Monday, December 24, 2007

In praise of Henry Miller

The following piece was written for Dogmatika to celebrate Henry Miller's birthday, on 26 December.

The Lucid Rebel

Good writing reinvents the world, and when I say it reinvents the world I mean it reinvents the way we see the world, since there's no other source of knowledge about the world. And when I say it reinvents the way we look at the world, what I really mean is that it reinvents the way we look at ourselves. I.e., it reinvents us. It follows that writers, by writing, reinvent -- or change -- themselves. I've always used writing whenever I am in a hole -- a psychological tight spot -- to write myself out of it. Writing as Rapunzel -- knitting words into a rope to climb out of the tower in which I am imprisoned. All writers do this to an extent, but there's one who above all showed me the extent to which it was possible, with sheer fearless bravado and imagination, to invent a new version of yourself which you then become. He literally wrote himself a set of clothes fit for a king and then put them on and went swaggering about town -- whether in Brooklyn, Clichy, Paris, or Big Sur -- with the attitude of a street punk but the sensibility of a Buddhist Rimbaud. I used him as inspiration to transform my own life and become the writer I wanted to be.

It is sad that Henry Miller is no longer fashionable and I would like to add my voice to those who think this should change. Without Miller, many subsequent American authors from the Beats through Norman Mailer to Charles Bukowski, Luke Reinhardt or Thomas Wolfe would have had to beat a much tougher trail through the publishing undergrowth. In the history of 20th century literature in Miller is often bracketed along with DH Lawrence for the simple reasons that they both challenged the sexual mores of the time and that their obscenity trials occurred virtually in parallel in the early Sixties, Lawrence's in the UK and Miller's in the States. Although they have much in common -- another thing is their insistence that sex and philosophy be treated on an equal level -- and belong in many ways to their age, in many other ways they are very different writers. What Miller did, which Lawrence couldn't quite manage, is to liberate literature from the plot. He made himself the subject of his work -- not just his real life, but an imagined life which makes the real life so much more bearable. Paralleling developments in modern art, he made himself the work of art.

DH Lawrence did it for me first, but that was probably inevitable given that I attended the same school as he and grew up a few miles from where he grew up. His landscape was my landscape, though separated by a few decades. Furthermore, I fell under the rather poisonous spell of Sons and Lovers at the too-vulnerable age of 15 or 16, with devastating effects. I had to wait until my twenties before discovering Miller,which was a far more liberating experience. I devoured everything that he wrote, especially loving the free jazz, intoxicated epiphanies that constitute passages of Black Spring or the Tropic of Capricorn. The reason for the affinity became clear when writing my second appenticeship unpublished novel, Desire and Misery, which was based on the film Orphee, by Jean Cocteau. It was then that I came across B Mathieu's inspired book about Miller, Orpheus in Brooklyn, which details the many parallels between Miller's own life and the myth of Orpheus in the underworld.

The myth of Orpheus is the eternal story of the passage of the artist and his return as inspired outsider. Every true artist must confront and conquer the daemons in themselves in order to understand human nature and yield its secrets -- and this is a continuous process. The fact is, there aren't enough people like Henry Miller. Like Walt Whitman before him, and the many other thinkers and writers he often wrote about, Miller sees the beauty and glory of life in 16 dimensions, in unlimited colours, and embraces the dark side, the dirty side, just as much as the beautiful side with uncritical love.

Following the relationship between Miller, his wife June, and Anais Nin, his first patron, was for me just as fascinating as trying to fathom the relationship between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Miller was one of the first male writers to write realistically about women's attitude to sex -- and of course this was part of the reason for his being banned in his own country for over 20 years. It's true that he was hated later by feminists -- but really I think this was a little hypocritical and over-ideological of them, if you compare his work to the erotic writing of his lover Anais Nin.

It's easy to forget that for many, many years he was championed by critics and artists, venerated by pilgrims and became cultural hero -- or villain for many. He was the Brooklyn boy who went to Paris when everyone else was going home, he lived the stereotypical life of the starving bohemian. In 1939 he went to Greece, to visit Lawrence Durrell. While there, he soaked up the narrative basis of the Colossus of Maroussi. Forced to return to America by the war, he presaged Kerouac's journeying across America with his own year-long odyssey, which resulted in his devastating critique of consumerism, the Air-conditioned Nightmare, another book which was prophetic in its content. Settling in California, he started to paint and took on the mantle almost of a Buddhist sage. The writer from the Paris Review, who interviewed him in 1961 described his voice as "mellow, resonant, a quiet bass with great range and variety of modulation".

Given the vast range of his output, one of the things that is really interesting about Miller's ouevre, is that he claimed that his best work occurred when he was not thinking. He said "A writer shouldn't think much. I work from someplace deep down: when I write, I don't know just exactly what's going to happen." He's talking about an ideal place which writers love to reach. It the one where there is no separation between yourself and the words, in fact your entire self just disappears. Like he says, he "becomes saturated with it, you can't sleep". Miller called these passages written under this kind of spell "cadenzas". It is a type of lucidity which happens only through total immersion in your work. It is through this Orphic immersion that Miller transformed himself from a Western Union postal worker to a world-class writer. He dived off the Brooklyn Bridge and came up for air in the Seine.

When we survey the modern publishing landscape, we realise how boring most of it is. Writers are packaged, they don't take risks, they write to formulas, to have their works turned into movies. Their audience is immediate, their worlds are unquestioned by themselves. Yes, there is sex everywhere, but there is little tenderness or wisdom. The point is that Miller was a rebel intoxicated by language -- we need more of them now.

© David Thorpe, December 2007

Friday, November 23, 2007

Maddie spotted by Hubble Telescope

Madeline McCann being abducted by aliens
NASA has suppressed the picture above taken by the Hubble Telescope proving that Madeline McCann was abducted by aliens.

The picture was taken the day after she was reported missing, but has not been given to the Portuguese investIgators because the Portuguese did not send any soldiers to Iraq.

The Saucer has reportedly since flown to the Andromedan system, which is outside Portuguese jurisdiction.

Police are now working on the theory that her parents are also aliens, sent to earth as part of a plot to infiltrate the NHS as a prelude to selling it off to an interplanetary Hedge Fund.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Imagined Nation

Well so teenage drinking is up, so's junkfood eating and illegal drug use. Today's young people just wanna satiate their superficial sensory instincts and hang tomorrow.

This sounds like a pretty sane response to the state of the world to me.

The Blair gene-ration, supposed to have been programmed to fit the demands of the modern, 24/7 world-class economy, and at the same time guilt-tripped to sickness on a "We've fucked up the planet so you've got to save it" mantra, have apparently decided they want out of the responsibility.

They look (if they bother at all) at politicians and see "representatives" who do the usual say-one-thing-do-another Janus trick, pretending that we can have business-as-usual and avoid environmental and social melt-down.

They don't buy it.

If the leaders abdicate their responsibility, what do you expect the sheep to do?

Depression is the sickness, self-numbing the treatment. In a double bind, where each avenue leads nowhere useful, paralysis results.

Looked at another way, it's patently obvious to anyone that with all the global sustainability indicators divebombing, the human race, with its skyrocketing population growth and resource demands, is killing its host with its parasitical activity.

If God put humans in charge with dominion over the beasts, that was his big mistake. The children couldn't take that level of responsilibty. They hadn't grown up enough.

In the face of this future, what would you expect powerless individuals to do? With all our leaders pretending that everything is ok, what can we do?

Each gene-ration has the chance to start again. It's the onus of each gene-ration to renew hope.

Hope sometimes seems a precious currency. Even more precious is imagination.

Imagination is the one resource kids have in spades. Even if every attempt has been made by the schooling system to drill it out of kids, many of them are still full enough of the "What if...?"s and the "Why not...?"s to make a difference.

Imagination, coupled with faith in its fruits, is needed now more than any other time. Kids have to envisage and live a different way or face death by tabloid prophecy.

Imagination is currently primarily channeled into music, but also into graphic arts, video, celebrity wannabe-ness, fashion, games - all of which are often just a way to suck kids into the system and hoodwink them with fake glamour.

Real imagination rejects the forms and contents presented, rejects the rules of the given game, and breaks them. It invents its own.

Imagination is needed to vision another way of living that isn't about money, jobs, economic growth - ie, buying useless stuff that either breaks or is out of date next week - but which is about you and me, and friends and building meaning back into everyday life.

Imagination is your secret weapon. Imagination is what they can't take away from you.

They'll want to - so they can sell it back and maintain control position.

Imagination is drumming on a skin of facts with sticks of poetry.

Imagination is painting on a canvas of science with a dancing brush.

Imagination transforms victims into escapees, it makes you the revolutionary's revolutionary.

With imaination they can try to pigeon your hole, but you've already flown.

With imagination they can try to peg your square but you're no longer a round there.

With imagination you're armed to the kilt with parallel worlds.

With practise you can make your imagination so strong that you can even make a memory seem to belong to someone else. Make them believe in your alternate world.

People learn by example, and you have to find the appropriate examples that work for you. If you can't find them, invent them.

Role models? They are not much to be found in celebrity magazines. They are the pied pipers, the evil faeries that lure you along the dangerous path.

Everyone must find and be their own hero and heroine.

As you journey through this workaday world, perhaps on the way to school or college, work or shop, and you see the bored faces of everyone else on train, bus or sidewalk, ask yourself why they are bored, and if they dislike it as much as you. What untapped potential is in their minds, and what are the creative uses of such cynicism.

We live in a narrow world, and there is so much more to explore. Reach out and take it to avoid the living death - and at the end a death full of regrets.

I realise this is a risky post to put up. Maybe it's just me. But you know, after years and years of trying, I can't see the world in any other way - I become more and more convinced:

There's not just one road less travelled; there's thousands.

Build your own Imagined Nation.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Keep Britain Normal

Keep Britain NormalIt began with MRSA. A mutated bug no drug could kill. Then that mutated further...

Infection produced alarming symptoms. Soon the entire population lived in fear... No known treatment. The ill afraid to go to hospital... a death sentence.

A panic-stricken government introduced the Biological Security Act. It set up the Biological Security Agency...

Seconded from the military, their suited medics patrolled the streets responding to calls to the freephone number on all the posters and tv/internet ads...

As strange changes began to be wrought by the bugs on their victims 'Keep Britain Normal' became the mantra of all mainstream political parties....

The new profile artwork is by Felipe Cunha. Hybrids is itself hybridising into a comic. We have perfected character sketches. A teaser is coming before Christmas. Watch this space.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Doris Lessing and the Nobel Prize for Literature

Doris Lessing has at last been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Better late than never - although she has no shortage of gongs on her mantlepiece.

Many people today under 40 will never even have heard of her. This was certainly true of 20-30 year olds 15-17 years ago when our paths crossed.

I had commissioned a graphic novel from her. It's called Playing the Game and was eventually published by HarperCollins when they bought the rights to all her work. It was part of a series intended to match 'literary' authors - like Kazuo Ishiguro, Angela Carter and Ian Banks - with the best comics artists - like Lorenzo Mattotti, Dave McKean and Francois Schuitten. Sadly it was the only title published in the end.

I visited her house a number of times. She came across as a wonderfully alive person, with piercing blue eyes, and a genuine interest in everything you had to say. She really wanted to understand and would ask searching questions, listening intently to the answers.

At dinner, her adult son, who lived with her and has learning difficulties, hovered in the background, a source of guilt and responsibility for her - as well as of material for at least two of her works.

I had thought that such a giant of literature would not be concerned with mere comics, but her desire to push creative barriers knew no limits - not even comics!

Her choice of story was unusual - a fable, and one written in the form of an aria, which the artist was intended to illustrate. She wanted it to be an opera too (she'd just worked with Philip Glass on an opera) but I don't think this ever happened.

There came the task of choosing an artist. I came over with a large pile of books and we went through them. And you know what? She picked out the darkest, most heavy metal, and accomplished of the lot - Simon Bisley, who was drawing Slaine and ABC Warriors for 2000AD at the time and had a massive following, particularly among bikers, of which he was one... and a body builder.

I was surprised and pleased. So I asked Simon - who had never heard of her. He was too busy and anyway didn't like the story.

This pattern continued through all the other artists she liked and approached. The next, for example, was Duncan Fegredo, who I had 'discovered' and worked with since he was at Leeds art college, and who also draws astonishingly and with dramatic electric dynamism.

As we progressed, it became apparent that - most comics artists being working class and anarchic in sensibility - Lessing's reputation and style meant nothing to them.They all turned down this job - which some might have considered a dream job - one by one.

In the end the artist who eventually agreed was a hack, to be honest. An unexceptional and arrogant young typical Marvel artist who couldn't relate to the work either. No one liked the result, least of all me.

So what is it about Doris Lessing's work which doesn't speak to the recent young? After all, she has written many times about the quest of youth for meaning, and the difficulties of growing up in problematic surroundings.

The way I see it is that both the attraction and disadvantage of much of her work lie in its naivety. Perceptive in matters of the heart, her style and political idealism leave her at times exposed. She is at home when writing about things she has direct experience of, such as Zimbabwe, and awkward when not.

At the time when I began working on this, I was still involved in the grassroots anti-capitalist political scene in London. I was part of the collective producing Monochrome newspaper.

A couple of years earlier her book 'The Good Terrorist' had appeared. We all felt this was intended to be about people like some of us - for example Sarah Gellner, daughter of historian Ernest Gellner. So we all read it - but it did not resonate. It was not grounded in reality, we felt, and therefore was making a judgement about 'middle-class' 'revolutionaries' based not on research but on ideology. We laughed at it. What did she know?

But it's the ability to continue asking questions and experimenting that marks the true artist. Whether you arrive at the 'right' answers is not always relevant - you're bound to get it wrong sometimes. So I do believe that after a lifetime of such practice, Lessing every bit deserves her prize from Stockholm.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hybrids has been shortlisted for award

Hybrids has been shortlisted for an award in London. School librarians in Lewisham and their students have chosen it for the second annual Lewisham Book Award.

There are 12 state secondary schools in Lewisham, in south east London. They say that students have already started reading the books, and will be voting for their favourite on the shortlist in February, with the winner to be announced in March. They will need to read all six to be able to vote.

They add: "We also expect many students to write reviews of the books which will be posted on the Lewisham VLE (Virtual Learning Environment)".

The other books on the shortlist are:
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
The Black Tattoo - by Sam Enthoven
The Wave Runners - by Kai Meyer
The Book of Everything - by Guus Kuijer
The Outlaw Varjak Paw - by S.F. Said

"Thank you for writing such a thought-provoking and thrilling book," they conclude.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Whose collective memory is it anyway?

ADS, or attention-deficit syndrome, is the metaphorical disease of the age. Just as junk food creates unfit bodies so junk culture produces unfit minds. By consuming it the current generation lays itself weak for exploitation, its minds open for colonisation by commercial and political interests.

What is required is the cultural equivalent of wholefoods, slow food, organic, fair trade, fresh and local nutrition - but what is this? Where are there examples of mind vitamins, spiritual enzymes, emotional minerals, intellectual roughage - brain nutrition?

It comes to something when the utterances of ex-Stone Roses front man Ian Brown seem to be extreme - reference his new album and the interview in this weekend's Guardian Guide.

Looking back, the most dystopian past visions of the future have turned out to be the most accurate, and the most radical ideas have turned out to be the most necessary.

But the flow of mindless mediocrity and short-termism - both short term thinking and short attention span fostering - which the global capitalist system and its politicians have been foisting on us for the last two decades, has produced a generation that barely seems to understand the meaning of words like 'radical' or 'protest'. The recent climate camp at Heathrow, for instance, was attended by around only 1800.

That's why every generation has to keep questioning. Every generation has to understand the status quo and attack it. If it fails to understand, recognise and attack it will be ruthlessly exploited and its life wasted, sucked dry, spat out at the end as a useless husk full of nothing but regrets.

For example, this is why we have a credit crisis now - millions with a massive millstone of debt round their necks that will take a lifetime of pointless, soul-destroying labour to pay off. They seduce you with baubles, get you into debt and then you're hooked into the system.

Kids, don't get into debt! It's a trap! Don't believe marketing and advertising. It should be banned! Question everything. Believe nothing.

Teach yourselves what they don't expect you to know!
But how?

The problem is that each generation has to learn this for themselves. They have to start afresh. They have to reinvent protest.

But the enemies - mainstream history and the status quo - have an excellent inter-generational memory - a version of history. They fill your head with it at school. They fill your head with it in the media. And they have their own vast, extensive archives. They have honed tactics, resources, laws, etc. etc. They therefore have a massive head start.

As a result, normal conventional protest (Live 8, Live Earth, marching against the Iraq war) doesn't stand a chance. It will always be out-propaganda'd, out-manoevered, or beaten into submission. Hence terrorism - the last resort of the powerless.

Because, it's in the nature of opposition that much of what happens from its point of view is undocumented. Therefore there is little inter-generational memory.

For example, I was involved in the Leveller magazine's successor, Monochrome, in the '80s. This lasted about six years and put out bimonthly issues - 10,000 print run - all free - financed by adverstising and the Leveller Graphics studio, itself set-up to pay off the debts of the Leveller Magazine, the most radical mag of the late '70s (its heyday was the ABC (Aubrey, Berry, Campbell) Official Secrets trial of 1979). Some of the covers of this you can see in 'my pics' on my myspace.

Naturally, both journals took inspiration from the Levellers and Diggers, the seventeenth century's give-the-land-to-the-people revolutionaries.

In the sea of history, Monochrome has disappeared without trace, as no one documented it, not even the book about the '80s counterculture media 'No Way To Run a Railroad'. (The same is true of the excellent Vague magazine, featuring Jamie Read, Jon Savage and Tom Vague.) I have a complete set of Monochromes that one day I must digitise.

Now in the '90s I had a conversation with the manager of that excellent band, the Levellers, and established that although they also took inspiration from the original Levellers, they had never heard of the Leveller Magazine or Monochrome. And this was barely a decade later. No inter-generational memory. No foundations, no learning from experience, no sense of tradition.

Most people haven't a clue about the rich and noble tradition of political protest, radical thinking, extreme art, revolutionaries, riots, strikes, working class movements, emancipation struggles, human rights struggles, and more, that has been going on in this country since the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Where do you go to find out about it?

My dream, then, is for an alternative online and perhaps offline college and library, a wiki-style place where all this stuff can be stored and learnt. A resource, a memory, a constantly self-updating treasury of radical history, culture, ideological, methodological, and strategic weaponry.

Who will be its curators and lecturers, its librarians and chancellors?

As Tony Benn once said, you can't trust what you read in their media; you have to have your own.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Why we fight for freedom

Before I explain why, let me ask you a question: Is satire dead?

I mean, is it possible to have political satire in an age where everything that the satirist can possibly imagine has already been exceeded by somebody somewhere? Our society has become a caricature of the kind of nightmare society writers used to imagine 20, 30 or 40 years ago. We gratefully watch rubbish and consume rubbish while CCTV cameras follow our every move and our every spending habit is tracked remorselessly. Robot police drones police pop concerts. Someone becomes Prime Minister without being elected. We imagine we live in a sensible country while over half of the world regards us as a jingoistic menace.

Surely, political satire is only possible in an age when people care about these things. Instead they laugh at the idea that anyone could care.

Perhaps instead it is possible to satirise the satirist who attempts to write satire -- Armando Iannucci, for example, who has been co-opted as the latest court jester. You can't get away from him these days. Why do the powers that be find him so irresistible? Another Oxbridge darling. He paid somebody to tell him what is really going on inside the Cabinet so he could put it in fictional form and astonish us. He paid someone else to write in the expletives. This is not satire, it is plagiarism. It is bad journalism.

So why should I care? Why do I care? What does it matter if I care? It matters nothing, nada, nihil.

In fact as of last night I have decided and resolved not to care any more -- I am giving up caring. And I am someone who used to care a lot -- after all, I was a Guardian reader (that's a joke). I supported lots of charities. I campaigned extensively on the subject of climate change. I believe completely that in the next 80 years millions of people are going to die as a result. Not to mention thousands of species. As if enough have not been sacrificed already on the altar of so-called progress.

I must have cared in the past -- I bought the Big Issue. I wrote passionate articles about important subjects as if I cared about them. I raised money for poor people in Africa. When friends came to me for advice and help I would do my best to help them. Even people I didn't know very well. People think I know something about computers and ask me to sort out their problems which I almost invariably have done. All of this is now going to stop.

I am no longer going to put my clothes neatly away at night. I am going to leave them in piles. I am not going to religiously clean all the surfaces in the kitchen every day and do three lots of washing-up every two days. I am not going to clean the car ever again. If the houseplants need watering and are about to die, what do I care?

I am not going to judge people -- they can do what the hell they like for all I care.

If I don't care about anybody else, why should they care about me? I don't want them to care about me. If they care about me it means they are watching me, and if they're watching me they are judging me, and if they're judging me I can't do what I like.

Besides, most people, it seems to me, especially politicians and corporate executives, seem to get away with not caring. They just do what they want to do and sod everyone else. I've always been someone who goes out of their way to, for example, pass on a bit of information that I get that I think will be useful to someone I know. I scrupulously recycle and watch my energy usage. No more.

My head has become too full of what other people think ought to be there, and what I think up other people think ought to be there. My time has become too filled with things that I do because I think I ought to do them or because somebody else wants me to. Now I'm going to be like most other people and just do things I want to do. And you know what? I don't care. I don't even care if you care that I don't care.

It's very liberating, not having to care. I feel free -- lighter than air. I am like the people of Iraq -- liberated.

Now I understand why we went to war, in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are supporting freedom, we are fighting for freedom. We are fighting for the freedom not to care, to stop caring. Why should we care that the world is going to pot? Tigers are about to become extinct. People are dying of malaria and beri-beri because pharmaceutical companies can't see a profit in producing a cure. Leprosy is still around. Children and pets are mistreated all over the world. Why should we have the burden of worrying about this?

Well, we don't. We are free of it. We are convinced that it will happen whether we worry about it or care about it or not.

In truth, we are fighting for freedom from the burden of having to care about the consequences of our actions. If these consequences occur on the other side of the world or if they occur in our own backyard it doesn't matter. Like the Catholic faith and belief in God, I am absolved of having to care because I believe in freedom.

Freedom is therefore the only thing worth caring about.

Thank you President Bush and all other previous American presidents for continually reiterating the reason why we have such big armies. No other country values freedom so highly, therefore America must be right.

It follows that it is right not to care. And that anyone who does care is an enemy of freedom.

That's why we fight for freedom.

(And a big Hah! to anyone who thought I was going to say it was because we want the freedom to satirise.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

"It is the government’s pandering to mass fear ... of which we should be afraid"

A pleasing new review by Donal Cumiskey in Inis - the Childrens Books Ireland magazine:

Hybrids is a thought-provoking novel that delivers a fast-paced plot, good dialogue and engaging characters.

As the story progresses it becomes evident that it is not just another 'live and let live' moral tale of inclusion and social harmomy, but a warning to readers of the danger of public panic and misuse of technology.

The Machiavellian actions of the corporations and government agencies and the differing responses from volunteer groups, freedom fighters, the media and the international community are all too real to people growing up in the modern political climate.

Thorpe injects a seriously Orwellian feel to the book, illustrating how it is the government's pandering to mass fear and not the victims of the disease of which we should be afraid.

Readers aged 13+ should enjoy an exciting read with substance from this great debut.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

More Hybrids reviews

These have just come in:
  • "When our teenage reviewer took this into a school as part of a lesson showing what you read at home, the book drew an appreciative crowd and was the star of the show. Not a bad reaction for a first novel! David Thorpe has cleverly tapped into the teenage psyche with awesome precision. The main characters are totally reliant on the gadgets that teens now take for granted and this book takes that obsession to a different, almost believable level. Oh, this is clever stuff and you will just love it! Bring it on!" - From Bump to Grump

  • "Seriously spooky" - CY ezine, which made it Book of the Month, as did Collins Educational

  • "An inventive, dystopian world whicvh plays with the role of technology in our lives and as part of our humanness. The plot hurtles along ... a rattling adventure" - Books for Keeps

  • "The writing in Thorpe's debut is tight, and the dialogue convincing..... It would serve as a good jumping off point for debate about ethnic cleansing and human nature with young teenagers, as, like all good science-fiction, it's parallels can be clearly seen in the real world." Write Away (Featured title)

Full list on Del.ic.ious

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Next Big Thing: Who will be the next JK Rowling?

A Texan journalist, Kevin Garcia, had the neat idea to write a piece about authors who've been labelled "the next JK Rowling".

They include Michelle Paver, author of the amazing "Wolf Brother" series (I saw her speak at this year's Hay Festival and she was fascinating), Emma Maree Urquhart, of "Dragon Tamers" fame, and Louise Arnold, whose story "The Invisible Friend," won a contest by BBC Online - as well as myself.

We all agreed that there can be no next JK Rowling.

As Paver says "we don't actually need the next JK Rowling" and Arnold: "I don't see it as a void waiting to be filled."

Urquhart "loathes" the title.

And I'm quoted as saying "There's never going to be a next JK Rowling. That's not the kind of thing that you can manufacture.

"It's a very, very competitive field. In the end, it's the kids who decide who's big and who isn't," Thorpe said. "The only thing you can do as a writer is write what you want to write about and tell a damn good story."

> Read the whole piece - The Next Big Thing: Who will be the next JK Rowling?

Sold out again in less than 24 hours!

A few weeks ago Doodled Books sold out in one week of 20 copies of signed and drawn-in copies of Hybrids at £19.99 and ordered 15 more. They went on sale yesterday and sold out again in less than 24 hours! More are on order for me to draw in. I wonder who is buying them?

> See the galleries here
> Read their interview with me

I'm looking forward to Womad and a break.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Is the mood of the country changing?

  • The Scottish and Welsh assemblies have green and anti-Westminster coalitions. Both are pro-peace, and anti-nuclear power and nuclear weapons

  • Seven British cabinet ministers have admitted to smoking dope

  • The super-Lotteries have been scrapped

  • The Daily Mail attempt to smear the Labout Administration has failed

  • Here in Wales the new cabinet gives fresh hope for international peace and justice:

    • Of the three Plaid Cymru ministers, Rhodri Glyn Thomas is a former Chair of
      CND Cymru and Elin Jones and has been a speaker at all the peace and justice demonstrations in Aberystwyth over the past 5 years

    • Labour cabinet members include: Brian Gibbons, who spoke regularly at anti - nuclear medical campaign against Nuclear Weapons meetings in the 1980s;

    • Jane Hutt is an ex-Greenham Common campaigner

    • Edwina Hart supported the Stop the War protests in 2002-3

    • John Griffiths is against nuclear power was involved in Stop the War

    • Jane Davidson has recently pledged to work to reverse the senseless House of Commons vote to replace Trident.

I've always been too much of an optimist whilst writing dystopic narratives. Perhaps with Blair out of the way, we have a window of opportunity to work with more chance of success for a fairer, more peaceful and environmentally sane world.

What's it feel like from where you sit?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Doodling fun

There's a remarkable web business dedicated to selling first editions of books. Their gimmick is they get authors to sign the books and doodle in them.

Needless to say, it's called Doodled Books.

Its manager, Claire Main, asked me to doodle in 20 copies of Hybrids, which she put on the web site. They sold out in a week at £19.99 each.

Now Claire wants more of them. Very nicely, she says "I think you have huge potential" and all the ones I do in the future will go "on the Harry Potter pages as we are getting loads of hits due to the next book coming out and it would be a shame for you to miss out on the hype."

She's going to send me batches of 20, and each book will have a different doodle and slogan. I've promised her that as long as she keeps sending them, I'll keep defacing them!

You can view the sold out doodles here.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

An immense number of ideas

Isn't it nice when a book reviewer gets exactly what you're up to?

So it is with Anthony Brown, reviewing Hybrids in Starburst 351. He says:

"Hybrids may have the length and style of a Young Adult book, and two teenage heroes to go with them, but Thorpe doesn't pull punches with the satirical ideas he packs in.

"From detention without trial and three-layer registering of Creep victims that smack of control orders, through a Centre for Genetic Rehabilitation that reflects Guantanamo, to HIV-echoing conspiracy theory accusations against pharmaceutical companies.

"Thorpe approaches distinctly adult ideas in an approachable hero-led way, as Johnny and rich-kid fellow Creep victim Kestrella become the gurus of the Hybrid Resistance Army whose existence allows the hardline Deputy Prime Minister to call for harsh measures for dangerous times.

"Over the mere 296 large print pages, Thorpe packs in an immense number of ideas, shaking up the situations in surprising ways time and time again."

"An immense number of ideas" in only 296 easy-to-read pages for only £5.99. Who says you can't get a bargain these days?!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Aesthetic offsetting service: Web site design

Today I will solve two problems for you at the same time.

Problem 1: Too many web sites are hideous. Let's face it, how many do you click onto an then have to click away instantly because even the subliminal glimpse of them will ruin the rest of your day?

Problem 2: There are too many excellent artists in the world who struggle to survive because the art world loves to lavish its attention on just a few superstars who command ridiculous prices and who, anyway, are quite frankly past their sell-by dates - I mean, please move over Emin, Hurst, etc.

My solution: Following the success of our Fart Neutral scheme, which neutralised the methane emissions from your bum and, indeed Cheat Neutral - the hilarious film about which was produced by a colleague in this office - which neutralises your love cheating - we offer:

Aesthetic Offsetting

If you are aesthetically challenged and have a butt-ugly web site with flashing animations, clashing colours and unreadable fonts, send us some money and we'll give it to struggling artists that we know.

People like Clare Maynard, Merchant Merchant and Cheryl Huntbach.

This is a voluntary scheme. Simply assess the aesthetic value of your profile on the following scale and send me the appropriate amount:
  1. Mildly irritating - £5/$10

  2. Frankly disturbing - £10/$20

  3. Pass the sick bag - £20/$40

  4. I'm going to take a sledgehammer to my monitor - £50/$100

  5. Somebody call the men in white before I go on a random rampage or fall on this Samurai Katana sword - £500/$1000

If we find that a voluntary scheme is not sufficient, we'll just have to lobby the W3C to get tough and make it mandatory.


If you think you deserve to be a beneficiary of this scheme, get in touch!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mundane SF

Perhaps you've already heard of Mundane SF? If not you may like to know that it's a "new" idea being touted by a guest editor of Interzone, the UK's foremost SF mag.

When my novel Hybrids was published I was bemused to learn that it was to be marketed as science fiction. Somewhat naively I didn't think I was writing SF.

It's obvious in retrospect, but the elements they think of as SF I thought were metaphorical. After all, is Kafka an SF writer?

My agent says that is what I must continue to write. This is fine by me. Except the thing is I don't read all the stuff people normally call SF - space opera etc.

Now I find there's Mundane SF, which Hybrids possibly fits into. This is because Hybrids, like MundaneSF, contains no faster than light travel, psi power, aliens, computer consciousness, teleportation or time travel.

The following usual suspects form some of my touchstones - Kafka, Orwell, Burroughs, Dick, Ballard. Perhaps they are 'Mundane SF'?

My reservation is that the term 'Mundane' seems a put-off - as if the subgenre isn't interesting.

HarperCollins thinks that SF will be the next big thing for kids - we've had enough fantasy.

I hope so. I plan to keep writing this kind of SF.

InterZone is now accepting submissions for their Mundane SF issue. I've submitted a short story. I'm not at all sure if it's SF, but really, why do we need labels at all?

> Want to read more?
> MundaneSF Blog

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Beware, Canada and Australia

Creep is coming... spreading over the globe like a stain...

Reaching out from the initial contamination point: London...

We tried to contain it but failed. The quarantine was broken by Persons Unknown. Their motive may have been greed, desire or just pure randomness.

You'll never know. That's the nature of modern terror. The sheer uncertainty.

One thing is certain: Hybrids will be published in Canada and Australia on July 1.

Be afraid. Be ever so slightly afraid.

Feel that itch? You just have to scratch it. Immunity is not guaranteeable.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Hybrids role play game

It had to happen. Someone has started a Hybrids role play game.

Er, guys, you don't get it do you? You're supposed to use the computers LESS.

We are becoming hybrids part 2

[continuing last week's train of thought]

The whole trend [of endlessly replacing consumer technology with newer versions] is driven by business and 'lust for the new' which we have been conditioned into.

If I can take you back to where it started - end of World War I. Soldiers back from the war, here and in the US. After the rebuild, most households had the basic necessities, and manufacturers were worried that they would go out of business as their markets dried up.

At this point, a nephew of Sigmund Freud began using Freuds's ideas about the unconscious to design advertising campaigns that made people believe for the first time that it was not enough just to have a washing machine, but that the washing machine had to be aligned to their sense of self-image.

It was he who made it ok for women to smoke, for example, by photographing some glamorous women smoking at the end of a Women's Emancipation march in New York in the early '20s. This associated in women's minds freedom with smoking. Of course smoking is addictive so they weren't being freed at all. Glamour is a smokescreen for sordid reality. This is what my short story, Perfection, posted last year here, was about.

Fashion is the supreme example of this. It's not enough to wear clothes, but the clothes must say everything about you and you don't want to seem out of date and you have to look cool. Fashion has existed for much longer, but the concept was in the 20th century systematically applied to other products.

Manufacturers love this as it means that markets will never dry up as long as people remain insecure... and their advertising makes sure that they do remain insecure.

Innovation is the other side of this. You have to buy the latest phone and computer after a few years because your old one, even if it works perfectly, will no longer be compatible with everyone else's. Some analogue products work better or are more appropriate than their digital counterparts (watches, radios), but the strong current towards convergence is sweeping them or has swept them all aside.

So the waste mountains pile up, and we ae actually running out of the natural elements which are used in these products. Last week's New Scientist looked at all these metals - such as iridium, galiium, etc, - and found that most will run out in our lifetime. Perhaps human ingenuity will come up with something to replace them, but it does demonstrate graphically that the corporate-driven growth and pace of change is - to use that over-used and tired word - unsustainable. It has severe limits.

We don't like limits. We like freedom. But we rush headlong into a tangle of self-delusory madness and the very opposite of freedom, because we don't realise how, by imagining that we can buy freedom with every new product, we are actually increasing our dependency on ties that will really constrain us.

One constraint I am concerned with is this human-hybrid tie-in with technology. We are/will be unable to function without it. And how many of us understand it? - forced to use (as in your case Sharon) - or even hypnotised by (as in your friend) - the glitter; uncomprehending (if I can say so without sounding patronising) of the specialists who invented and designed it - who seem almost a different breed of human.

'Consumers' cruise the shopping malls of the developed world on their days off, looking for the next fix, using text messages to alert their friends. Elsewhere, one billion people in the world live in slums and own next to nothing.

We are in the last days. I'm sorry, I never wanted to be a doomsayer.

The Changes

I've just come across a tv series and novel trilogy from the '70s which I didn't know of before, with some similarities of theme to Hybrids. Does anyone remember it?

The Changes was a British children's science fiction television serial filmed in 1973 and first broadcast in 1975 by the BBC. In the first episode, ordinary people smashed ordinary objects in fits of seeming madness and this apparently made a great impact on its young audience.

The Changes posits a Britain in which the population have mysteriously rebelled against modern technology, destroyed all modern machinery and reverted back to a pre-industrial age.

The madness is triggered by a sound emitted from electricity pylons.

Even the words for modern inventions became taboo - 'car', 'tractor', 'electricity', 'toaster', 'pylon', etc. Just to mention them brings on the noise and the uncontrollable anger against machines again. These items of modern technology are described by people, including the central character Nicky, as cursed.

At one point the main character in the series, Nicky Gore, is asked whether it will induce the noise to start a blacksmith's forge. She asks, "where will you get the iron from?" On hearing there is plenty of scrap lying around the farm (obviously a sensible bit of recycling) she announces that the forge will probably not invoke the noise. So the forge goes ahead. But bicycles are sadly trashed.

Its theme echoes the adult drama series Survivors (1975) in which a small group of British people attempt to survive the decimation of the world's population by disease. This itself is reminiscent of 'The Memoirs of a Survivor' by Doris Lessing (1974), made into a film with Julie Christie. The preoccupation with this theme at the time may have been due to the oil shortage and other environmental and nuclear scares going on, with parallels to our own time.

The Changes was directed by John Prowse.

The TV series was freely adapted by Anne Home from a trilogy of novels by Peter Dickinson. The series took most of its material from The Weathermonger which, together with Heartsease and The Devil's Children has recently been reissued in a single volume in the UK.

You can read more and buy The Changes on Tony Gosling's web site - this is a private site. The BBC have not re-issued it for contractual reasons.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

We are becoming hybrids

Sherry Turkle is a clinical psychologist, author and professor of the sociology of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She worries that new technologies like instant messaging, Wi-Fi and cellphones are transforming human psychology.

In an article this week in the New Scientist she goes further to worry that this same technology is gradually turning us into cyborgs.

Naturally, I share this concern.

Sherry runs seminars at MIT on 'Technology and Self - how our sense of self is changing as a result of our interactions with technology'.

These have led to three edited collections, being published by the MIT Press, on the relationships between things and thinking. The first, Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, was published in April.

Eleven years ago she wrote: "When I landed at MIT in 1976, I was struck on day two by two things—that my students had what I considered eroticised relationships with their computers, which had an intensity, a holding power... it was compelling. It was not addiction, but it was something very powerful and it was completely new to me.

"And secondly, the way they use computer language where I would have used psychoanalytic language to talk about the self. I thought this was fascinating. For example, they say "Don't interrupt me, I have to clear my buffer", or "It's not a Freudian slip, it's an information processing error."

I have noticed the same response in myself.

The mind controls the body - mind over matter. As our thinking is changed by technology, and our bodies are distorted by using technology, so we recreate our bodies in the image of technology.

Sherry says this is not an addiction (or wasn't 30 years ago). I believe it is now. Anyone who has tried to get a child or teenager to come off a computer or watch less tv will agree.

She is right to say that it is also eroticised.

The first technology to be eroticised was the car. The most eroticised artefact now is the mobile phone, followed by the car and the MP3 player.

What does eroticised mean? That the technology's use triggers a state of arousal and anticipation, and produces attempts through whatever means to incite those feelings.

This is a response below conscious level. It becomes almost instinctive. Computer use, like driving, becomes an extension of our selves and incorporated in our dreams. It becomes desirable and necessary of and for itself.

SF stories of the past foretold that machines would take over. They never dreamt that this would not be by deliberate machine-led conspiracy but by an insidious process of designers producing desirable objects for profit-driven corporations, that use the tricks of marketeers to hook into our psychologies.

This drives an iterative process resulting in consumers becoming more and more wedded to successive generations of better-targeted products.

This process is akin to natural selection. Which depends partly on sex.

The erotic relationship demands consummation. At this point we have surrendered to the masters, the purveyors, the manufacturers, the corporations who are technologies' pimps.

We have surrendered our self-control and let go of the link to 200,000 years, or 99.9%, of our species history, when everything humans related to, and were part of, were biological (natural) ecosystems.

Now, at this moment in our species' development - as we are radically destroying or modifying these ecosystems, through mass extinctions, climate change, and the addition of 100,000 new chemicals - we are becoming intimate with technological ecosystems, without any idea of the consequences...

We are becoming hybrids.

Beneath the table of the 'gods'

Yesterday was peaceful at Rostock, where the G8 titans do battle. Good photos in the German papers today, thousands of protestors with muitlcoloured flags wandering through fields to get to the fence, police and heicopters in the background.

I think if I had time I would have gotten up there. Glad though to see that the thing is not passing off without protest. Attac seem to be getting the most coverage and all sorts of people are joining them, even some CDU and CSU politicans here - well, one or two.

But I still can't make out what exactly Attac politics are beyond asking our leaders, the world bank and the corporations to be nicer - which is a bit like asking monkeys not to steal nuts ....

In my cynical moments I see it as the standard bi-yearly circus attendant to the world's giants, who are pleased that they receive attention, but otherwise regard the actions of the great unwashed as beneath their dignity to acknowledge.

Like pilgrims following an impatient and wilful God the protesters send their prayers and offerings with rituals and rites handed down by the high priests of their NGO churches, in the hope of attracting a favour.

But these gods obey their own laws, have their own masters, and when their actions do coincide with the will of their followers it is usually only down to coincidence.

Nevertheless dutiful followers must maintain their faith, for you never know what dire fate may fall were it to fail. Besides the churches (NGOs) need the offerings they donate to maintain and spread their influence, for secretly their leaders desire to be gods themselves...

"If I ruled the world, all problems would be solved..."
(co-written with Frank)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Win a signed copy of Hybrids!

Competition reminder. Only three days to go to win three signed copies of Hybrids.

To enter, please answer the following questions, and email them to me:
  1. What is the secret at the middle of the Centre for Genetic Rehabilitation?
  2. How can you make me happy?
  3. If you were to become a hybrid, what would you merge with and why?
The answers to the first two questions are in the book!

The competition closes on May 31, and I will repost this during the month for newcomers.

the competition is open till the end of May. On June 1st I'll look at all the entries and select a shortlist of those which answer the first two questions correctly.

The last question is a tie-breaker, so of that shortlist the three answers to question 3 which I like the best will win the signed copies.

I'm afraid the competition is not open to relatives or employees of HarperCollins.

Good luck!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"A stunningly clever novel" - The Times

With modesty I record my first review - I'm so relieved it's a good one. Amanda Craig in today's Times looks at it in the context of other titles about technology and children. Hybrids is reserved for the highest praise.

Comparing it to Kevin Brookes' Being she writes: "David Thorpe's Hybrids takes the cyborg idea even further, with a stunningly clever novel that won a nation-wide competition run by its publisher, HarperCollins, and Saga magazine.

"A dystopian version of Blairite Britain is drawn with economy and wit.... Johnny's cynical, off-beat narrative voice, and Kestrella's hopeful, tender naivety are both well done."

For her it has "a disappointing climax" (I guess critics have to complain about something - I wonder what she expected?) but "Hybrids will get boys (and girls) talking and thinking about a brave new world without technological stimuli". I hope so.

Read the full review.

Book signing Thursday May 10 Aberystwyth

Before it was announced that Hybrids had won the Saga/HarperCollins competition, some local teenagers including my son Dion wanted to turn it into a podcast.
Dion recorded and edited half of the 26 chapters and produced them, including writing the signature music.
Now it has won, HarperCollins are advising us to postpone the podcast, but the actors are doing readings at signings. The next one is:
Aberystwyth: Waterstones, Great Darkgate Street, 10 May at 5.30-6.30pm.

The actors:

Kestrella Chu is read by Izzy Rabey:

Izzy Rabey, playing Kestrella Chu

Johnny Online is read by Peter Horne:

Peter Horne, playing Johnny Online

Dion Thorpe, the producer:

Dion Thorpe, Hybrids podcast producer

Izzy is acting in King Lear at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre later in the evening.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Win a signed copy of Hybrids!

It's Hybrids publication day - May 1.

To celebrate I'm running a competition all through May giving away three signed copies of Hybrids.

To enter, please answer the following questions, and email them to me:
  1. What is the secret at the middle of the Centre for Genetic Rehabilitation?
  2. How can you make me happy?
  3. If you were to become a hybrid, what would you merge with and why?
The answers to the first two questions are in the book!

The competition closes on May 31, and I will repost this during the month for newcomers.

Good luck!

Friday, April 06, 2007

The second review of Hybrids

The Bookbag, a website about new books gives a very good summary of the plot and a positive review, with one irritating nitpick of the type "well if only I'd thought of this, I would have done it better". But you didn't, Jill.

However, it's the reviewer's children who give it the best response, especially when Jill says "my sons and I - even my younger son, the notorious reluctant reader - fairly galloped through it in our rush to find out what happened at the end".

It's the kids' reactions that matter, after all.

The older son noted, "perceptive as ever, that he had thought Hybrids was going to be 'just another' book all about how we should be nice to someone that's different, but it wasn't really about that at all".

She likes the double narrative strategy: "while I don't usually like a book to have multiple narrators, I enjoyed it here. It gave a double perspective on the disease and it also made the love affair between the two much more accessible to pre-adolescent readers."

"We also liked the way the book ended on more questions, not neat solutions."

The summary is: "A sharp, strong and tense debut novel."

The official launch date is 1 May, but copies are trickling into bookshops now.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Essential reading for the cyberspace generation"

Hybrids has effectively been published. I have the first copy sent to me today, and it looks great.

The official publication date has been moved forward to 1st May - a lovely day to be published. It used to be Labour Day and all the unions would be marching with their banners celebrating socialism and workers' solidarity.

Copies will start appearing in shops during April though and I'd be interested to hear when anyone receives their Amazon order. You can pre-order it from there now via the link on my profile, but I'd rather you supported your local bookshop if you have one at all.

It's good to see the paper is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified to prove it didn't harm any virgin rainforests!

I would say "Currently reading Hybrids" but MySpace doesn't yet list it. I suppose that's because it's American and it won't appear there till later.
Hybrids by David Thorpe front cover

Hybrids by David Thorpe back cover

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

We are betraying our children

The UK is bottom of a league table for child well-being across 21 industrial countries, a report by Unicef says today.

This comes as no surprise. Children are ignored, their views unlistened to, their needs unmet.

Instead children are subjected to a barrage of conflicting pressures from educational to commercial, while their parents ae encouraged to extend their teenage behaviour into middle age.

Their conceptions about their bodies are attacked by deskbound and sedentary activities on the one hand and commercially driven fashionistic images on the other.

At the same time they are given few opportunities to experience the joy of being in their bodies - through activities, physical work, play, sport - and affection.

Significantly, over half of UK children report that they can't trust their peers. This is scandalous - the worst of all the statistics. They are divided amongst themselves by the competitive nature of these pressures upon them, whether this is to be smart, dumb, aggressive or cool.

Do we ask children what they want and need and respond properly? Not nearly enough. Instead, we live in a society where the disparity in income between the poorest and richest creates envy, personal unhappiness, stress, and crime. The countries where the wealth gap is smallest have the best overall sense of wellbeing.

In short, our priorities are topsy turvy and we are betraying our children - despite all the New Labour 'interventions' and misguided 'nanny state'.

This is why I'm glad I moved out of London to this part of Wales to bring up the kids, and that they have been members of the Woodcraft Folk (misleading name, great ethos) all their lives.

It's a theme at the core of most of the books I plan to write for kids in the future because I feel so strongly about it.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Keep Britain Normal! - the rap

I'm working on a rap to go with Hybrids that we'll put up on myspace nearer publication day. Right now I'm looking for teenagers who want to evolve and record the music and words. It can be performed at signings etc. Here's what we've got so far:

Keep Britain Normal!
- Hybrids out! Hybrids out!
Keep Britain Normal!
- Hybrids Hybrids Hybrids out!

Banish strange diseases
Chuck out the wicked
Except for coughs and sneezes
We don't want no sickies!
Anything unusual
Gotta be reported
Watch the technology
Keep yourself sorted!

Keep Britain Normal!
- Hybrids out! Hybrids out!
Keep Britain Normal!
- Hybrids Hybrids Hybrids out!

Laptop ipod digital gizmos
Gameboy lameboy Stole his charisma
Mobile Camera Never been the same
Since I pressed that button
Now I'm self-cutting
Got a DNAberration Electronic nation
Wired up blanked out Missing generation
Creep! Creep!
Panic on the streets
Paranoia is what greets
Me everywhere I go
No one wants to know

Keep Britain Normal!
- Hybrids out! Hybrids out!
Keep Britain Normal!
- Hybrids Hybrids Hybrids out!

Hunted Shunted on the run to Nowhere
Nothing's fair No peace
No hiding place from the Gene Police
Just cos I'm different
What's your frame of reference?
Help me Save me
Give me salvation
There's no cure but
Genetic Rehabilitation

Keep Britain Normal!
- Hybrids out! Hybrids out!
Keep Britain Normal!
- Hybrids Hybrids Hybrids out!

Pre-order Hybrids on Amazon! And new cover info!

Great news! You can pre-order Hybrids on Amazon now! Just click on the following link and you can preorder it for £4.79 - a 20% discount on the cover price of £5.99!

>> Buy David Thorpe's Hybrids on Amazon UK. What are you waiting for?!

New cover image

And I've just received from my editor the latest image for the front cover design with Johnny Online's face changed, as previously mentioned on the last Hybrids update blog entry. Do you think it's an improvement?
David Thorpe's Hybrids cover image

Funny how both his face and mine on my profile are backlit. Do you think Harpers are trying to tell me something?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The row over gay adoption

I've got three things to ask the churches about this stupid row:
  1. How many gay priests are there?
  2. There are ten commandments and last time I looked none of them said "You shall not give children to gays to be adopted" or even: "You shall not be gay". Why don't we hear you making a fuss about other commandments, like the one about adultery, or "you shall not covet your neighbour's wife, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to them", or: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour"? Why don't we hear you banging on about the Sermon on the Mount precepts, especially the one about "turning the other cheek", or "the meek shall inherit the earth"? Or even "love thy neighbour"?
  3. Which is better, a kid being in a loving home with gay parents, or languishing in an institution? Is it the latter because you can abuse them there?

  • Why don't you just go back to your medieval torture chambers where you belong?

[note on the book cited below - it mentions the torture chamber in the Tower, where the Protestant chief inquisitor invented the rack to torture Catholics as painfully and long as possible. Nice one, God lovers.]

I'm currently reading : Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage
By Stephen Budiansky.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Hybrids: Progress report

With less than four months to go now to publication of Hybrids, the proofreading has been completed, and happily my editor, Stella, has accepted 99% of my textual corrections and abrasions. I've submitted my acknowledgements and a dedication.

Although you've seen and commented on the draft cover - thanks again - there'll be a final one soon, which hopefully incorporates all the feedback on what main character Johnny's face looks like (not a monitor, but using the 'plastic flexible displays' (there's a video here). I had amended all descriptons in the book to reflect this, but that hadn't got through to the artist. I expect this technology will be common in the future. I'm now waiting to see what the designer comes up with and will post the results here as soon as I get them for your feedback.

I've told Stella and the PR people about my operation, and they are drawing up a publicity schedule.

I am due to present the concept of a Hybrids TV series to BBC commissioning editors on Feb 22 and yesterday took part in an excellent training workshop for mid-Wales media types provided free by the generous Welsh Assembly Government on presentation skills.

This is all fun, but a distraction from writing. Nevertheless I am now in the swing of Hybrids II, with 12,000 words under my belt.

Just remember - watch the machines, for you can be sure they are watching you!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Should Britain have war capability?

Take Blair and Iraq. The people told him not to go to war. He ignored them. The people of Iraq are now much worse off. Last week he said he still wants Britain to have full defence capablity and be able to make more wars. He also wants a new generation of Trident (WMD) too.

Let's imagine a child. This child wants to play with a dangerous toy. You say "Not a good idea," but he does so anyway, and burns the neighbour's house down. Then he says "Want to play more with it."

Would you say the boy was stupid? Would you take the toy away?

If the boy was a man, would you say that describing his behaviour as psychopathic was accurate?

What's the difference between this boy/man's behaviour and Blair's?

The best book about Taoism I've found

Tao and Method: A Reasoned Approach to the Tao Te Ching By Michael LaFargue The best book on Taoism i've ever found, in my humble opinion, is now all online, courtesy of Google - a good thing as it's out of print.

Tao and Method: A Reasoned Approach to the Tao Te Ching By Michael LaFargue

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Should I have this operation?

I have to decide whether to have an operation.

The purpose is to help me walk properly again and prevent possible future trauma, like whiplash, paralysing me.

A vertebrae in the neck is pressing on the spinal cord, interfering with the signal to the right leg, causing it not to work properly.

The operation involves removing this vertebrae and replacing it with a titanium mesh filled with bits of the crushed bone, and securing it with a titanium plate and screws to the vertebrae either side.

I would be off work for two months.

My book Hybrids is out in May. There will be interviews & signings and of course I don't want the operation to interfere with this.

The book is partly about (in my mind) disability and responses to it.

I was born with mild cerebral palsy which has led to this condition.

For the first ten years of my life
I tried very hard with my body,

For the next eight years I hated it, hated it.

For the next twenty years I was in denial, denial, denial.

But ever since then I can't avoid it, avoid it, avoid it.

My body bites back
It reminds me who I am
I'm fragile, so fragile
But I want to be strong

I am familiar with the surgeon's scalpel
With the physio machines
With the assistive aids

It's always been true
That if I tried that much harder
I'd make a difference.

But now things have changed, changed
I don't have that power, no power

I have to make friends with the men in masks
i have to place trust in their interventions, inventions, intentions.

What do I care if there's a risk?
I've always been impulsive, daredevil, crazy
If you cross the road it's usually less safe
Than an afternoon spent in theatre number two.

Perhaps after four years the chance to walk, walk, walk
Like you and you and you
Is worth more than a legful of stuck fear.

But the wall of pain
is not easy to approach.