is a casual, and sometimes, not so casual interest in the world and universe about us, us ourselves, history, current affairs, love, sex, and pretty much anything else that pops into my head. I’ve been writing as long as I’ve been blogging so lots on here is about that too. A note about writing. Novellists and short story writers write to a formula whose ingredients were worked out as long ago as Aristotle’s time. This formulation has been refined over the intervening centuries, with predictably dull results. I do sketches. A character, a place, a theme. If you want the reader to exercise imagination, you have to leave some dots to join.
My net moniker is Archie. By profession I’m an accountant and an information worker. I’ve also written a few books. You pick up things as you go along. My early years weren’t happy yet, although that tale isn’t a comforting read, I’ve come to understand that there are those with an interest in such things. To skip this click here.
I grew up in a sink estate in a one parent family and I’ve been acquainted with deprivation most of my life. It’s a cancer that destroys many; the many who are invisible to the privileged. Perhaps the same can be said about privilege. A cancer. I don’t know. I haven’t been there. But I understand the desperate hope that you can escape your roots. Most become worn away by hope until they are shadows, living quiet lives; fearful of the social rot that holds sway, lest they become its next target. Many, seeing no way out, become their own worst enemies. I was an outsider; I couldn’t be part of that. It was a place and time I was desperate to escape. This is the urban reality of yesteryear, now and the future. It used to amaze me that many are fascinated by and indeed, take enjoyment from bleak misery. Although I am philosophical about that time many details are still clear and it sometimes informs my fiction; I don’t have to imagine it; I’ve lived it.
From Comic Books to SF
Very early I started collecting American comic books.I stopped after my mother threw my collection away. I switched to borrowing SF books from the local library. These were forays into the likes of Andre Norton, John Christopher, Robert Heinlein, H.G. Wells and John Wyndham. Fifty or so books later, the junior section was exhausted. I reread them, not realising that there were plenty more in the adult section.
Time passed. I graduated by age and supplemented my diet with Philip K Dick, Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Philip E High, Roger Zelazny, John Brunner, C.J Cherryh, Anne McCaffrey, Harry Harrison, Jack Vance… In a couple of years, I exhausted the adult section. I took to hanging around the local bookshop – yes Burnley, Lancs used to have a bookshop. In retrospect, I realise I was one of their biggest customers for SF & Fantasy. How do I figure that out? Well I knew the shop well and I noticed each new SF book that went up. Usually 1 or 2 copies.
That’s all. I bought one.
And then anything remotely SF to feed my habit. I also made a habit of checking second hand bookstalls, just in case. There wasn’t that much of the genre about then. I’ve a long list of books from that time, but times changed and eventually so did my interests. It isn’t that I left SF; rather, a voracious reading habit of 5 books a week, was reduced to 1 or 2 a year.
I decided to study up a profession (Management Accounting), I took an interest in philosophy (Plato) and history (ancient). The latter was more than idle, it was about placing this period, our civilisation, and humanity as a whole, in the immensity of the cosmos. I learned because I could (mirror to Idries Shah’s comment about why this time and place is unusual –because with a little effort we can now know what, for centuries, only few were privy to). In retrospect I realise I was digesting.
What is SF?
It equates to Speculative Fiction. Nailed. That didn’t do away with Science or Fantasy. Those were important but separate aspects in a genre that I (still) regard as close to my heart. SF is a form that encloses all other fiction. Like space to rocky mudball Earth. SF is what lies away from what we know. In the main, it takes itself seriously. For some years I followed this view, slavishly. Authors like Robert Sheckley, Harry Harrison and Douglas Adams were my first introduction to humour.
However words have meaning. Speculation embraces concepts that don’t depend on science to drive them. I’m thinking of Doris Lessing’s Space Fiction: Canopus in Argos and, in a different vein, Franz Kafka’s Process (Trial) and his Metamorphosis. The hard edge of what interested me, softened. I strayed into other genres, reacquainting myself with Romance and Detectives along the way. Fiction needs to be measured and precise, yet it all too easily drifts into polemic, only tolerable in short bursts; or whimsy, where the only question is, when will it end? Little engaged me; reading became a chore. Perhaps it was time to try my hand. That was my reasoning back in 2009. In 3½ months I had a 60,000 word draft.
Writing as Odyssey
The balance of this blog post deals with my writing journey and its outcomes. For three years I dealt with writer angst by editing and restructuring that draft. By 2012 it was 160,000 words. What next? I took the plunge and got it professionally edited. At the time, my writing style was all over the place; a kind of wandering willy.
How did I approach getting edited? I did research and worked out that the best idea would be to find a professional. This brought me to the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. My first port of call was Louise Harnby, a Proofreader. Wisely, she directed me to Stephen Cashmore. I found the process tremendously helpful. It helped me understand my style and I learned a great deal. Here’s my web-interview on it. Did that help me sell books? Nope. But I now have a great deal more comfort in what I write.
I’ve moved on since then, experimenting with story telling; different genres and narrative devices. I want to see where the boundary is fluid and where it is firm, and where it can be blurred.
Do I have rules?
Something different that feels plausible. Not schlock. Intelligent fiction to give readers the feeling of being there. Sketch each story up to a staging post, i.e. convey a thought, a situation, frame the story, or establish the character’s objectives. When complete, only part of the pattern may be framed, but sufficient for the reader to know where the story might go, or to speculate.
Sexuality, divorce, the rapture, uncertainty theory, evolution, a Lovecraftian universe; the British Empire reformed, the dangers of asbestos, the philosophy of aliens, love between species, extinction events, the collapse of government, humanity on the endangered species list, our world seen through the eyes of a pet, a wheelchair user, a visiting alien….
A Guide to First Contact
(SF / Fiction – novel)
Earth has been contacted by aliens. The West has collapsed. America lies in ruins. When? Why? How?
It’s 2060. The former urban areas of America are in ruins. They’re not uninhabited; the ‘khi are feral and their spawn infests the cities. They used to be human. A lone mercenary prowls the abandoned streets of New York, searching. His factors are safe in an enclave. As for him, he’s Triste. He has a mission, and he’s careful. A touch from the ‘khi could kill him, or worse; infect him with the the degenerative disease that has ripped through humanity.
Local ordnances are on hold, there being no-one to enforce them, so Triste packs pretty much what guns he wants. Then he meets the girl, Shoe. She’s on the run; he’s shy with girls. Guns and girls are generally fatal.
(SF / Fiction – short stories)
In Lucky an alien refugee, flees the centre of the galaxy. Where would a humanoid alien hide? In a sink estate? Find out in Life in a Northern Town
A want to be librarian flees the last library on Earth. Why?
What happens after government collapses? Find out in After School.
Humanity on the extinction list of the xenophids? Don’t worry, Joe’s on the case.
(Noir / Historical – short stories)
Tales of the corsairs set in the time of the Crusades
Noir fiction – a criminal, a journalist, a private detective
Ice Made and other stories
(All genres – short stories)
…is a selection of stories across all genres. The title story concerns an ice sculptor who creates more than he bargains for. First contact with aliens can’t always go right and in Joe and the Xenophids, has gone badly wrong. The extinction of the human race is on the cards. The royal blood line of a kingdom comes under threat in Brant. Following this, he becomes prey to supernatural creatures. The only thing is, he doesn’t believe in the supernatural – to his peril. Not all fantasy is happy ever after as our heroine discovers in City.
An enormous reservoir built in the Rossendale Valley (dialect local to Lancashire used) becomes the backdrop to Little Jimmy, Asbestalux and Pax Imperii.
The slaughter of three Roman legions in 9 AD is the setting for Message for Oeipa and Winter in Alexandria.
Is our point of view the only sensible one? What would our pets say about us if they could talk? Carrie gives a cat’s view and the Charity for the Rescue of Aggressive Pets gives a dog’s. Aeschia describes an alien’s impressions as she flits and floats around Paris. Night of Life implies that first contact with aliens may come with strings. Cuckoo looks at cross species hook-ups.
I’ve some books in progress
- The Fécunda
- The Xenocotrix
- Brant and other fancies
- The Wrong Lane and other detours
- Life on Earth and other fictions
Eventually I’ll get them onto Kindle.