Thursday, 16 February 2017

Perfect ten

...on the BBC science fiction quiz.  Which is, unfortunately, out of fifteen.

In other news, The Overcast want to podcast my story 'The Trouble with Vacations', even though I'm not a Cascadian - although, if all goes to plan, I will be watching this summer's eclipse somewhere in the vicinity of Mt Hood.  Which is nice.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

They have been at a great feast of languages, and stol’n the scraps

Here's a story idea.  You can have it.

Not for free, of course.  I want a 'from an original idea' credit, a sack of cash, and a seat next to Mila Kunis at the premiere of the movie adaptation.  I think those are all reasonable demands.

Okay, here goes.  Shakespeare was a time traveller.

I'm not referring to the fact that  Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same day, but eleven days apart, Spain having adopted the Gregorian calendar, which England regarded as Papist nonsense.  That's diary mismanagement, not time travel.

No, stay with me on this one.  I've always been a sucker for things like the Marlovian Theory, all that stuff about the 'second best bed' in Shakespeare's will, and so forth.  Not to mention the William Shakespeare of Stratford being referred to at the time as a merchant, not a playwright, together with a plethora of other inexplicables.  But my favourite (supposed) Fortean fact about Shakespeare is that it appears he died with no books amongst his possessions.

Think about it*.  No books.  This from one of the literary giants of the last millennia, one who wrote history plays and plays based on existing myths and legends, which would have taken a modicum of research.  But, no, he had no books or manuscripts.

Even my father-in-law has books, and his reading habits don't extend much beyond The Daily Mail, road signs and restaurant menus.

But not William Shakespeare, the Bard.

And then the answer came to me.  He's a time traveller.  He doesn't need printed paper, because he has Wikipedia and an e-reader.  Because that's the way the world is going, isn't it?  Books, bookshelves, bookshops - all replaced by Amazon and Kindle.  Records, CDs, cassette tapes, DVDs, VHS and Betamax, laserdisc - everything is digital and on demand.  The HiFi has merged with your phone.  How soon before TV and computer merge, first with each other, and then with some contact lens arrangement that puts us at the match, at the firefight, at the orgy?  How soon after that before we learn to bypass the retina and eardrum and beam those ones and zeroes straight into the appropriate bits of your cortex?  Mankind's wet(ware) dream.

Case closed.  Shakespeare was from our future, a future where leisure has virtually no tangible presence because every physical manifestation of it has been superseded, replaced, and made redundant.  That's why he had no books but managed to display a library-worth's knowledge of history, politics, myth and arcana.

But, actually, that's not how the world is going.  Because, to add to that Internet meme only slightly less prevalent than a funny kitten video, that vinyl sales are resurgent, we can add the resumption of production of Kodak Ektachrome.

Both are things that the digital revolution should have done away with, that the twenty-first century should have made null and void.  Vinyl?  Big and bulky, and you really can't hear the difference, you only think you can.  35mm camera film?  Really?  Using a camera that won't make calls or surf the web or emulate a torch?  Processing costs?  Processing time?  Won't run software that swaps your faces or turns your eyeballs funny or gives you a comedy afro?  Are you nuts?

But clearly there are enough people who don't think such propositions are nuts.  Who think such bulky, labour-costing, elaborate palavers are nice to have.

You see, there's a degree of miniaturisation and convenience that we don't want; we want to be able to get our hands on things.  Hard work is its own reward; food tastes better when you cook it yourself, and so forth, not when it comes out of Star Trek-style replicator.

And when it comes to the essence being removed from its physical wrappings we often find that we quite liked the physical wrappings too.  Music and movies are more than ones and noughts, they're packaging and pictures and sleeve notes and sitting in the dark with strangers too.  Those opposable thumbs aren't just functional; they provide a tactile experience of the outside world.

No.  If Shakespeare was a writer and not a front for Kit Marlowe, then he would have had a library.  Or, at least, a library card.

So, what else could come back with enough people swimming against the reductio ad absurdum of the digital tide?  How about queueing, I hear you say?  And 'please wait twenty-eight days for delivery'?  Invasive surgery with the requisite recovery time, and three days for a cheque to clear.  Or TV programs that are on once and if you miss it you miss it?

But that's enough cynicism.  If you stopped one of those bearded hipsters with their metal-bodied 35mm cameras hanging from their necks and John Coltrane albums under their arms, what would they cite?

How about talking to your neighbours face to face?  Or not caring what you look or sound like because you don't have to maintain an illusion of a perfect lifestyle on social media, the failure of which leads to feelings of inadequacy and suicide?  Or shopping in real shops run by real people in real town centres, for things that will last rather than wear-once-and-discard because some accountancy software has said that will provide the biggest profit for the man and his shareholders?  Or missing out on the fear of missing out?  Or not being available 24/7 just because we can be?

Just a few ideas.

* but not too much, otherwise you'll work out it's hokum.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Product Recall

I see my story 'Product Recall' is now live at Flash Fiction Online.  Which is nice.  Why not go there, read, and even get a subscription like those nice people suggest...