Wednesday 23 November 2011

Anne McCaffrey

My heart is heavy. The sad news of Anne McCaffrey's passing was one of those moments you wish never to come. While I can't profess to have read all her work, my mum has and is an enormous fan. So much so that we went along to one of her book signing many moons ago - the kind of thing that is not my mum at all. I've never seen my mum be a fan girl, except for that one time. Mrs McCaffrey was a gracious lady and seemed to take a shine to Mum. She sought us out after the signing and they chatted for ages. It was one of those lovely moments that you don't forget. Mum was so chuffed.

Dragonquest was my favourite Pern book (I had a real thing for F'nor and Brekke) but I think the Crystal Singer books were my favourites. Anne McCaffrey wrote cracking female characters that defied traditional stereotypes. They always felt like real women in extraordinary circumstances rather than weak-wristed bosom-heaving heroines or strident harpies. They could be either or both, or something else entirely. She, amongst others, worked to take Sf/f into new territory in this respect. She was an enormous influence on me as a teenager and was one of the writers that made me want to explore the fantastic and the alien. She was one of those writers that made me believe I could write the things that excited me too, that being a girl did not have to exclude me from the male-dominated world of Sf/f.

 "... we build the worlds we wouldn't mind living in. They contain scary things, problems, but also a sense of rightness that makes them alive and makes us want to live there." 

Anne McCaffrey wrote worlds that stretched my imagination and that could make my heart pound. She left us a rich legacy and the world is a better place for her having been in it.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

It's been a long time ...

Yes it has. I've been slack lately at most things because my brain has been going a hundred miles an hour with work. There has been writing, there has been the scribbling of notes, there has been the divine lure of whiteboard pens moving impatiently over whiteboard, there has been An Idea! It has been, and still is, glorious. And all it really means is more work! Hurrah!

Also my diet has ... well, not floundered, but been in a kind of stalemate. My "maintenance" period has gone on for nearly two months instead of the usual one and while I'm only a couple of pounds more than I was on my birthday (when the great Grind-To-A-Halt began) I know that I put on half a stone on top of that, but I also lost it again. Pretty quick too, but if I hadn't wallowed in the excuse of "maintenance" where might I be now? I've been using that one to kick myself with for a week or two - "I would have been so much thinner/fitter/healthier/sparklyandnew, if only, if only" and so on. I'm seeing some folks I haven't seen for a while soon and I've been angry at myself for not being better for them to set eyes upon. For having lost focus and, therefore, having lost some of my worth. And then it happened - something else that has been a long time coming - my realisation that I'm not doing any of this for anyone but me. That's the only person I should be doing and can do it for. That, no matter what I do, whether I continue or stay right here, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, whether they think I'm fat or thin, bonkers or smart, whatever I do, I do it because it's been making me feel better, it has been improving my life.

I've talked about this kind of thing, this freeing yourself from the shackles of your past, of your present, of your possible futures, of yourself, the dead choking weight of the expectations of others (or your perceived version of them) but I'm not sure I've ever truly realised it for myself. I knew how I should be thinking, but I never felt it deep down inside. Not really. The past few days, the tiny cry of "hot dang! I'm an idiot, what are THEY going to think?" in my head has been getting louder. And then, all of a sudden, it stopped. Just like that - and *poof* so did a fair portion of the anxiety I've carried for years. Maybe it's the benefit of getting older. The realization that time is a-wasting and that means my time, no one else's - so why am I wasting it worrying about Them? The only thing I really have is my life and that fucker's on a countdown to oblivion as it is. Being wrapped up in what people might think of me, in the shadows that I fear, in the million different ass-kicking minutiae that I've let dog me for so long, is fat hairy balls.

Big fat hairy balls.

Pfft. Let them think what they want. Bite me. It's time for this show to get back on the road, but only because I say so. If I fancy a large slice of chocolate cake (vegan, natch) and not running for a week, then that is up to me. As long as it makes me happy. And not that superficial face-tiring grin-toothed happy; I mean the sort of happy that lives deep down inside you, in the place that fuels you.

For most of my life, I've been living under the fog of believing that I'm a fraud, an impostor, a shrill wannabe who is just trying to grab the headlines (figuratively speaking) What bollocks. The sort of thinking that has allowed someone else's childish jealousy stop me living the life I deserve. How can I be a fraud? I'm ME. What else could, should, would I be? It's all I've ever been and all I ever will be. I'm not concerned with tearing down other people and never have been - although I do have a capacity for being a bitch that makes old Peter Parker's spidey-sense look like a spoonful of mashed potato. I simply want to live and have fun doing it if I can. That's all I've ever wanted, but I've let my own insecurity (not to mention stupidity) and other people box me into a kind of atrophy.  And the kicker is, they didn't even have to try very bloody hard!

Really, in the end, what else do we have but ourselves? Every day you tear off the calendar is a day less you get to take care of you. So do it now. Stop kicking yourself over shit that doesn't matter, stop letting the shitdickery of others get to you, and try to focus on how fucking unique and wonderful you are. Because you are. I am too. Where's the shame in saying so? No one is perfect and anyone who says they are needs some kind of serious professional help. But you are the most perfect you there is. The only you there is. You might consider yourself a work-in-progress, but that doesn't mean that in this moment you are not valuable, that you are not beautiful, that you are not worthwhile. You are. I am. We are.

Except for you. You ugly.

Friday 2 September 2011

On Gothic

I wrote the following (very) short piece some while ago for writer Theodora Goss, who asked her blog readers to define "gothic" for her. Gothic fiction has always been my bag, so to speak, and when I remembered that I'd scribbled this, I thought I'd share it so you would see that I sometimes think about things other than the size of my arse or my neuroses.

For me, 'gothic' is that which makes us feel unsettled or uncertain, that seems to take pleasure in wrong footing us or makes us itch to look back over our shoulder so we are sure it's not gaining on us.  It’s an artistic representation, in whatever form, of the oppressive shadow of the unknown, or even the unknowable, that dogs the human race.  It tantalizes us with its familiarity, making us certain that we are within reach of rational explanations concerning the mysteries it claims, while reminding us that we are woefully ignorant about both the world we exist in and the psychology of our own species.  It is a precursor and a cousin to the Romantic idea of the sublime; that indefinable quality which while it beguiles us can also, somehow, threaten us.  It makes our heart beat a little faster and although we know we shouldn't lift the curtain or take the candle to explore the dark recesses beyond, we simply cannot help ourselves; it is the war between our rational and instinctive selves.  It's the promise or threat of that which is just beyond human reach, the "what if". 

I was trying to think of or find something that for me defines the Gothic.  I was wracking my brain until I watched a programme on the BBC this evening - someone was on a quest to witness the Aurora Borealis.  It occurred to me that the Aurora are something really quite gothic in that they have an entirely rational, scientific explanation and yet they are sublimely "other" and supernatural to us mere mortals.   Could a gothic heroine be more trapped in a dark and musty castle than we are on a tiny planet in a forgotten corner of the universe? 

Wednesday 31 August 2011

MILESTONE - a weight edition

I've passed another milestone (not a gallstone, a MILEstone) I've slipped under 15 stone. That still sounds like a frightening weight, I agree, but I haven't been this light since I was 20 years old. Admittedly I was still a porky pie then but not as much as I quickly became. Between the age of 20 and 21, I put on almost 5 stone (that's 70lbs or nearly 32kgs) A corking achievement by anyone's standards. I'm eternally surprised my heart withstood the onslaught (especially as between 19 and 20, I'd already stacked up an impressive 3 stone gain - don't believe the clichés, folks; love doesn't make the world go round, it makes your arse bigger) So, nearly 18 years later I'm slipping back down the slippery pole, so to speak, and it feels MAGIC!

Tuesday 30 August 2011

The Hole in my Bucket

Anger, hate, fear, all that dark side mcshizzle, it's really hard stuff to deal with. Add self-doubt, resentment, frustration and impotence (whatever your negative emotion du jour might be) to the list and you can guarantee yourself a good dose of heartburn in no time at all. Well, I’m learning something. It’s nothing new. It’s nothing fancy. It is, however, something good. Something positive with which to cack on the faces of mine enemies, so to speak.

I’m learning to let shit go.

That’s right. The unwelcome memories, the uncomfortable feelings, all that doohickey comes into my head and, although I’m early on in my rehabilitation, it goes out again. Blows away like puffs of lovely breeze on a summer’s day …  yes, I’m full of crapola, I know you know it. That vajazzle “pops” into my head with about as much subtlety as a brick, stirs all the nonsense up like mad until I’m pounding all my metaphoricals against a good ol’ spiritual breeze block and losing grey matter like Henry’s bucket loses water.

And yet … it doesn’t so much. Not anymore. It’s hard work, but I’m starting to get what someone of my age should probably have been in possession of a great long while ago, and that’s perspective.

I’m starting to see all that shizzle for what it really is – nothing. Bygones are exactly that, recrimination is ultimately futile because you know what? Life is short. Shit happens, we do wrong, people wrong us, but life goes on. Life always goes on. One day I might be here, the next I could be gone. Why waste my time on stuff that really doesn’t matter, on stuff that realistically I can do nothing about? People will inevitably make their own judgements, have their own beliefs, their own interpretations, they will drag their own cart of human failings with them, and they will think of me what they will. I can’t do much about it. If I screech and whine that “you don’t know me” or  wotnot, I’m just going to look like an arse. If I bleat on about how you’re just as much to blame, or how you’re not perfect either, what does that achieve except to widen those ever decreasing circles?

The only thing we have is now. And I don’t want my now filled with the bitterness of remembrance past or futile desire. I just want to be. That’s right, my full stop is in the right place. I just want to be.

So when the bad egginess of life comes into my head, when I start to beat myself up about all the things I’ve let myself down about, all the people who’ve done me wrong, or all the things I coulda woulda shoulda, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to let it pass through my noggin and out into the ether. It might take me a while to get to grips with it, but do it I will. And you should too. Don’t let the world grab you by the balls and make you sick with the inappropriate graspage. Try to see other people's shit for what it is - theirs and ultimately pointless. It's just a pot of piss for them to niggle over while they forget to live. It's not easy; the better things are for us, the harder they seem to be. Letting go is tricksy to learn but I think once we have the hang of it, life will be much brighter.

Monday 22 August 2011

A Farewell to Lost Causes

I've pretty much felt like an impostor and an imposer my whole life - been made to feel it too for a lot of that time, but of course that's just me making things up, being all dramz and such … *headdesk* - but what surprises me most when I talk to other people is just how many feel the same way about themselves. For a race that likes to think of itself as naturally inclined to the tribal and familial, it seems odd that so much of humankind feels out of place. Is it because of the artificial pressures society creates to keep us in check? Or is it some latent sense of competitive survival that makes other people want to make lines in the social sand - lines that one day simply don’t exist and then the next are in full force, like a giant brick wall at the bottom of the hill no one's seen fit to tell you about as you get on your slick-wheeled skateboard at the top?
People we thought were our friends turn away from us when we need them most - we're too demanding, too selfish, too bonkers - even though we've weathered their bullshit with little comment and have helped them out when they've needed it, no questions asked. Those we love suddenly don't seem to know us at all, or we look at them and think "who the fuck are you?” For some, our characters are set in stone and no matter what we do, how we change or try to be better, to get away from what we once were, to redefine ourselves and benefit from the sometimes hard lessons we've learned, they still think they've got us pegged. There's nothing like a little patience and forgiveness, is there? 
I spend so much time thinking about this - "no, really?" I hear you cry - and I'm finally sick to fucking death of it. Not just for me, but for everyone else who's been bootheeled by some leeching pariah who has then gone on to mark you with the Scarlet Letters of "FAULT", as though they are the victims and not you, the one left with a dirty great skid mark across your soul for all to see. 

So brothers and sisters, here's what I say. It's time to rise up against those who thwart us, those who look down on us, judge us, use us and abuse us. But we won’t waste our energy on fighting this shitdickery, oh no. We will, instead, let them go. Let their heartless bastardy float off into the ether and leave it there for karma to pick up as it pleases (and one day deliver big boils to the appropriate bottoms) So, sing with me from our collective hymn book. Turn to page one, Hymn Number one: 

A Farewell to Lost Causes

I'm sick of wanting you in my life. I'm sick of being inclined to be nice to you. I'm sick of hoping to impress you, to get you to like me, to hope that it could ever be like it once was or how I hoped it would be. I thought I needed you, thought that I was less of a person because of what happened with our relationship or lack thereof, but I've realized that I don't need you in my life anymore, I'm not sure I ever did. You can blame me for everything; I simply don't have it in me to care anymore. I'm tired of being the villain - and you know what? How about you take your fucking turn and take some of the responsibility? Try looking at yourself and realizing that you are every bit as flawed as me? That you are every bit as culpable and self-centred as you have tried to colour me.

You do not know me, you see only what you want to see, you took me for granted, you used me, you turned your back on me when it wasn't easy anymore, when I didn't hide my problems, or kowtow to your prima donna demands, when I just wanted a little of your time, your kindness, or when, finally, I simply didn’t let your bullshit fly. I admit I wasn't always easy but, Christ on a bike, who is? 

When I said enough, and you thought "fuck you" you tried to diminish me, to make me not matter. Well, take this plate of disdain and chow down, you self-righteous evidence of evolution - I'm calling you Cro-Magnon, arse wipe - because it's my turn to tell you to poke it. Civilisation should be a place of motherfucking peace (I see the dichotomy I've dished up there) and if you're so fucking civilised and RIGHT why don't you behave more decently? Why the silence? Why the blame? Why the shitkicking attitude?

I hereby set myself free from the tyranny of blame. I do not take the blame for everything, it wasn’t all me, and I will not let your judgment matter to me. Fuck that and fuck you. Because I'm done.

Yours sincerely

Anyone who's ever been blistered by other people's fuckery.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Brick Wall

I confess, I hit something of a brick wall. Running this week has been hard. And you'd better capitalise that suckah! And that's beside the fact that I've had the urge to eat practically everything in sight - damn you Mother Nature. During an unfortunate time of the month, I've been doing week 4 of the Ease into 10k programme, which has me running for 8 mins and walking for 1, 4 times (plus 10 minutes warm up/cool down) I can run half an hour straight so it shouldn't be so hard ... but it has been. Very. Yesterday I got on the treadmill, started the programme, got to 17 mins and realised I simply couldn't keep going. I had to stop. So I did.

The thing I've learned more than anything these past few months is not simply to listen to my body, but how to know that I'm really listening to it - and not to my greedy old brain. It didn't want to go on. It wanted to lay down on the sofa and just kick back for a bit. My body did. Not my mind. It was absolutely my body. And that's the big difference - because my sloth-prone mind would have liked to have stayed on the sofa three months ago and not got off ... well, maybe it would have thought about getting up to grab some snacks.

I briefly thought about not running today, that maybe my body needed a bit more rest. I thought I'd try a much shorter run, that I'd go back to the beginning of the 5k programme and take it easy. I got on the treadmill and finished week 4 of the 10k instead. Because my body said it didn't have no truck with no measly 90 second sessions of running. It wanted to leap and glide (well, huff and puff and sweat like a motherbitch) and it did, kind of.

Now I feel much better.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Being the Change you want to see in the world. Pfft.

GAH. I'm right in the middle of the blasted doldrums. No lovely breeze, no sailing forth, no other maritime clichés - of which I am clearly ignorant. I'm still running (bit hard on the water *da-dum-dum-tsssh* ... I should be ashamed, you're quite right) and have definitely changed, but I'm slap bang in the middle of one of those horrid slumps where you wonder what the fuck you're bothering with any of it for. 

Yes, I'm a bit lighter, I'm fitter, but when I look in the mirror I am still, for all intents and purposes, a fat lady. BIG WAH, right? But my point really is that I never noticed this shit before. The double chin was just part of my life, now it hangs about on the underside of my face, like a succulent grotesquerie of a limpet, making me see a jowly fucker who needs to put down the pies and not someone who runs almost every day and watches what she eats. My legs have completely changed and not entirely in a good way. They're more solid for sure, but you can probably see the cellulite in my thighs from Mars. Cellulite! What the fuck is that - except hard proof that there can be no benevolent God? Globular clusters of Nature's gelatinous fuckery, that's what it is. And we'll not even begin to mention the state of my stomach. GAH, I say again. This losing weight/healthier lifestyle has it perks, but there's only so much feeling better and not having headaches all the time that you can take before ... okay, so it's actually brilliant, I am definitely healthier and I generally feel pretty good about myself ... until I take a look and then I'm right back to wanting to gag the mooch in the mirror and shove her in a cupboard until she's skinny! And I hate skinny! I don't want to be skinny, I just want to be a regular size so I can shop easily for clothes and not have to invest in badly designed, overpriced tents. I want to be able to run, jump, hop, skip, whatever the feck I feel like doing whenever I feel like doing it, and not be anchored to the earth by my Lusitaniac arse. And that metaphor makes me think about torpedos up the bum, which means I have lost my way here somewhat ... 

Frustration is a right royal arse pain and I am the queen of driving myself crazy with all the "what-I-can't-dos" rather than focussing on what I can. Reality? What's that? Long term thinking? What use is that to me right at this very sulky, pessimissitc, slightly churlish minute? The thing about change, the thing that we all know, is that it's hard. But it's even harder when you're chiselling the behemoth down from 22 stone and nobody sees the 7 stone you've lost, they see the 4 or 5 more you should probably get on with losing instead of whining about it here. Including me. GAH. 

On a serious note, the changes I've made have given me a new understanding of eating disorders, which I thought were quite alien to me - until I realised I was a compulsive over-eater (midway through jamming the fifth or sixth packet of crisps into my mouth when I felt frustrated, lonely and downright low) Compulsive eating and anorexia are so easy to dismiss by anyone who's never felt the extremes that the combination of food, bad self-image, low self-esteem and their ineffable mutation can produce in the mind. And I mean extremes. None of your Special K/Lorraine Kelly-esque "three pounds off for summer" shitdickery. I'm talking about the "if I eat that/don't eat that, everything will be all right" psychoses that can turn your world into a waking nightmare of control or lack thereof, a battle that is exhausting and might eventually kill you.

I started losing weight and consciously becoming more healthy because I realised I was so far out of control that if I didn't do something about it, I was going to die. Simple as. So I took command of my ship, made a few decisions, and it felt good (that makes it sound so easy. It wasn't) But dealing with the self-image problem is the hardest part of it. My self-esteem has never been the best and now I am finding fault with myself over things that I don't, if I'm objective, actually have much more control over than I'm already exerting - not unless I want to slip into the crazy, and dangerous, world of yo-yo dieting. But this doesn't stop me finding fault and letting it affect what is a very delicate rebuilding of my "self". 

I guess my real point is that losing weight is hard fucking work. At times it can be traumatic, it can be confusing, then elating, and then it can kick you to the floor. Hard. It can be the best idea you ever had and it can be the very worst. I feel like not much has changed, but it has - no matter what I might say, I can see that. It's just ... tiring. Not all the time, sometimes it's invigorating, often it’s rewarding. But quite a lot of the time I get the urge to fall face first into a giant chocolate cake slathered with chocolate frosting and not come up for air. To fall asleep in all that sugary evil. Because I'm tired. I’m right in the middle of the doldrums and I need the breeze to lift my sails. 

Beans for lunch then ...

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Deferment ... or Procrastination by any other name would smell as grubsome


[proh-kras-tuh-neyt, pruh-] 
verb, -nat·ed, -nat·ing.
–verb (used without object)
1. to defer action; delay: to procrastinate until an opportunity is lost.  (from

This is what I am doing right now. Procrastinating. Delaying. Putting it off. Being an arse. Because that's what I do. I procrastinate. I woke up this morning knowing what I was going to do today, knowing that I was going to write - WRITE GODDAMMIT - and yet here I am writing, to be sure, but not writing what I had planned to, what I'm excited about. Because that's what I do. I self-sabotage. I'm even conscious of doing it, but I have so far been unable to counter it. To tell it to kiss my fat shiny arse. To defeat it, that tiny voice of unreason that insists if I start this thing I am going to regret it, that I can't do it anyway, that I'm an impostor, a fraud, a bungling fool who'll only end up making a mess and drowning in a puddle of her own presumption. 

Well, fuck that. I'm sick of the loss, of constantly thinking "what if". No one else is going to do it for me, and I'm finally sick of waiting for them to - of waiting for some magic event that will "change everything". That's what's different about this day. I am the change I want to see in the world, Mr Gandhi said something along those lines, and it's finally true. Today I name my sin, my filthsome companion, the low-bellied Procrastination. I have named it and shamed it. Go now, Procrastination and join my other cast offs, Messrs Envy, Sloth and Greed. Because today, I write. 

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Requiem for a Life Misspent

Being fat isn't always the misery The Daily Mail, soulless glossy magazines and Lorraine Kelly would have you believe. I know. I'm still fat, but I was, three and a half years ago, dangerously obese. I weighed over 22 stone (nearly 141kgs or 310 pounds) moved as little as humanly possible and ate the equivalent of a small european principality (women and children first, naturally) And until that golden moment when I looked at myself in the mirror and didn't recognise me anymore, when I saw the grey faced, heaving mass I'd become instead of the blonde, merely chubby cheeked girl I'd once been and still believed I was, I'd been having a bloody ball. Make no mistake, eating whatever you want and not worrying about it? Drinking to excess (and then a little more) and having the odd crafty ciggie (but not realising you'd started to smoke every day) without once considering what it might be doing to you? It was Bloody Marvellous. I couldn't have cared less.

Of course, we all suffer the odd moment of doubt, especially when other people are wonderfully unkind and prejudiced with their snarky off the cuff remarks in the name of "honesty" - listen, you want to be honest with me? Don't be a fucking pussy about it. Come out and tell me, don't pretend later that you "tried to tell me" - when we both know you're full of shit - because all those sly remarks and helpful hints? They're about as fucking honest as a politician and as useful as Henry's bucket. Put your cock in your hand and use the fucking thing, metaphorically bien sûr. I digress.

Being fat and oblivious is genuinely blissful. Body hang ups? Not me. What a waste of time! Let's just crack on! And it really didn't matter, not for long anyway, what anyone said or implied, my ignorance was as sturdy as my tree trunk legs and my behemoth duck's back.

But that golden moment ... ah, that golden moment. It changes everything. That swirling vertigo of disbelief coupled with a smack in the face that turns out to be reality is quite something. I am grateful for it every single day, but I can't turn my back on the oblivious, self-centred and really rather mad creature that I was. To do so would be foolish. She's part of me, she always will be, so to forget about her, to tell you I'm an entirely different woman, would be disingenuous. It would also be unfair to me. I've worked hard to battle ocd, depression and some really rather nasty anxiety problems - all of this part of the reason I'd become so overweight in the first place; my arse was my shield, so to speak - my battle with my seemingly endless lack of self-esteem is an ongoing project, but I no longer punish myself daily for the mistakes I made years ago. I've fucked up friendships, I've allowed "friends" to fuck me over, but where once I would have slapped that hurt onto the other layers of regret and misery, I take the lesson I need, turn my back on the rest, and keep on moving. Because I've learned. I really have. I'm different from how I was one, five, ten, fifteen years ago, I am an improved version, a happier version - but I could not have done it without accepting who I was, who I'd become and then set about doing something about it.  The sins of the past can go fuck themselves, because now is all I have, all anyone has, and right now I'm better, I'm stronger and, almost impossibly, I'm faster.

So instead of a dirgy old Requiem, let's call this an Ode to a Lesson Learned.

Monday 4 July 2011

Summertime Blues (a brief ramble)

Just so you know, I do not like the summer. As far as I'm concerned, Summer can turn right on its heel and sod off. I don't know what it is about this time of year but it almost never agrees with me. It's not the heat (I love hot sunny weather) and I'm not one of those people who feel a terrible sense of vertigo when they look up at a clear blue sky.  Aside from the various allergies that can wear you down, there's just something about the evenings that is tinged with melancholia. My skin feels itchy with it, my stomach tightens with anxiety and, quite frankly, I yearn for the dark of winter, the inclemency of late autumn, or the showers of spring. Maybe it's the latent memory of happy childhood summers that you always know are going to end too soon and the realisation that before it's barely started you'll be back in the prison of school - except that's nonsense, because I loved school and couldn't wait to get back. Maybe it's simply nostalgia for those days, for the carefree times when anything was possible and everything was still to come. No blind alleys had yet been charged into. I wasn't hampered by anything, including myself.

My first thought was that whatever the cause, with all the changes in weather patterns going on I hope it works out in my favour and summer eventually becomes a thing of the past - but I'm not sure that's true. I'd rather be able to appreciate a fine summer evening without feeling sad or anxious, to look around me and think "this here, right now, is perfect". After all, this moment now is all we really have. The past is gone, the future might not ever be. Now is all there is.

All that said, so far this is probably my best summer, in terms of mood, for a very long time. I'll keep my fingers crossed that it stays that way.

Saturday 2 July 2011

Sucker Punched

300 was a feast for the eyes so I was excited about Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch when I first heard about it all those moons ago. My excitement waned when I heard some reports but I thought "what the hey, can't be that bad, right?"


I'm not even sure where to start. Aside from the fact that it discriminates so heavily against the mentally ill (the final message seeming to be that those with mental problems or scars have to be sacrificed for the sane to be free - isn't that fucking nice?) and the way the young women were dressed and presented in the "liberation" sequences (like a dirty old man's wet dream)  it was badly scripted and plotted like a lead boot. A really big lead boot that you can see coming eight miles away. If Zardoz had a boot, this would be that boot. And it would be that pointless. The execrable scenes near the end with John Hamm as the High-Roller made me feel like my skin was being peeled from my face in a cheesey-inferno of distate. Sickening doesn't really cover it.

I was disappointed and, moreover, angry.  I thought this was going to be an empowering cavalcade of hardcore whimsy. What I found was something contemptible. Even the Zombie Clockwork Nazis couldn't save it. Now that speaks volumes.

Thursday 30 June 2011

Free The Bees!

I had the strangest dream. All else aside, and there was a lot of "else", I dreamed that I collected lots of bees, who were in different coloured jerseys - they seemed to be in teams of green, red, blue, and yellow, striped, obviously, these were bees after all - and put them in a big jar. Later I released them but by then they were in my mouth and I had to get them out so they could be free. They never felt like they were getting aggressive or that I was in danger of being stung, in fact I remember thinking that I was lucky not to be stung (who wouldn't?) and that the bees all seemed pretty cheery. Those bees, they can have a good time anywhere, right? ... Anyway, I woke up shouting "FREE THE BEES". Maudie, for one, wasn't entirely happy with the interruption. 
I'm sure there's some big-up Freudian McShizzle in there (and if I start telling you about the lady who was collecting something else, I forget what, who drove through the snowy night in her incongruous porsche only for it to freeze into a giant poseur ice cube, we'll just complicate matters) but what I can extrapolate from my generally perplexing dream dictionary, is that I am, or should be, open and receptive to being "busy as a bee". The predominant colour of bee jersey was green, which suggests new growth and also feelings of calm and hope. I will ignore the other suggestions in the dictionary wherein I am painted as a jealous harridan who is destined to be a weakling. The dream was positive so I feel free to be as selective as I choose. Because that is how I roll. So now I'm off to go all hive on my beeswax and get some work done. 

"When the flower blooms, the bees come uninvited" - Ramakrishna. 

Tuesday 28 June 2011


This is a beginning, you'll be pleased to know. How should I begin, then? Let me tell you about my weekend.

I ventured forth from my mountain fortress in Switzerland into the wilds of Derby for alt.fiction (how much of that is a lie is for you to ponder) I was fortunate enough to meet a couple of friends while there - the divine Miss Kate Laity and the mighty Miss Adele Wearing - both of whom were involved in proceedings. So I didn't entirely feel like the new kid at school. I haven't been to a literary convention before. I'd been to many Astronomy ones as a kid - and they were completely different. 

It was nice to be surrounded by people who like the things I like. Mind you, I grew up with a family full of them, but sometimes it's good to know that Other People are out there, reading the scares, and understanding the beauty of genre. Although I'm fairly friendly, I have a pathological belief that me interrupting people and saying hello is always an inconvenience to them, so I don't tend to start conversations with people I don't know. Sometimes I don't start them with those I do know ... and sometimes I witter on with wild abandon and only afterwards think, SHUT IT ... Anyway, I didn't meet many people because of my stupidity, but I earwigged conversations, put some gratuitous people watching time in, went to panels and readings, and drank some cider. It was a fine weekend.

What I took away from it, as a timid writer, is to take it seriously. This is a job. You need to be professional and not be a twat about it. If you want to succeed, the only real way is to believe in yourself and your stories. If you won't stand up for your work, who will? The next thing I learned, however (and this was something that surprised me about the mindset of too many people to think about) is you shouldn't believe in your work to the nth degree. Blind faith and "my mum says it's brilliant" are not the currency that will get you published. What will is hard work, a realistic outlook, and a professional attitude. Those writing in crayon need not apply.

So if, next year, you're thinking you should get out there and live your love of genre, alt.fiction might well be a place for you to start.