Pictonaut Short Story Challenge: ‘Black Bella Donna’…

Time marches on and March is almost over so it’s high time I got the monthly Pictonaut short story challenge out of my system. It is now out of my system but first, the fundamentals. At the beginning of every month, the most rawksome Steeley John throws down the following challenge: “See this picture? Write a short story about it. You’ve got around 30 days. Do it.” I do do it, and I’ve duly done it this month. For March 2014’s challenge, Mr Steele selected the following photograph taken by an enigma named An Nguyen or Pournoirr

An evocative black-and-white photograph by An Nguyen…

Looking at this picture I got vibes and a drive to tell a certain type of story. This photo whispered to me and it whispered “Giallo“. The decor suggested Italy, the clothing suggested fashion and that also suggested Italy. There’s also something cinematic about this monochrome scenario and I felt stirrings of vintage art film in here. Hey, that also makes me think of Italy! Altogether, thoughts blended together and I came to the conclusion: “I want to dabble with something a bit sinister and tell a short tale that channels Giallo“. So that’s what I attempted to do, even though I’m in no way a great expert on Giallo – an Italian film and literature genre that revolves around crime, mystery and sometimes the supernatural. With films like Dario Argento‘s Profondo Rosso and Mario Bava‘s Blood and Black Lace on my mind, I set to work.

In the end, the various ideas I started typing up got rejected in favour of a different story and then they were subsequently also switched aside. Finally I stuck with a particular premise – partly influenced by the ethereal kitchen sink sci-fi art movie Under the Skin – and turned that into a rough ‘first draft blast’ short script. It’s the opening sequence of an imaginary film titled Black Bella Donna and, though it’s formatting ain’t quite proper, ideally it gives you a feel for what I’m picturing in my head and sets up some beguiling mystery. I hope you enjoy it or find it in some way interesting and perhaps, after reading, are intrigued to watch the rest of a vintage, arty chiller that doesn’t exist but if it did it would have been made on the cheap in Italy in 1974. You can read Black Bella Donna‘s opening here

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The ‘We Made It’ Zine and the Secret History of Whale Caesar…

We Made It! Well, Rembrand Le Compte made it and put in the real effort of actually pitching and putting together a fresh collaborative creative project. Kudos, then, to Lord Rembo for his initiative and editorial effort because We Made It #1 is an excellent collection that contains superb material from an array of talented artists and writers.

The theme of the zine (the zine-theme) is whales and, because I really like sea creatures and alternate history, I offered up a piece of writing titled Whale Caesar. I figured that it was time to share the truth about the forgotten Roman Emperor Publius Cetus Traianus – a mighty and fascinating figure whose name was shamefully scrubbed from the chronicles. I’m just happy to have the chance to tell his story and to have my work included in the mix.

We Made It is a limited-run publication but there may be more copies available at some point in the future. There will definitely be more issues with different themes for artists to submit to and for further information please visit the website.

Here’s a photo giving you a hint of my whale-of-a-tale

‘Whale Caesar’ in the We Made It zine…

Alternate Reality News Newsletter Edition Hot Off the Press…

Here’s news, readers: in just under a fortnight, Meanwhile, in an alternate reality… Plus! will finish its run. The expanded, timequake edition of the parallel universe news service I started up in August 2012 will be hitting the 222 bulletins mark and that’s when the original ended its daily updates. There will therefore be no more alternate reality news updates for my timequake-affected different-dimension self to elaborate upon. Consequently, finito. I will reflect upon this and deal with all the ambivalent feelings in due time. (I’m going to have all the feelings when I have to let this source of endless enjoyment go again. Really, I love my alternate reality news and think I might need some grieving time.)

For now though, here’s some news related to the alternate reality news and, indeed, newspapers: you – yes you! – can now celebrate the soon-to-disappear service by getting your hands on a copy of the newsletter edition I cobbled together in the autumn. Newspaper Club – the  excellent print operation that enables people to print their own newspapers – have set up a new newsagent service. Regular folk can now, in effect, become minor newspaper barons and directly sell their publications online. Thus, the newsletter edition I knocked up is now available to buy for £3.50 in my own news store.

It’s only 4 pages long but it has value as a nice souvenir that fans of the blog can touch and smell. I don’t intend to stop with that short, experimental brand-extension exercise though, for I have further plans to produce more newspapers. I’ve got a lot of warm nostalgia for the age when I worked as a sub-editor on a university newspaper and probably enjoy print media more than online magazines and journals. Because I’m old-school like that and because making newspapers is fun I’ll be endeavouring to work up fresh print projects in the future (probably when I’m no longer distracted by the pressing affairs of alternate realities). Exciting things are on the horizon and will be available for you to purchase and hold in your hands and then use to line your kitty litter tray. In the meantime, enjoy ‘Meanwhile, in an alternate reality…’ while its still here and, by all means, buy a copy of the first newsletter edition if you wish…

This man enjoys reading Alternate Reality News...

Alternate Reality News provides enjoyment, edification and enlightenment to readers…

Adele Dazeem and Flash Fiction Inspired by the Oscars…

The 86th Academy Awards ceremony happened the other night. As ever, the event was an odd affair that leaves me ambivalent. I like the celebration of cinema, the lauding of great movies and the heartfelt and inspiring speeches of humbled performers who deserve accolades. I don’t like the fact that – unlike the BAFTAs – the Oscars feel drawn out and, bizarrely enough, badly co-ordinated and stage-managed. There’s very little in the way of zip and energy. It’s a long trawl through awkward tumbleweed moments and a whole lot of self-awareness. All the hype and A-list glamour just adds to the peculiarity of the whole shebang. Of course, it gets even weirder when really odd stuff happens…

Ellen DeGeneres ordered some pizzas and took some selfies and I guess ‘Oscar host turns into a stereotypical 15-year-old’ is a bit unusual but, really, I’m not impressed. Matthew McConaughey’s full-on Southern preacher acceptance speech was way further out there but the stand-out weird moment of this year was undoubtedly John Travolta’s introduction of Idina Menzel ahead of her performance of “Let It Go” from Frozen. Travolta’s baffling mispronunciation spawned an online meme frenzy. Worse news: it inspired me to blast out some flash fiction in honour of Adele Dazeem. Here is that very short piece of writing for your consideration…

Academy Award Disappointment for Adele Dazeem

Her cell phone rings. She looks at the screen and sees Max’s fizzog. She doesn’t want to answer.

She really doesn’t want to answer.

She answers. Fuck it.

Yeah?

Adele! Honey! Hey, how ya doin’?

That sigh says it all, “honey”. Urgh.

Awwww, c’mon, hon… aaaaah, did you, ahhh, tune in?

She gulps. Yeah…

She said she wasn’t going to tune in.

She tuned in anyway.

So? he inquires, cautiously.

So… the sigh is heavier and soaked in sadness.

She’s hurting.

She’s hurting so bad.

She was good, huh? I mean, sure she’s Idina Menzel and she put on a good show but nowhere near what you’d-a brought to the party. I suppose folks are happy, what with her singin’ it in the movie an’ all but, hey, the whole shebang was a real drag, anyhow…

There is sorrow in the silence and, sensing it, he stops. Max figures himself as an empathetic guy. It’s why his clients like him, he tells himself.

Listen, Adele. Hon, sugar, it’s… it’s okay…

It’s not frickin’ okay, Max, she says choking back bitter tears, her tender eye stinging as she does so.

Well, what I mean, is ahhh, at least he still said your name! That’s somethin’ right? John Travolta said your name, honey!

It was my night, Max. It was my moment and that moment is gone. Forever.

Awwwww, there’ll be other times! You bet your last nickel there will! I can guarantee it!

No, Max. I’m not sure there will be and I don’t care anyway. I wanted my time to be last night and it was taken away from me.

Awww, sugar, these things happen. How is the eye, anyhow?

She’s too choked up to answer. Truth is it’s real bad. It’s swelled up terribly and the discharge is just gross. It’s hurting, but not as much as her pride.

Awww hell Adele! Damn that pink eye! I tell ya, it’s just the worst luck! The worst, worst luck, honey!

You’re tellin’ me, Max…

But, you know, it ain’t the end of the world, hon. You’re sick now but… you’ll get over it soon enough…

Okay, she’s heard enough.

Shit Max, don’t start with any of your ‘better luck next time’ crap ’cause I can’t take it now. I am sick, I am devastated and I’ve had the greatest moment of my life ruined by frickin’ conjunctivitis.

Hey hey, hon! Easy! I know it feels bad right now but, y’know, don’t get upset! Calm! Calm! Let it go…

Adele Dazeem hangs up and the tears stream and stream. The weeping will go on and on and the inflamed eyelid will carry on stinging like a bitch and the hurt will throb on forever.

Forever until she can let it go…