Deep breath. Count to ten. Think of nice things. Bunny rabbits. Sunshine. Sian Williams.
At 6am this morning I was sat at my computer, furiously hacking away at the novel. The second draft is almost complete. When you embrace this writing nonsense, a thing such as editing a scene where a guy is jerked off in a hot tub by a girl while her brother watches (it’s romantic, honest, guv) seems commonplace. The brother, if you care, is totally fine with it.
Anyway, enough with the spoilers.
Work life. Serious shit. The City. Moorgate. I am skating on professional thin ice right now. Told an individual of high-standing to ‘Zip it’ (mouth, not trousers). The older I get, the less I give a fuck. Besides, I was right.
Somehow writing seems to make everything okay.
As a companion to my horror piece I thought I’d take a stab at science fiction…
I guess you could say my novel is science fiction. It was never meant to be, but its futuristic trappings (coincidental, make the plot work) and some of the concepts mean it fits better there than in any other world. It’s more of a social commentary, really. I often think the best science fiction is a magnification of present society. Not that I consider mine ‘the best science fiction,’ but you know what I mean…
My love of science fiction was born alongside my love of horror. I remember it well. Doctor Who. 1986. Terror Of The Vervoids. Cronenberg-esque body horror and philosophical questions about genocide somehow drowned out Bonnie Langford’s shrill screams. Here we were. In space. In the future. And I fucking loved it. Anything could happen.
It doesn’t stand up today, of course, but at the time I was agog. And from that, I loved Doctor Who. Classic, not New. New stuff is okay, but I can’t help thinking it belongs to a younger generation.
When Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989, I bought as many videos as my pocket money would allow and read probably half the Target novelizations. Many of the books were better than the shows they were based on (I’m looking at you, Attack Of The Cybermen). But soon I wanted more. (I dragged my poor mother to a convention in 1992 and that’s me in the picture above with Colin Baker, my Doctor.)
Blake’s 7 was next. A decade too late, but I bought the first few episodes on a whim. God bless the VHS. Jesus Christ, it was bleak. Wonderful and bleak. Sod Game Of Thrones, you want a show that ruthlessly kills its off cast members, get on Blake’s 7. I always identified with the sociopathic nerd, Avon. I liked everything about him other than his haircut. Even today, I still occasionally try to clip my voice like Paul Darrow. And I probably sound like an idiot when I do it.
Around that time I read Asimov’s first Foundation Trilogy. And that just blew me away. The world he created. The possibilities!
So here I was, 12 years old. Most of my classmates were into MC Hammer; I was into Hari Seldon predicting the future by mathematically modelling human behaviour.
I was never going to be an estate agent.
In provincial England, 1992, imagination and a curious mind were celebrated with a swift gut punch and a homophobic slur. I suppose it toughened me up. What it didn’t do was turn me off.
So I found Ballard and practiced my left hook.
Even today I’m still discovering new, wonderful pieces of science fiction.
The novel ‘Ship Of Fools’ by Richard Paul Russo is a superb, frightening story set (mainly) on a large spaceship. I don’t even know how I found out about it. Maybe Amazon. Maybe a friend.
There’s a film called ‘Lifeforce’, which I stumbled onto through Netflix last year. Directed by Tobe Hooper, it is, essentially, two hours of a naked, beautiful alien lady kissing people and turning them into zombies. And it’s got Harry from Spooks in it.
You wouldn’t see such diversity in any other genre. Yet science fiction is still that grubby little section at the back of the bookstore (just behind horror), where the weirdoes with the body odour and the social anxiety huddle.
I don’t understand the stigma, yet I do nothing to relieve it. I have felt less embarrassed buying porn than I have buying science fiction. I’ll stand in the queue at Waterstones with a copy of the Stainless Steel Rat hidden inside a Murakami.
What’s truly wonderful now is all the Yong Adult (YA) stuff. The Hunger Games is doing wonders for the genre and it makes me wish I was a teenager again, so I could be swept up in the zeitgeist. But alas, I look on with the detachment and jealousy of adulthood.