved softly underfoot,

Gulls over head.

We used mercury to split brine,

Rendering chlorine and caustic.

My workmates distained the masks provided

To filter the mercury vapour from the air we breathed,

Courting high mercury levels in their blood,

To work outside in the summer and tan.

Removed from the process,

They lay on scaffolding boards to bake,

As quicksilver seeped from their bodies.

The chlorine we made killed the ozone.

Supine in our apathy until summer changed forever.

This poem came quite quickly, I wrote it in the middle 1990’s and still perform it. Do you have any similar stories of people taking the short term option?










Thursday, 2 February 2012

FISHGUARD FOLK FESTIVAL POET

I have been invited by the good people who organise the annual folk festival in Fishguard to be the festival poet. The festival takes place over the first weekend in June (1-4) and most of the events are free! This year will be thirteenth festival and here is the link: http://www.pembrokeshire-folk-music.co.uk/index.htm .

Fishguard is situated on the coast of Pembrokeshire, one of the most beautiful areas of Britain. Lower Fishguard served as the village of Llareggub in the 1972 film of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood. Here’s a link to You Tube where Dylan Thomas reads the poem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjJt4P4w8io&feature=fvwrel

Singer-songwriter Mike Chant will be appearing as will Tylwyth Teg, the Vagrants Crew, Rapsquillion, Issy & David Emery with Kate Riaz and Harriet Earis. The headline acts are Jamie Smith’s Mabon on Saturday the second of June and Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman on the Monday.

You can watch a short film of last year’s festival here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTH-awdV2g0&feature=youtu.be. The festival takes place at venues all over the town, and I am looking forward to meeting the festival goers and reading my work throughout the weekend, why not come and join us?