Monday, 31 May 2010

The N+7 Machine

I love the "N+7" machine. Several blog posts below, I posted a rather tame poem about iron men, and I thought it would be fun to squirt said poem through the "N+7" machine.

Here is the original:

Of what do Iron Men think,
when staring silently out to sea?
As the tide turns, and the waters rise,
and the mud grips ever tighter to their feet.
Do they sail to Another Place,
where iron lungs don't leak and burn?

And here is the result (it's odd, but in all the text I've shoved through so far I always seem to prefer the N+5 output, and this is what's shown below):

Of what do Irrelevancy Mandarins think,
when staring silently out to seagull?
As the tiff turns, and the watermarks rissole,
and the muffin groans ever tighter to their foothills.
Do they salaam to Another Plagiarist,
where irrelevancy lushes doodle't leap and burrow?

The "N+7" machine can be found here:

N+7 Machine

Why not put some of your own text in and see what comes out?

I learned of the N+7 machine whilst reading Rhys Hughes' blog,

The Spoons That Are My Ears

It seems right and proper to say so.

A fine day out...

We braved the weather and were rewarded with 'not a bad day for it', and took a drive into South Yorkshire. Our destination was Holmfirth, a small town set deep in the countryside and home to the long-running (actually, longest running) television sit-com "The Last of the Summer Wine".

I'm a big fan of the television show—it's the kind of gentle comedy I like to explore in my own writing. It's sad that many of the characters who made the show what it is have died off in real life. The show goes on with new characters, and it remains in my opinion still pretty good, but the old ones are tough acts to follow.

We took coffee in Sid and Ivy's café. It's more or less as it appears in the show, although unlike in the show it was packed with tourists. I felt foolish in selecting a sticky bun only to be told it was for display only. Well, it looked real enough, and it was probably in keeping with the show.

The town itself is rather small. We walked around it, twice, and barely broke sweat, but of course its quaint charm is that it's not the city.

We went up on to the "moors" for lunch, and found a Coach House serving overpriced food that was tasty yet overall disappointing. Still, it's a gamble when one doesn't know the area, I suppose.

This was Saddleworth Moor, backdrop to the infamous Moors Murders of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Such a bleak place, it's easy to see how bones can lie here undiscovered and brooding. I want to come back here at night, to experience this place in darkness. I imagine it's an eerie place to be in the dark.

So, there's no great message in this post. It's just a day out. And why not, eh? Sometimes, simple days out are what the soul needs.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Rain, rain, go away...

It's a bank holiday weekend in England. It was sunny and warm last week, but now it's rainy and cold. Oh, how the Gods of Weather do mock us Englishmen (and women). Oh, how they wave their danglies derisively in our very faces.

A God about to lift his skirt and
wave his danglies, yesterday.

But do we complain? Do our stiff upper lips waver one instant? Of course; but the Gods don't listen.


Still, never mind, there's always the summer.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Snail Mail Rules

I sent off a short story submission today. Nothing unusual in that, Stevie boy, I hear you say. But this was a real, paper submission, in an envelope and with stamps on and everything.

I can't remember the last time I did that. Everything's electronic these days—push-of-a-button-easy—or so I thought.

But, I liked it. It felt like a real submission; like the old days of International Reply Coupons and Air-mail stickers. Mind you, the post office had closed down, and the other post office has double yellow lines and a permanently grumpy Traffic Warden who patrols troll-like up and down outside. And there was a large queue of old ladies out for a bit of a chat and a stamp or two, so that rather slowed things down.

Still, it's oddly satisfying to hand over a real letter, particularly if it's headed to some foreign land. It feels more of a journey, more of an adventure.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Bizarro ate my Hovercraft

I wrote some Bizarro fiction. Basically, it would seem to be fiction in which the rules of coherence are pretty much relaxed. Things can happen seemingly for the sake of things happening. Amazing events can be, because there's no great pressure to explain them within the story.

I think this lack of regimentation is probably why I've never attempted Bizarro before—although it has been suggested to me that all speculative fiction is to a degree Bizarro by its fantastical nature. I can relate to that, to some extent, but I think it's a sin to think speculative fiction should be exempt from many of the rules of writing that make fiction at the very least readable. I like writing with rules in mind; it keeps me from slipping away too far into the bizarre—a charge I'd levy at much of the Bizarro fiction I've read.

But, that said, I enjoyed the freedom in writing this piece. I'm going to send it to Pedestal Magazine's Bizarro Fiction Edition and see what happens. It might not be Bizarro enough, or it might stand out because all the other submissions are Bizarro extremis.

We shall see.

Friday, 21 May 2010

I am Masked

Over at Mercedes' blog, I'm a "Mysterious Writer in a Mask".

Actually, I'm more of an idiot in a post box, but there you go.

A Broken Laptop

Thanks to Mercedes for having me over...

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Steve the Pole

I finished lesson thirty of my thirty lesson Polish language audio course. I averaged a lesson a week, I think.

Does this mean you're supercharged with Slovak enunciations? I hear you ask.

Well, I can certainly speak more Polish now than when I started. But what a fiendishly difficult language Polish is to learn. I can ask for things like where the bathroom is, and order drinkies like a native; I can book a hotel room and find my way around the railway station. But it strikes me to be anywhere near conversational in such a language would need total immersion probably forever. It's a language dreamed up by someone during one of life's more fluid lunchtimes.

I should have known that when the guide said of grammar: Don't worry if you have to stick to the nominative case—the Poles will understand you and make exceptions for you as a foreigner— because it's not like the Poles themselves speak all the various cases correctly anyway.

I should have said: hang on, if they don't, then what chance have I?

I'm not a natural when it comes to learning languages, which is odd really as I do consider myself to have a love of words and how they're strung together (isn't that a definition of writer, after all?). But one thing this exercise has done is to have given me a renewed respect for my mother tongue.

Having seen first hand what the Poles may do, I'll never abuse English again.

Well, hardly.

Friday, 14 May 2010

A Very Odd Brain

I received a Facebook comment today that I have a 'very odd brain'. And I love it. It was from Wendy Darling who was commenting on how much she'd enjoyed reading my novel Digging up Donald. I think writers of comic works probably do need an odd brain.

I loved also that Wendy spoke of Storm Constantine's words when pressing the book on Wendy—'(She) kept saying: "You have to read it, I can't describe!"'. It's really gratifying that someone with Storm's track record in publishing would think like that of my work.

I dip back into reading Donald myself from time to time, which is odd as I rarely re-read anything else I've written. Maybe it's that I have a great fondness for the lad. Or maybe it's I'm a closet narcissist. And I always get a thrill when someone passes comment on it—good or bad. So thank you, Wendy, for brightening my day.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Of What Do Iron Men Think?

Of what do Iron Men think,
when staring silently out to sea?

This is a most unusual work of art. He is made from cast iron, and is one of an installation of one hundred such iron men fixed five hundred metres apart into the sands of Crosby beach, about ten miles to the north of Liverpool. When the tide is low, they stand like sentinels against the receding sea. Twice daily, when the tide rises, they drown without fuss or cry.

Of what do Iron Men think,
when staring silently out to sea?
As the tide turns, and the waters rise,
and the mud grips ever tighter to their feet.

The installation, the work of Antony Gormley, is called "Another Place". The men are made from casts of Gormley's own body. They stare towards America. Previously, they'd been exhibited in Germany, Norway, and Belgium, and were due to be relocated to New York. That will not now happen, and the work will remain permanently in Crosby.

Of what do Iron Men think,
when staring silently out to sea?
As the tide turns, and the waters rise,
and the mud grips ever tighter to their feet.
Do they sail to Another Place,
where iron lungs don't leak and burn?

There were "someone's trapped and drowning" calls when they first went in. And shipping needed buoys to warn of them just submerged. Three were moved as they upset birds breeding nearby. And the curious thing is they look different at different times, as if storms and calm seas affect them in unseen ways.

Of what do Iron Men think?

There's a story for me in there somewhere.

Monday, 10 May 2010

A Tale of Two... erm, A Prostitute

I wrote a story about a prostitute specifically with submitting to a forthcoming anthology in mind. It's done and dusted and duly polished, but I have a dilemma. The guidelines say (paraphrased) "…despite the prostitution theme, I'm not looking for pornography or erotica".

I'd argue that whilst I've pulled no punches with this story it's neither of those (unless it's a particularly weird form of erotica :-)

I'm toying with the idea of saying this in the cover letter. And my dilemma is I've never felt the need to justify the content of a story before, nor actually suggest in a cover letter that the story might be rejected as possibly too brutal, too risqué.

I'll probably just send it as normal and allow it to stand or fall at the Editor's whim. But it's been an interesting thought as to how I, as a writer, relate to the content of my own stories.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

A well hung parliament

What a strange week in politics.

No one I voted for "got in"—either in the national or local elections. Maybe I'm a jinx. Maybe I'm bribe material—how much for me to vote for your opponent—guaranteed non-election for him or her, squire?

Or maybe as politically savvy I'm something of a nonce.

It feels deeply dissatisfying, a hung parliament. Hung parliaments always produce toothless governments. And there's something disquieting about the sudden accord each of the major parties have for the ever-third-choice Liberal Democrats. It's all rather smarmy, this toadying, even by politicians' standards.

And then a part of me wonders if this was not meant to be. I was, and remain, deeply suspicious of the Conservatives, particular in the speed and depth of cuts they'd likely impart upon us as they try and restore some semblance of normality to the country's coffers. It worried me that the first three years or so of a majority Conservative government would see cutbacks on a scale ruthless and unprecedented.

But now, if they secure a working, minority government, I see another election surely within a year. And in that year the Conservatives would have undertaken some particularly unpopular policy making. But now, given they will need to keep the electorate as sweet as they can for this early re-election, perhaps it will rein them in a little. Or maybe it won't.

And what an opportunity this is for the Liberal Democrats to force home their ever popular chestnut of Proportional Representation. Ironically, given the Liberal Democrat's overall poor performance this time out, they might snatch the greatest victory they thought they'd never see, that of voting reform.

And in the meantime the financial markets wobble and dance.

A strange week in politics indeed.