Pictonaut Short Story Challenge: ‘Blissful Existence Beneath the Meru Mountain Complex, Brought to You By Moksha-Co. International’…

Say, I think it’s time I shared some science fiction visions. Yes, I shall, because I have sci-fi visions but I’ll come to those in a second. First, let me break down some details and set up the framework on which I will stick some ideas and sticky creative writing bits…

Here’s what happens: every month, the most excellent Generalissimo John Steele sets a short story writing challenge. This is the Pictonaut challenge and the gist is “See this image? Write something inspired by it, around a thousand words in length, okay?” It is okay and I do this every month because I like a challenge and it’s a nice creative exercise that sometimes yields interesting results. April’s Pictonaut image was particular interesting and really stimulated my mind. The chosen inspiral picture was a piece titled Relay by the artist Steve Renn

A high-priest of hi-tech by Steve Renn…

I like this picture and it speaks to me (and it speaks in an eerie hushed whisper). It has science fiction and it has a figure meditating and thus it combines technology with spirituality and grooves with a lot of topics I’m fascinated by and that I debate with myself. Occasionally, I try and write about these topics to articulate all those inner philosophical dialogues – like in last week’s Den of Geek column on Transcendence and the notional uploading of human consciousness into the non-organic state of an artificial intelligence.

Coming back to the challenge at hand, though, this month’s Pictonaut challenge gave me a chance to ruminate on these things that concern me and attempt to distill ’em into a blast of flash fiction. I have difficult dilemmas. Conundrums like: ‘Can technology improve our wellbeing and elevate us to a more enlightened, advanced state, mind, body and soul?‘; ‘Can I harmoniously follow Zen Buddhist philosophies and function in the modern materialist world?‘; ‘Do technological self-help and wellbeing solutions commodify the human soul?‘; ‘Will there ever come a time when transcending mundane existence and the suffering of this world and the past and so on becomes more imminently achievable for regular folk?‘ There are more but I’ll spare you and save ’em up for face to face convserations because spending all this time staring at a computer screen and asking the indifferent artificial face of the internet all these techsistential questions is turning into a dehumanising downer…

So then, sci-fi and some thoughts around technology and spirituality. In the end, my Pictonaut effort for April 2014 is more of an exploration of an idea – a speculative utopian/dystopian vision – than an actual story. Feel free to read it and see what you think. I hope it stimulates you in some way and I’ll leave it to you to appreciate as you see fit – here is the short creation that I’ve titled Blissful Existence Beneath the Meru Mountain Complex, Brought to You By Moksha-Co. International

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‘We Made It’ Zine Available to Download…

Ahoy! We Made It! Yes, I’ve written this blogpost before, but am flagging up the issue again because there’s fresh news. Fresh news is this: the first issue of the We Made It zine edited by Rembrand Le Compte is now available to download. Download it and you get the opportunity to enjoy an excellent anthology package anchored around the theme of ‘whales’. My secret history short story about Whale Caesar (Emperor Publius Cetus Traianus) is in there and if you’d like to read that, you’ll have to click on that link because We Made It is the only place it will be published. Esoteric mysteries do not make themselves conspicuous, y’know, and you have to make certain pledges if you wish to reach enlightenment…

And some more news: We Made It is now accepting submissions for issue 2 and the theme is ‘Fat Unicorns’. I’m determined to have a fat unicorn of my own creation in the zine so have already begun work on my masterplan and started consulting the arcane literature as research. Manifesting mythical creatures is something I’m very much interested in…

Anyhorn, We Made It #1 is there and available online for your reading pleasure. Enjoy…

The Working Barbarian Rises…

The Working Barbarian Rises again and so I doodled some timely fan-art…

Holy hot dragon halitosis! It returns! The great, bloody, sprawling, astonishingly-compelling fantasy epic is back! Oh, and the new season of Game of Thrones has started as well but, please, don’t talk about that. I have not the means to access this glorious thing until a later date and have appropriately erected my filters and advanced spoiler protection system (it’s a 700-foot high wall made of ice, stone and magic). Still, I’m not convinced that it’s strong enough so I may go into hiding and exile across myself the Narrow Sea, only to return when I’ve read the original books and allowed my dragons chance to mature. Yeah, maybe…

Anyway, to fantasy fiction I can talk about and that I am actually involved in – The Life and Times of the Working Barbarian. After a winter break, Saga-Father Magus John of Steele has declared its time to thaw out the tale and pick up the perishing plot threads. The crowdsourced collaborative adventure will continue and it will continue by bringing you the climactic boss battle we promised before the break.

You may have trouble remembering that or not remember it at all. In fact, you may not recall any of this or have any familiarity with this thing of which I speak and are now asking “Che cosa? What is this Working Barbarian? I am confused and clueless and do beseech thee! Enlighten me!” Okay, that I can do and that I have done. Before we proceed with the adventure, let us take you back with a brief catch-up-slash-primer…

You can, of course, get up to date with the story so far by reading each individual episode. If you lack the time and inclination, however, the recap-o-rama I wrote is a handy aid that’ll set you up nicely for the much-anticipated restart. I hope you enjoy it. Go forth and embrace the Barbarian adventure

The End of the ‘Meanwhile, in an alternate reality…’ Parallel Dimension News Service… Again…

The Alternate Reality News has broadcast its final broadcast…

Meanwhile, in this reality…. the alternate reality news service I run hits a total of 222 daily bulletins. Hitting that number means The End. Fin. Skwaa’t, as the ice miners of Scorpius-Gliese 667Cd say at the end of every single hard shift (Unionise, guys. Unionise). Enough and no more. The Universe (as in ‘personification of cosmic consciousness’) of this Universe hath declared that it’s The End so, yes, I’m done.

I am done because there are no more news stories to elaborate on, for this recent Alternate Reality News run was an expanded edition to accompany the original ‘Meanwhile, in an alternate reality…’ site. Recapping briefly, last August the James Clayton of a not-too-dissimilar parallel dimension experienced a timequake and was forced to relive the entire past year all over again. So he might do something useful with himself while living through the repeat, he decided to go through all the daily alternate reality news bulletins and provide additional details. I – James Clayton in this timestream – then duly typed up his reportage for the denizens of this reality. That’s why there’s no more – as I say, the original run of daily updates ended at 222.

So that’s that. Finito. I’ve had so much fun engaging with these alternate realities and I’m stepping away with feelings of ambivalence. I’ve got some more mental space to concentrate on other projects and responsibilities. I’m liberated from my rigid morning routine. At the same time, I’m going to miss my daily dose of far-out, otherworldly thinking ’cause engaging with alternate history and immersing yourself in fantastical possibilities and ‘imagine ifs’ is so much fun and essential for your mental wellbeing.

I will, thus, continue to look back in the direction of ‘Meanwhile, in an alternate reality…’ in the future because it’s a treasure trove of material and ideas for creative writing. For now, though, I’m going to step back and have a moment of peace, taking satisfaction in what actually amounts to a pretty impressive achievement – that is, observing and fulfilling a self-made commitment to write material on a daily basis for no reward beyond my own absurdist enjoyment and the slight possibility that a few others might enjoy it too. It has been nice to see people responding well to what I’ve offered up and if you’ve read and shared, just know that I’m sending huge thanks and appreciative fist-bumps your way. Special thanks are due to a select bunch of cyberspace champions who’ve been especially supportive of my online activities – namely this Warlock, that Necromancer and the Bearded Charmer.

At some point down the line I’ll pull together a print collection of the Alternate Reality News to accompany – and surpass – the first newsletter edition. For now though, I need to find some solace and meditate on what this all means, what my purpose in life is and what I’m going to do to ease the epic void that has just opened up in my soul.

Oh, okay. The James Clayton of another alternate reality has just appeared in my mind’s eye and he has reassuring sweet words of wisdom. I’m off. So, is Alternate Reality News. Thank you for reading and good life…

*The quintessence swirls and warps, the cosmic weave dances and then sweeps all tangible and intangible matter into a hole that is nothing and everything and then everything is nothing and nothing is everything. Silence. Fade to black. Titles say ‘The End?’*