Friday, 24 September 2010

What If Tomorrow God Walked The Earth?

I'm playing a thought through my head, until the thought ends; and the thought is a sentence I have in my notebook: "WHAT IF TOMORROW GOD WALKED THE EARTH?" and it's dark and it's scary and it's going to probably see the light of day in Zenith! #2.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Inspiration - Zenith! article

Below is my contribution to Zenith! #1, and it was written fast, because we needed to fill a page, and it's basically my manifesto for life, and for writing, and I thought it interesting to share it here with you. Z!#1 is actually quite close to print now. Still needing a cover...


“I’m a big fan of pretension. It means ‘an aspiration or intention that may or may not reach fulfilment.’ It doesn’t mean failing upward. It means trying to exceed your grasp. Which is how things grow.”


-- Warren Ellis.

We all find inspiration in different things. Terrifying, varying, awesome things. We find inspiration in film, and in music, and in cinema, and we take all these disparate, unconnected things and make them into something that transcends their base components. George Lucas found inspiration in the films of Akira Kurosawa, and if it wasn’t for that we wouldn’t have the Star Wars trilogy-- and depending on your opinion of the series-- that would be a terrible thing. Without Star Wars we wouldn’t have modern science fiction, hundreds of filmmakers wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing now. If it wasn’t for Star Wars we wouldn’t have films like Moon, Inception, films that have made the viewing public think and question what are considered the norms of cinema.

The following quote by Jim Jarmusch encapsulate my own approach to creativity and creation: “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery-- celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from-- it’s where you take them to.”

It’s not about what you steal, it’s about what you make from it. If you steal an idea, change a name, change a setting, and it reads like you’ve stolen it then you won’t ever get the satisfaction, the true feeling of accomplishment, that comes with creating a work of art. You become a thief. But if you find something that inspires you, you allow yourself to be taken on this amazing journey by your inspiration, and end up in a place you never dreamed of visiting before, then that… that is what this is about. That’s what we, as writers, as artists, as photographers and thinkers, that’s what we strive to do.

It’s not stealing if you make something from it. It’s stealing if you steal, and keep it stolen, and do nothing with what you’ve stolen but change the details. But to create something from the ashes of an idea that has come before. Yes. That is what we’re in the business of doing.

So find something you love. And make something new from it. Take an idea and build and build until you’ve created a monument to the old idea, something shiny and bright and for the future. We must attain for the highest echelons of creativity or we’ll dwell in the muck and the shit that comes with stagnation and repetition. Hollywood is going that way, adapting comics and books and songs and sonnets into half-arsed celebrity infested schlock-- No. No, this needs to end. Create an idea that is new and terrifying and gets you noticed. Be scary. Be great. Be different. But don’t perpetuate this cycle of diminishing returns. Reach for unseen heights.

And then, obviously, when you’re rich and famous remember us here at Zenith! and give us some kind of cut for old times’ sake. We’re all friends here, aren’t we?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Morrison On Moore

In an interview for Comic Heroes, Grant Morrison, in his infinitely terrifying forward-thinking, pre-empts Alan Moore's criticism of his working on an updating of the Watchmen concept for DC.

Alan Moore has said previously that DC (and Marvel too, he doesn't keep his criticisms focused solely on his former major employers) keeps going back to the well, that the industry right now is creatively bankrupt and devoid of new concepts; Grant Morrison (and I love him for this, I really do) has said on the nature of [comic book] stories:

"They're designed to be told over and over again. If you were an Aboriginal kid or a tribal shaman, that's what you'd do, you'd participate in the recycling of old stories, the 'revamping' of characters and scenarios, the explaining away of plot holes. Some to the job with more skill than others, but if you work with Marvel, DC or other companies' pulp fiction characters, you're basically repainting pictures of the ancestors on cave walls."

So yes. That's brilliant, that's true. We reverberate stories through time, through word of mouth, through anecdotes. Resident Evil 4: Afterlife, a continuation of the semi-popular film series, retcons the previous three films within the first... fifteen, twenty minutes of the opening act. Removes so many plot points that it's a completely different beast, though still completely recognisable. Memetic story telling, perhaps? It's how children tell stories in the playground, how we tell our friends about last night. We change details, we make ourselves look better, or worse, and we continually change what has come before. Recycling, revamping.

God, I love it when Grant Morrison makes sense. I mean, I love him all the time, I love his work because it's challenging and different, but when his thoughts come together in this perfect form of... coherence... it's all the better.

And I know that I've been bitching and moaning about Alan Moore the past few posts, but that doesn't mean I'm not a fan. His latest (and apparently final, barring League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) comic book series, Neonomicon, is a complete mindfuck of a read, and I intend to pick that up whenever I can. Though, that being said, I don't know if #2 has even been released yet. I should probably check that out...

Monday, 13 September 2010

Who Betters The Watchmen?

I've been thinking about Alan Moore a lot recently. I picked up the first issue of his new magazine "Dodgem Logic", and it was interesting, very much so, and it's help put Zenith! in position again, in my head. Underground magazine publishing, yes. But that's not what I was thinking about. I was thinking about Watchmen, his opinions on the comic book industry since Watchmen, and my own opinions on Watchmen and similar works.

There's this great interview with Alan Moore by Adi Tantimedh over at Bleeding Cool (click to read) that also played a hand in the way I'm thinking right now. Talking about how DC have offered Alan the rights to Watchmen back if he gives them permission-- perhaps a blessing?-- to work on sequels, prequels, all the terrifying marketable machine bits that would make them a whole lot of money. But the fans, as much as they love Watchmen (for some right reason and some wrong) wouldn't enjoy a Watchmen sequel. They wouldn't. If you've even got a passing knowledge of comics, you know that Watchmen is this pure thing, this nigh-untouchable project that cannot be continued, extended, whatever. I don't care about film adaptations, really. I don't think they damage the source material. So what if they changed elements? Philip Pullman once said that: "every film has to make changes to the story that the original book tells — not to change the outcome, but to make it fit the dimensions and the medium of film." and that's perfectly fine, in my opinion. You have to make the film the distilled version of the book-- how else can you get the story out in the best way?

But I digress.

History Lesson: Alan Moore assumed he'd get the rights to Watchmen back in the 80s. But DC never let it out of print, it's always been available, so that never came about. A lot of shit happened between then and now, and so we're in this weird position where Alan Moore is divorcing himself from the comic book industry and his old friends (he's fallen out with David Lloyd over the V for Vendetta adaptation, and now he's fallen out with Dave Gibbons over the Watchmen film) because of this project from the mid-eighties.

I think Alan Moore insults the industry when he makes himself out to be the pinnacle of literary artistry. I get bored of that. He was good, in his day, but what has he done that became as big as Watchmen or V for Vendetta (which I don't actually like)? Sure, his Top Ten projects have been big, but they're not on the same scale, are they?

A few quotes of interest from that interview that kind of anger me:

"I could ask about why Marvel Comics are churning out or planning to bring out my ancient MARVELMAN stories, which are even older, if they had a viable idea of their own in the quarter-century since I wrote those works."

Because they were good? Because they stand up? Because a whole generation or two has heard of the Marvelman stories, the epic stories that Moore, Steve Bissette, Neil Gaiman and co. worked on and want to experience them for themselves? How is that unfair? Since I started reading comics, since I really got into them in my teens, I've wanted to read Marvel/Miracleman. Since I read about the legal troubles between Gaiman and Todd McFarlane I wanted to see what the fuss was about. I mean, this is important stuff. This is British comics that made a difference. And they've been locked in legal limbo for years and I want to read them. Sure, I would prefer to have the originals in my hand, but if Marvel are going to reprint the Moore/Gaiman runs, why shouldn't I leap at that chance? Stop ruining my enjoyment, Alan Moore.

"Just simply get some of your top-flight talent to put out a book that the wider public outside of the comics field find as interesting or as appealing as the stuff that I wrote 25 years ago. It shouldn’t be too big an ask, should it?"

This is something I intend to talk about below, but I thought I'd share it here first...

"They must have one creator, surely, in the entire American industry that could do equivalent work to something I did 25 years ago. "

Is it wrong that I find this to be horrifically arrogant of him? Like there was a Golden Age of Comics that started and ended with Alan Moore, and no one else can compete? I've enjoyed comics since. Yes. But the thing is... when was the last time there was a comic book written that had the same literary, mainstream punch as Watchmen? Or Maus, for instance? Maus won a Pulitzer! Sin City could count, but I feel like that was more of a maxi-series, and the film was what made people pay attention.

The eighties were good, no doubt. We had so many transcendental series come out-- Moore's Swamp Thing, Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, Miller's The Dark Knight Returns as well as his Year One. Those were epic series that changed the face of the comic book industry. But when has anything changed the face of the industry since? In the 90s it was the domain of Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison, with The Preacher, Transmetropolitan and The Invisibles being the go-to for alternate comic book that shift the paradigm. In the 2000s we had Ex Machina, Y, The Last Man, Top 10 and Tom Strong, but... they don't work like I want them to work in the structure of this conversation.

But they weren't the same, I don't think. 12 issues. A maxiseries. Not a 80 issue opus... I'm talking stories that are complete in their entirety within twelve issues. That's not a thing anymore, is it? Grant Morrison came close with All-Star Superman, which I love, but I think I disqualify that in my head because it's Superman. It's not original. I want new content, I want something that makes me think and makes me fall in love with it like I did James Robinson's Starman.

"Just simply get some of your top-flight talent to put out a book that the wider public outside of the comics field find as interesting or as appealing as the stuff that I wrote 25 years ago. It shouldn’t be too big an ask, should it?"

It really shouldn't, no Alan.

Brian K. Vaughan has done some amazing stuff recently, the closest it comes to counting. Ex Machina was superb, a planned maxiseries that recently came to an end. Same as Y, The Last Man. Focused. Painstakingly created. Ex Machina is closer to what I'm thinking than Y, because there was one, consistent art team on that (Tony Harris, tying close to Starman with that, yes) whilst Pia Guerra traded duties with Goran Sudzuka on occasion. Garth Ennis is working with Darick Robertson on The Boys, another planned maxiseries... another finite end...

(And what is it with these specific writers working on these projects? Darick Robertson worked on Transmetropolitan, Garth Ennis on Preacher and now The Boys... Brian K. Vaughan on these maxiseries, too...)

...but do they make sense like Watchmen did, in the context of this conversation? I think Warren Ellis does the most promising work in that field, his projects, such as Ocean, Ministry of Space, Orbital, short, complete works that are beautiful and amazing. He's given us Planetary, but that has ties to the Wildstorm universe so I don't think I can count it-- even though it is the tightest of the projects to be considered. Global Frequency is the inverse of the idea, with one writer and a selection of amazing artists, twelve issues of loosely connected stories. I love that book, but it's not the same. But these titles don't reach the heights established at the heights of the eighties. They don't sell as many copies as Watchmen, they don't make the same amount of money. People aren't scrambling about to scream about them in the daily press. They should be, sure, but they should be something more. Something amazing and ascendant.

I want to see a comic, twelve issues, one complete story, like Camelot 2000, like Watchmen, something that inspires generations. Where would we be without Watchmen? I don't think the comic industry could have lasted without that shot in the arm. But at the same time, we shouldn't be dragging our heels and holding onto the past like we insist on doing. We need to prove Alan Moore wrong, because he's not what he used to be.

I think if Geoff Johns wasn't writing for DC... I don't think his work would be as good. Brian Michael Bendis does good work on Powers, and on Scarlet, but again, not the same. Mike Mignola is my hero and doing something that should become a modern folktale with Hellboy, but it's so far pushing ten trades and promising more, so it's not the 12 issue shape I was talking about. I want something to make us think, and sure, we get that with ongoings, and minis and maxis, but we need to make sure Alan Moore isn't right else we'll be stuck in this horrific rut for the rest of our lives.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Kavalier and Clay



"The Escapists", by Brian K. Vaughan, Steve Rolston, Philip Bond, Jason Shawn Alexander, Eduardo Barreto and et, al, is one of my favourite comic books of all time. It's a perfect package, the kind of project I turn to when I'm down in the dumps, needing inspiration. It's so horrifically meta, but not in that overbearing Alan Moore way, or the Grant Morrison method of creator imposition... this isn't Vaughan as Vaughan talking to the reader, it's Maxwell Roth, a character that is so real that you can't help but be dragged along by his story. I loved it, picked it uop from #1 because it was, umm, $1 (and I'm only human) and the Frank Miller cover, whilst it did nothing to represent what was going in on the inside, drew me in. I loved the art from page one, I loved the writing, and there have been very few books (if any) that have actually competed with it's position in my heart. The way in which the walls between comic books and real life blur is beautiful; this is heroism, but not super-heroism, about human weakness and wanting, and, God, have you been paying attention to me these past few years? This is the writing I want to do.



Anyway, I digress. I went about The Escapist mythos in completely the wrong order. I read the comics first, the Dark Horse "The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist" and then "The Escapists" after that, but that was stupid. I understood most, if not all, of what I was reading, but then I realised that I needed to read what spawned this character, I needed to know the subtext to it all...

I finally got the chance to read the source material, Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" this week. I'm not going to review it, or rant on about how you should read it (you simply should), but I am going to say that I found the novel engrossing, and I read it over a few days, only stopping to sleep and work. If I didn't need to do either of those things I would have been done in a day.

I loved this book. And so should you.

New Prose... Chapter One

Mentioned this a month or so back, the story I bounced off of Claire, and I finally got my shit together and finished the first chapter. I'm not sure about it, but it came together quite easily. It doesn't have a name yet. There's a working title that I don't want to share because it's been used before and I need to par it down into something purer, but until then, I have this, and I'm quite happy with it. If you get the names of the teachers you win a prize, if not, no worry, that's an Easter Egg that I'm pleased worked as easy as it did.


Chapter One: “The Way of the World”


Twelve Years Ago:


It was another sublime day in the village where all the children lived. The sun rose early, and the children ate breakfast at the usual hour, before journeying to the school at their heart of this vibrant little community and resuming their studies.


Adam, as ever, took the long way to school, around the brook that trailed through the back of all the houses, linking them with this winding vein that rushed with water at all hours. He picked up rogue sticks that had fallen pathetically to the grassy floor below and threw them with a sniper’s eye into the centre of the stream, and half ran to follow them along the way. This was the game he played, to steady his aim, to sharpen his eye. He ran with one eye on the water and one on the ground, concentration flittering from one to the other every other instance. It was when his focus shifted from ground to water that he tripped and fell, falling face first into the dirt. His knees scuffed bloody, his chin dashed at the tip, but he didn’t cry out or yell. The shadow fell over him then. The looming mass shivered in the early morning light. Adam blinked and the shape came into focus: a man, just over six feet tall, clad in a large parka that covered nearly all his body; with a shiver the man took a step forward, and Adam a step back--


“Who are you?” asked the child.


“Who am I?” the man intoned, shakily. “Why are you here?”


The tone of the question was curious to Adam. The sheer incredulous disbelief. ‘Why am I here?’ thought Adam. ‘To live. To learn. To discover the nature of this world and the one beyond?’ Before he could answer, the man collapsed, and the thin layer of arctic snow on his shoulders fell to the ground and started to melt.


*


The man awoke abruptly, eyes wild at the sudden change in his location. From frozen tundra to picturesque village? And now one step further removed, under a burgundy blanket propped up by a clothes horse to create a rudimentary structure?


‘No,’ he thought, ‘a den, like the ones we used to make as children…’ “Hello? Is anybody--?”


Adam’s head burst through the gap in the blanket and he looked at the man without fear or hesitation, his young grey eyes piercing through his visitor’s character and personality.


“What is this place? Where am I?”


Adam blinked. “Why are you here?” The child mirrored the man’s earlier intonation exactly, and his head bobbed to the side curiously.


“What?”


“When you appeared. Your words. The exact wording. Your confusion leading to mine. It was a strange way to ask a strange question.” The words coming out of the boy’s mouth weren’t confusing to the man because they were foreign to him, but because of the eloquence, the intelligence—they all belied the child’s age. When did a, what, eight year old? When did eight year olds become so bright?


“I, uh,” the man hesitated. What could he say? “Where are your parents?”


“My what?” The boy looked puzzled. The man felt flush with relief for an instant; he suddenly had a position of power in the conversation.


“Your parents? Your mum and your dad?”


“I don’t know what you mean,” the boy said. “What’s a ‘mum’?”


The man felt something hit him inside. The boy had no accent, just the cold steel voice of pure, unaffected speech. He pronounced his words without heightened intonation, without affectation, he spoke as someone devoid of outside interference.


“Your mum!” said the man, “your mother! Umm, what about your dad? Your father?”


Adam bit his bottom lip. “I still… I don’t know what you mean.”


“The… who do you live with?”


“I live here by myself,” said Adam, not proudly, not as an eager child, but as someone stating a fact. “What are you doing here?”


“I didn’t mean to be here,” said the man, “I was… travelling. Exploring even. I lost touch with my team, and I… I was lost. Out in the snow. I dug in, and then… well, I found my way here. I don’t know, it doesn’t make sense. What do you mean you don’t know what a mum and dad are? What do you mean you live here by yourself?”

“I live here by myself. I go to school along with the other children—they live by themselves as well—it’s not strange, me living like this. Everyone else does.”


The man nodded slowly. “What year is this?”


“Year?”


“Yes, year. What year is this?”


“I don’t know what you mean. Your words… ‘year’? Is that… I don’t know. What’s a mum and a dad?”


The man breathed out slowly. He’d never really considered the question before. “The people who raise you. Look after you. Make you dinner and put you to bed.”


“Do you have a mum and a dad then?” asked Adam.


“Yeah, they’re retired now, but… do you mean there are no grown-ups?” The thought suddenly occurred to him. “None at all? But you said school?”


“Yes, there are teachers, the ones who train us. I’m supposed to be at school now. I’m late. And if I’m late--”


There was a sharp knocking at the door. This was something sinister, decided the man, then and there. The child had no concept of parents? And he went to a school and there were teachers but the children here lived alone? And this place… it made no sense. Mere hours before—he gathered—he was out in the snow, freezing to death because he was lost, and now this? Now this…?


“That’ll be them,” said Adam.


“Don’t tell them I’m here,” said the man. “Don’t.”


“Why?”


“Because something isn’t right, kid, and I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like it. Is there a place I can hide?”


“Adam!” came the shout from behind the front door. “Are you alright? You weren’t at registration this morning!”


“It’s Mister Freund,” said Adam quietly, “my teacher. If we don’t turn up to school they come and see if we’re alright.”


“You’re fine, tell him you’re fine. Tell him, uh, you don’t feel well? I don’t know, shit, shit--”

Adam turned to the door, and then turned back to the man sharply. “Don’t move from here. Don’t make a sound.”


The man nodded, and buried himself deeper into the pillows and cushions that made up the interior of this makeshift shelter. He heard a rustle of movement outside, and the door whine open. He held his breath, and crossed his fingers.


“Are you alright, Adam? You didn’t come to school this morning. We were concerned.”


“I didn’t feel very well,” said the child. Adam. The boy’s name was Adam. The man noted that, and continued to strain his ears. “I’m feeling better now, but I didn’t want to risk making the other children sick.”


“What happened to your chin?”


“I fell,” said Adam. “Scuffed my knees as well.”


“When?”


The man tensed up. This guy was asking too many questions. And this kind… he was smart, but could he hold up against any kind of intense questioning?


“This morning. Outside. Tried to walk to school but my head went fuzzy. Fell over. Came home and cleaned myself up. Have been trying to sleep it off. Mostly worked.”


“Right.”


“I’m sorry, sir. It won’t happen again.”


“If you’re ill, Adam, then you did the right thing. Do you think you’ll make it to school tomorrow?”


“Yes, I think I will be alright.”


“We’ll see you tomorrow then. Don’t forget to bring your knives.”


“They’re here ready, sir.”


“That they are. Good boy. Get back to sleep, eh?”


“Yes sir.” The door closed, and the man heard small footsteps approach him. He was red in the face, his lung burning for oxygen and when Adam pulled open the sheet that hid him he breathed in hard. “He’s gone now.”


“Good. Good. Yes. God.”


“Are you alright? You seem a bit flustered.”


“I’m nervous, alright?” said the man. “Sorry. I’m sorry. This doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m… you’re Adam, right? I’m Anthony. Tony.”


“Strange,” said Adam, “I’ve never heard the name before.”


“It’s pretty common… where I come from, I guess.” Tony paused. “You’re Adam, right? What are the names of your friends? The other children? Your… neighbours, I guess?”


“Next door there’s Bethany. And on the other side there’s Zander.”


Tony blinked hard, and shook his head. “Annie. Alice. Antoine. Arturo.”


“What?”


“Or… umm… Brian. Bucky. Bob.”


“What are you talking about?”


“How many children are here, Adam?”


“Twenty-six.”


“Twenty-six. Jesus Christ. Right. Umm. How long have you been here?”


“All my life,” said Adam.


“Have you ever left this… this village?”


“No, why would I have to?”


“Holy shit, right, excuse my language. Right. Right. Uh, I’m going to tell you something that might seem completely insane to you, but bear with me, alright? I’m from England. Do you know where that is?”


“Yes, I do.”


Tony’s brow furrowed. “Where are we now?”


“The village.”


“And where’s the village located?”


“It’s not. It’s here. Nowhere else.”


“Right, but… that’s not right. Because I’m an explorer, right? Always wanted to be one, finally got my wish when I hit twenty, been travelling across the world since… and a few hours ago—it must have been a few hours ago—I was lost in the Arctic wastelands and I kinda gave up and dug myself an ice cave so I could think things through and then tink tink tink--” He mimed hitting something solid with his ice-axe. “I hit metal. And I kept digging. And I found a door. A fucking door, kid. And then I climbed through and you were there… now what the fuck does that mean?”


“There’s a place outside?”


“Exactly. And right now, I think we’re in the middle of some nightmare scenario that just doesn’t lie right with me. Gotta be the government or something. Maybe… I don’t know, the Russians? Or the Iraqis? Fuck, I don’t know, but we got to get you out.”


“And the way out to the place outside is near where I found you?”


“Yeah, mustn’t have been too far.”


“A place outside,” said Adam again. “Another world.”


“No, this world, kid, the right world, and I’m going to get you--” Tony stopped in his tracks. “Uhk.” Something sharp and red in his back screamed out to him. He groped back, but suddenly there was a noise, meat sliced and diced, and he fell to the ground, unable to move. “Uhhk.”


“I’m sorry Tony. But I like it here. For now anyway. And I’ve still got my training to complete. But you’ve given me options! And I like that. I’ll make this quick. You’ve been enlightening to me. Honestly.”


Tony felt the world tumble away and then a moment later he was dead. Adam looked down at the body, and then considered his options, and the open knife case he had removed his bowie knife out of. Last week they’d been taught how to fillet the meat from a man’s bones and dispose of a body. This would be homework.


Ten Years Ago:


Adam was the best student from that day forward. The day that he learned whole new things about the way of the world, and the ways of life on the outside. The outside. The world. Places that weren’t what they were supposed to be, and the idea that this place, the village he called home, the idea that it wasn’t entirely real. A fa├žade. Adam had learnt about masks and misdirection. He could roll a coin from one finger to the next, one to two to three to—and then it would be gone, vanished with a slip and a tuck, and those who saw it, if they weren’t as well versed in the world of distraction, would be wowed and amazed. So what was this place? Was it the coin, or the hand that held the coin? Adam settled on the idea that he was the slice of thin metal, circular and easily obfuscated. In his young heart, the thought unsettled him, and for the first time in ten years, he felt dread. A heavy, weighing emotion, that bucked him in a sea of turmoil. He should have been happy. Contented within himself. He was a pure vessel of intention, but now… doubt. Was that what it was called? Doubt?


Mister Freund was surprised and excited by the way that Adam threw himself into his studies, and the other teachers, Mister Whale and Miss Florey, all agreed with the assessment that this child was borne for greatness. And if they had a part in his training, then they too would become legendary. “Our services will be requested across the world,” said Miss Florey, smiling that paper-thin smile of hers. “And, after all, isn’t that the point of all this?”


They didn’t see Adam at the minutely opened door, his eye blazing the darkest storm of grey through the small gap that had beckoned him forward. ‘And, after all, isn’t that the point of all this?’ He wondered hard about that sentence. He played with it on his tongue. ‘…all this?’


Adam learned about everything they would teach him. He absorbed diligently, and for two years, he knuckled under, became the best of the best. He excelled in every class that was taught. His ability to fight with a knife was incomparable. When Mister Brown slipped—for just a moment—Adam took full advantage of the fumble, and nearly sliced him from ear to ear before he realised numerous things: He’d get bloody for no reason, that the move was unnecessary; and that his teacher did nothing to deserve a blade through his windpipe and glancing his spinal chord. He didn’t deserve it. Then who did?


He asked Mister Freund later that day, after Mister Brown had gone to matron and had his neck stitched back together. Just because Adam had held himself back a tad, just because he’d not delivered the killing stroke, didn’t mean that it wasn’t a bastard of a wound, and the class was dismissed because of it. The other teachers looked at Adam then, and the expressions on their faces… was that pride? He asked Mister Freund the question that had rattled about his head for the past two years now.


“Why am I being trained to kill people?”


Mister Freund was taken aback by this question. The way his bottom lip pouted forward, and back, and forward, as he tried to calculate a response that would not shatter this ten year old’s psyche, that wouldn’t ruin all the work that had been put into this project…


“Because,” he said-- ‘because’ being the best way he could figure to start the most awkward of sentences-- “some people are very bad people, and they need to be killed. To be removed from the slate to keep it clean. If people aren’t killed, then bad things happen to good people, and we wouldn’t want that.”


“Right,” said Adam, nodding. He understood. He understood that by the way Mister Freund fidgeted at the most inopportune moments that he was lying, that his body language had betrayed him because he’d taught Adam too well. The way Mister Freund’s eyes moved, the way his lip shifted, the intonation of the words… Mister Freund had lied to Adam, and that was the final straw. “But what happens, if, say, you kill someone, and it feels wrong? That you regret that decision?”


Freund tilted his head to the side, and leaned forward to Adam, smiling sympathetically. “Whoever you kill deserves it, Adam. Emotions like that don’t matter.


In the proceeding days after Adam had escaped, the teachers, head and all, didn’t know how the child managed it. He was ten. When they stripped the house bare, they found that there was grave beneath the kitchen floorboards containing the decomposed body of someone they didn’t have on their records. And behind a wall, in Adam’s bedroom, were scraps of material and lint. They sealed the house up a week after Adam had left. They never mentioned him again. They didn’t need to. The entrance into the village was sealed, and though they sent thermal imaging drones out across the arctic wasteland to find a trace of the young boy, they eventually resigned themselves to the fact that he was dead. How could a ten year old boy with no equipment survive the trek to civilisation?


How indeed? Tony’s equipment did the deed. The thick overcoat was too big for Adam when he first acquired it, but over the intervening years sine Tony had died, Adam had made some slight adjustments, and it covered his body adeptly. Adam kept rations from dinner for the last three months of his life in the village, and made sure that he bottled enough water to last him for however long he thought he’d need it—he realised, during his hike across the tundra, that he didn’t allow for distance and exertion, a lesson he learned fast, and had to rely on melting chunks of snow in the ice-caves he carved out into the depths of the frost. The exit from the village was still where he had assumed it to be, by the brook, and when he opened it using a key-card he’d palmed from Mister Brown during the throat-cutting incident he was taken aback by the freezing wind that engulfed him.

He was resolute. He’d come this far, planned this far ahead… he trudged out into the snow, and carved a tunnel to get out into the open air. When he emerged, the winds howling and the snow thick and suffocating, he grinned. His face went numb in the cold, but the goggles allowed him to see everything that was visible, and he was ecstatic. He was outside. In the world.


The teachers believed him dead. Mister Freund believed that the fact they didn’t find the body meant that he could still have made it, but the others simply disagreed. “Impossible,” said Mister Whale, “he probably dug himself a snow-cave and died. In a hundred years we’ll find his perfectly preserved corpse, and he’ll be a warning to anyone who comes after him. The frozen failure.”


“The perfect student,” corrected Mister Freund. “If anyone, anyone mind, from the class survived out there, who would you have puts bets on it being?”


Mister Whale ran a hand through his perfectly slicked back hair. Strands clung to his fingers, but he didn’t seem to notice. He was always the one who seemed to have it together most, back in the old days. Now, he had grown fat, and complacent. “No one can survive the outside. No one. That’s that fucking idea.” He craned his neck back, exhaled hard. “We lost one. We write him off.”


“You make it sound so easy,” said Mister Freund, waving him away.


“What?” Mister Whale spun around, and grabbed Freund by the shoulder. “What did you say?”


Freund slapped Whale’s hand away from him, and Red brought his fists up. Freund jerked his wrist forward and back, and a thin, razor sharp blade was now clutched tightly in his hand. “Remember the rules, ‘Mister Whale’,” Freund said slowly. “This here ground we stand on is protected. You throw a punch and I get to kill you fair.”


“Don’t,” started Whale, angrily, “don’t aggravate me, ‘Freund’. It’s not right. We’ve all invested a lot of money, and a lot of time, into this project.”


“We’re still fine,” said Miss Florey, watching the two men still squaring off against one another. “He’s one kid. We’ve got twenty five left. I prefer that number anyway.”


“I prefer…” Freund’s hands rose up next to his head, and the knife slipped back down his cuff. “I prefer it if we moved on. He was a good kid, but there was something…” He paused, and then shook his head. “We move on.”

Of Death and the Dead Men - Update!

I have the 5th instalment of this hand written on a piece of paper in my bedroom, so it might be some time before a) I find it and b) I write it up, but I'm still working on it, but just in different venues other than "home".

Meanwhile, I finally finished the first chapter of a project I mentioned a month or so back... keep reading...

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Quotes of Importance

"Let the philosophers rave on about the summum bonum and mystics about embracing God. They are still vertical humans and therefore even their adorations still have something aggressive about them. Humans in the horizontal position have always struck me as less likely to be violent and destructive. So I take my place beside the poets, and less arrogant than the philosopher or mystic, am prepared to find the greatest good and embrace God whenever I hold a woman in the act of love. It is then I know with assurance and inexpressible delight that whatever it is life promises us, this must be it; and that a universe containing this experience must have something grandly important going for it."

-- Irving Layton

I read this quote at this link, on Katie West's blog, and I fell in love with it, and have to share it with you, too. So yes. Quotes. Love them as I do.

Word's..? - Update

Claire might know what I mean when she reads this (hey, Claire!), but at work today I saw a poster cello-taped to the wall of our staff rooms, and again in our changing rooms-- in the men's? is there an apostrophe there? Oh God... anyway, I assume if there was one there that there must have been one in the ladies too. ladies'? hhrrgh!!-- and I read it. Paraphrasing:

"LOST PROPERTY COLLECTED FROM PARTNERS LOUNGE.
TO COLLECT, GO DOWN TO BOX OFFICE AND GIVE A CLEAR DESCRIPTION
:)"

Okay, that's fine, but then came the list of items, and that feeling in my head, that heavy throb of uncertainty becoming this bell toll of knowing-- the list of items, which included:

"...Scarve's.
Hat's.
Plimsoll's..."

Holy shit. No. No. So I took the pen in my pocket, and crossed out every single apostrophe. Like a complete and utter graffiti bastard. And I was contented. And carried on working.

I wonder if anyone will notice? And pin it on me? I hope not... but a man stands by his grammatical principles, even though they, at times, elude him.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Update--!

I've lost my sense of smell because of this horrible cold I'm currently wrestling with, and because of that my sense of taste has began to fade too. So I'm walking around in this little bubble of olfactory ignorance, and all I can taste is this... weird, illness taste on the tip of my tongue and at the back of my throat, like it's bubbling up and wanting to get out, and I don't like it, not one bit.

Word's..?

I'm having a terrible time recently with my use of apostrophes. I keep saying that I used up all my writing ability to get my novel done. Like I sold whatever talent I may have had just to get the thing done, and now I'm relearning, and it's so damn difficult because sometimes I can't figure out if I'm even using an apostrophe right. But I try. And I think. And I keep on moving forward, because that's the only thing I can do... hugh...