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Saturday, 31 March 2012


And so, my memory stick that served as the back-up for my writing is completely fried, taking 99% of my stories with it. I understand there are worse things to feel (like grief at losing a loved one, for instance) but for any creative type, destroy something they've spent a lot of time and effort creating and you might as well have put a bullet in their mum's head.

My PC had the main files on, but it broke, taking them with it. Hence, the memory stick being the back-up. I'm hoping to use this next week to have a good old sit down and think, to try and remember all the details (and if possible, finer details) of the stuff that's now only a memory. Of course, it'll be impossible to replicate exactly every single word and idea I'd had, and it's probably a waste of time trying to do this, but I was genuinely pleased with quite a lot of the stuff I'd written recently. I've always been a fan of fiction that incorporates recurring characters/settings/etc (which is why I like King's Dark Tower saga so much) and I was finally getting to grips with my own way of doing this. Suffice to say, it was a deeply complex fictive system, and I can only remember the bare strands of it. AAARGGHHH.

Whilst I was waiting to hear of the fate of my memory stick, I've been trying to rework an older story, that I was told held promise. Doing this has enabled me to regain some of the discipline I used to have, regards writing, but it's been interrupted by my having to write a funding bid.

Yes! A funding bid! The research aspect of it is quite fun, as we gather prices and whatnot, and decide what activities etc we can run, but the main brunt of the bid is a proposal - we have to come up with 2000 words on what we want to do, and why it'd be such a good thing to do. Suffice to say, this is a massive ballache. But, it's the sort of thing we (hopefully) will be doing more of in the future, as we seek to grow into a genuine artistic force in the region. Practice makes perfect, after all.

I don't know if it's because of stress from writing the bid/losing my stories, or the two recent booze-filled evenings I've had lately, or lack of sleep, but I've had a lot of dark thoughts lately. Not about myself, but about people close to me. Some were fuelled by ridiculous flights of fancy based on real world situations, others were more grounded fears that were still unfounded.

For instance, one dream had myself and my friend going for the same job (which we are, in real life), but in this case we were working together. There were two job offers, and one offered 'fringe benefits' the other didn't, so we went for that. Turned out we were expected to work on arming nuclear warheads for a maniac who planned to bomb parts of America, and all the boring places in the UK. The 'benefits' were that we would get to stay alive cos we were on his side.

Anyway, we were sequestered in a hilltop pub, where the maniac asked me to work on the guidance system for a warhead. I tried to surreptitiously remove screws from it, so once it was in flight it'd fail to function and explode in the air, miles from anywhere. But, I got paranoid he knew I'd done this, and that he was letting us stay in the hilltop pub because we'd get obliterated once a bomb went off (cos there was nothing nearby to absorb the blast). Somehow, I managed to wrangle it so we were put into a bungalow, which had an odd basement/kitchen/bedsit. A guy lived in there, but I agreed to swap rooms with him, since he'd been in there for ages. My friend was convinced we'd be okay there if anything went wrong, but I became increasingly convinced the maniac had put us there specifically to get killed in a deeply unpleasant way. And it turned out I was right! Whether it was the warhead I'd tampered with, or another one, I don't know, but one went off a mile or so from the bungalow, and the dream ended with a bunch of us huddled in the centre of the bungalow, waiting for the nuclear winds to raze us. Nice and cheery.

And today, I got to thinking about how it doesn't take ten seconds for something bad to happen to someone. We're supposed to leave 24 hours before we can 'legally' report a person as missing, but what if, five minutes after you last spoke to them, they're murdered, or mugged for their phone and money, or involved in an accident? Something that prevents them from answering your calls, or from contacting people they know? You've got over twenty-three hours to go a little nuts as you go through every possible scenario. Maybe you're being silly, and their phone battery died, and they can't get wi-fi access on their laptop/iPad/whatever. Maybe, they got talking to someone and time ran away with them, or they ended up going on an impromptu night out? All perfectly reasonable things, that 99% of the time happen. But, it's that 1%...

It's bananas to go through life worrying if you'll be that 1% at some point, or if someone close to you becomes that 1%, but you'd also be bananas not to consider it, or let it concern you. Otherwise, that friend you can't get hold of could be bleeding to death in a ditch, and if you'd only acted sooner they might be okay, but you thought "Oh, they're probably sleeping off a hangover". All it takes is for someone to act 'uncharacteristic' (which is something the police look at) to set alarm bells ringing, even if they do it by accident. Having these kinds of thoughts is uncharacteristic for me, given that I'm blessed with a sunny disposition, but on occasion they pop up in my brain, reminding me that it doesn't even take ten seconds for things to go horribly, terribly wrong.

Good grief. Let's hope my next blog post is more like my usual self. I don't like all this angst!

Friday, 23 March 2012


It's the 1940s, and somewhere in America there is a weird little town called New Bedlam. It pulls creative types towards it the same way a moth is attracted to flame, with a similar result. Into this world of madness comes Jonny Cave, a jazz musician-turned-preacher who's found himself in New Bedlam, certain God sent him to help protect the inhabitants from the horrors they often conjure up themselves. His is a religion based on unshakeable faith, and the willingness to get his hands dirty if it serves the greater good. Jonny Cave is not an anti-hero, or a fanatic, but a man whose past informs his present.

I am extremely pleased with Jonny Cave, because he is everything a pulp hero should be but without all the usual trappings (he's not a private detective, for starters). His one main ally is Laura Paris, aka Lolly, a flapper with more guts than most men. He loves her, and is pretty sure the feeling's mutual, but never acts on it because that's not the life he wants. There is evil in the world, evil beyond anything we can comprehend.  Tentacled horrors, gods of madness, and creatures erupting from once-human bodies. New Bedlam is their gateway, and Jonny Cave is the only man who stands in their way.

We're introduced to Jonny and Lolly in This Town Hides an Inferno, in which an evil force wrapped in the skin of a man comes to New Bedlam in the midst of an unseasonal heatwave. He has visited many towns before in order to build an army, and those who don't join him are killed. This, however, is preferable to what happens if someone does 'enlist'...

Dionysus Rising looks at the aftermath of these events, and features a theatre company with a seemingly diabolical new play that affects even those who've somehow managed to avoid the weirdness in New Bedlam...The events in this story also act as a prequel to 'Xanthophobia', my story in Phobophobia!

The next instalment is Underneath It All, which I'm hoping will see the light of day at the start of April (I'll elaborate below). As before, previous events aren't just referenced but act as the catalyst for a truly horrific event: someone in New Bedlam has realised that they can tap into the 'power' inherent in the town to rewrite reality itself. But in order to do so, they first have to create something that feeds on, and creates, unbridled madness...

New Bedlam itself was created by Jodi Lee, and she invited people to set their own stories in the cursed town as part of http://newbedlam.com/zine/. I feel very lucky to have been able to write a serial featuring Jonny Cave, and I hope I get the chance to continue, although I'm not entirely sure how things stand at the moment - New Bedlam Zine was going to go into print, rather than online, but I'm not sure if funding stopped this happening...in any case, you can get hold of the 'Town Archives' ebooks for your Kindle, which feature all the stories from the first two issues of New Bedlam Zine: HERE and HERE!

Oh no! This was all preamble to pimp something! I feel duped!

Quiet, you! I believe all proceeds from the sales go to making sure the Zine sees print. I think. Don't quote me on that! haha

Whatever the future for New Bedlam - the Zine and the town - Jonny Cave will endure. I've already set up (in Underneath It All) a new major player who will feature heavily in Jonny's not-too-distant future. After all, he may have ended up in New Bedlam thanks to holy guidance, but the Second World War is on the horizon, and there are a lot of people whose faith is about to be tested. Jonny (and Lolly?) can't protect New Bedlam forever (as stories by the other NB authors identify). However, I have a few more stories in me involving the town, so here's hoping I can continue to indulge my passion for pulp fiction and heroes fuelled by faith and righteous anger...

To quote my own creation (which is probably a really naff thing to do, but nuts to you buddy, this is my blog): "Don't worry about me, I've got God on my side."

UPDATE: Jonny Cave WILL be appearing in the first print issue of New Bedlam!!!! Coming soooooooooooon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, 19 March 2012


A young lady tells me I "may be the last good man left" as a I plunge a machete into the chest of a man right in front of her. A thug begs me not to kill him because he's "at university". People are eating 'mystery meat' and choking to death in a perpetual fog-like dust cloud. Skyscrapers and tenement blocks lean drunkenly against each other as a fresh tremor shakes the already-ruined city. The apocalypse has happened, but nobody knows what it actually was...or refuses to acknowledge what caused it.

These could be the milieux of any armageddon-centric story, but they belong to a recent computer game called I AM ALIVE. You've spent almost a year walking across America to reach your home, only to find your wife and daughter have disappeared. Are they dead? Have they relocated somewhere safer? The answers might be hidden in the city's ruins, or delivered by survivors encountered along the way. It is a familiar story, but what makes it more compelling is that it's all delivered with a cinematic flair many games don't or can't create. These people are pixels on a screen, but you care what happens to them. You want to look after the little girl you find crying amongst the rubble.You want to find her mother. You want to use precious resources on a stranger, but not necessarily because this is the right thing to do. In this world, you kill anyone who tries to harm you; there is no bargaining, or trading for supplies. It's a bullet between the eyes or a machete through the ribs. There is a lot of blood on your hands, and you need to reassert your moral compass whenever possible.

So, it's a good game, despite a few technical flaws such as repetitive voice acting and general game logic conveniences. But it has an emotional impact more often attributed to films than computer games, and that sort of thing is becoming more and more prevalent as the two mediums mix and merge and swap ideas.

Case in point: another recent computer game, ALAN WAKE'S AMERICAN NIGHTMARE, utilises not just actual live-action scenes, but story elements right out of a David Lynch film. Although, as the story progresses it has more and more in common with the John Carpenter film, In The Mouth of Madness, as reality itself is rewritten and a diabolical enemy seeks to bring nameless horrors into the world.

What American Nightmare lacks in overall originality it makes up for in delivery - game-wise, the controls are solid, the difficulty 'just right' and the graphics suitably decent. But more than these things, it's the way the mythology surrounding Alan Wake (a writer trapped in a place of his own creation) is woven into proceedings. Radio broadcasts reference events in the real world, TV sets show little (live action) missives from Wake's evil doppelgänger/excellent villain Mr. Scratch (whose name is replaced with an actual 'scratch' noise whenever it's said/spoken) and manuscript pages detail events that are yet to happen. One particularly effective radio broadcast has the DJ involved in a debate with a caller as to the nature of free will, but as the DJ talks, his voice is replaced by the narrator of the TV show Alan Wake is (sort of) trapped in. Once the DJ/narrator has finished his spiel, the caller humorously replies "Um...what?"

It's a computer game masquerading as a piece of b-movie horror, but like the best b-movies, it has a subtle undercurrent of intelligence that adds that little extra spark to proceedings. Will more games follow in these footsteps? I Am Alive is one, and there have been others in the past, but can story ever take precedence over spectacle? Most games strive, or are content, to be a summer blockbuster, as that's what the general public wants. But not every body wants to shoot zombies forever, or watch things explode. That sort of thing is nice in small bursts, but there's a reason Michael Bay isn't the king of cinema, and his gaming equivalent (I don't know who that could be) isn't the, er, king of games. And on a final note, we want games to be increasingly more realistic, but does this really necessitate giving a female character prominent nipples? American Nightmare, I'm looking at you!

Yes, I noticed them, but I didn't design the woman with perky nipples. So I ask you: who's the real pervert?

Wednesday, 7 March 2012



It's been a while. "What have you been up to?" you ask. 'You' being my mum. "Well, mum," I say, "quite a lot. But mostly THIS:" I then scream into her--that is your--face the following facts:

As part of the arts education collective I've co-founded called Tinpot [here we are on Facebook!] I helped organise and put on the latest Scunthorpe Young People's Film Festival [here that is on Facebook!] which took place this Saturday just gone [Saturday 3rd March] in Scunthorpe, at a youth centre called The Base, which is in the centre of town. Following sentences will be much shorter and feature less commas.

Tinpot ran film-making workshops at a junior school, college and youth centre leading up the festival, as well as provided set dressing and general organisation for the event itself. The SYPFF ran from 1pm until 10pm and featured several talks from professionals involved in the film industry (Paul Drury and Dave Smith). Paul spoke about sponsorship, and Dave showed his latest short film (In the Meadow) and then spoke a bit about his career, before holding a short Q&A session. I, along with fellow Tinpotter and best mate Local Pillock, dressed up the nines and felt pretty super duper about things, despite being at the venue all day on the Friday, then from 11am on the Saturday to decorate and organise whatever we could. 

The event was broken down into three main sections, in which films were screened in the categories: Animation, Documentary and Fiction. Prizes were awarded to children and young people in the following age groups: 8-11, 12-16, 17-25. For the most part, things went without a hitch--though I don't mind telling you, Dear Reader, that I would have preferred to have handled the technical side of things (which I had nothing to do with at all, in this instance). As it happened, I did a bit of schmoozing and watched over the Tinpot Tuck Shop in the venue's cafĂ© area. 

The SYPFF officially kicked off on the Friday night with the latest Tinpot Film Club. We've been doing this for nearly six months now, and we're finally starting to get people we don't recognise turning up to the screenings. We hold it at the same venue (The Base) because there is a 200 seat auditorium and large cinema screen there (it used to be knowna s the Scunthorpe Screen, an independent cinema). So far, we've shown The Lost Boys, This is Spinal Tap, Elf, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events and Submarine, with the next film due to be The Breakfast Club. Our initial remit was to try and target the youth of Scunthorpe (on behalf of the SYPFF) but, in talking to them and in practice, we've discovered they're simply not bothered about what we're doing. Which is a shame, but we can't force kids to come (plus they make the entirely valid point they can watch whatever they want for free via Sky/the internet). Although, the real point is you're watching something on the big screen, and taking part in the associated experience. But anyway. You can find out more about Tinpot Film Club on Facebook!

On a more personal note, I haven't had the internet since the end of January. This allowed me to GET THINGS DONE instead of being sucked into the hell that is 'check Facebook, refresh the page, check again'. The main thing I did is start work on a novel I last touched about a year or so ago, tentatively entitled BRICKSVILLE. It features zombies, and an apocalypse, but isn't really about a zombie apocalypse. It's more of a love letter to 1980s horror films, and as such features one-liners, two protagonists wearing robots heads, and MUTANTS. I'm at 50,000 words, and about to start the second part of the book. I might post excerpts from it thus far, but then again I might not. WHO KNOWS?

And now I must away, to go to my parents' for tea on my NEW BIKE! Yes, I have joined the ranks of 'writers what also cycle' alongside such glamorous luminaries as Geoff Nelder and...I don't know who else. It's a girls' bike that was left by an artist at the art gallery I work at. My dad fixed it up for me, and I sprayed it BLACK, though I left the handlebars the original purple colour. The seat hurts my bum and my legs ache like the Dickens when I ride it, but it's a damn sight cheaper than the bus. And that's the moral of this story, at least.