Free Hugs and Lots of Valentine’s Day Love in the Galleria…

Hugging Robot, Human Feeling…

A post shared by James Clayton (@jamazingclayton) on

Saturday was the 14th February, so Saturday was Valentine’s Day. You’re probably aware of this and know that the day commemorates the martyrdom of poor San Valentino (a.k.a. St. Valentine, Vizzy Heartdust, Sweet Val the Virile) stabbed to death by rose thorn-brandishing heathen eunuchs employed by a devastated Roman senator whose wife had run off with a Christian leathermaker. And then Al Capone shot some people, Captain Cook was skewered on Patrick Swayze’s surfboard, Richard II died after starving himself because no one invited him out for a candlelit dinner and Benedict Cumberbatch got married.

All of those are reasons to note the 14th February, but really I’d just like to think of it as a timely moment to say, “Awww, yeah! Love is great!” Love is always great, in whatever form or flavour. I could go on quoting all kinds of pop songs, pop aphorisms and suchlike but I’ll spare you because Valentine’s Day has passed us by and you could get all that by watching Moulin Rouge (and I haven’t a hope in hell of making this blogpost as entertaining as Moulin Rouge). Still, I want to reflect on it a little though and write down a short account of my lovin’ Saturday experience because I feel it has some significance.

In brief, I’m a lover but I’m not a lover. As a single man on Valentine’s Day there is nothing to do and no one to do it with, but I don’t see any point in being bitter, sad or antagonistic. Also, if you show me a calendar, I’ll seize any opportunity to do something timely related to a milestone day, even if it’s just a doodle. When February 14th rolled around I figured, “Hey! I’ve got to celebrate Valentine’s Day! I’ve got to do something to celebrate love and spread loving feeling!” I would have declared my affection to someone I love and showered them with bad poetry if I didn’t have the problem that I only fall in love with film characters (some of them robots) and women who sit opposite me on trains and then vanish out of my life after just three stops.

Still, I’m in love with the idea of love like Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge. And maybe in a couple of months I’m going to move to Paris and write a hit musical that’ll spark a fresh Bohemian Revolution. For now though, I’m in Milano in Italy and I was also in Milano in Italy on Saturday. “How romantic it is just being here in this romantic place surrounded by all these beautiful people on Valentine’s Day!” I thought. “I’m going to see if any of my friends want to come with me to the Duomo on Valentine’s Day morning and share ‘Free Hugs’ with strangers!

I did that – actually we did that, because some friends joined me – and it was wonderful. Sadly, the weather was lousy and it was too wet to stand outside next to the grand cathedral so instead we stood under the cover of the grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (the great shopping arcade, home to high fashion outlets and a floor mural of a bull on whose testicles you stand and spin around if you want some extra good luck). I made a sign to advertise that I was offering free hugs and a number of passers-by embraced me and my colleagues.

We shared some really nice cuddles with an array of random people from both Italy and various international destinations. We got into nice conversations and made a lot of people smile. It even followed a couple of us home as we ended up hugging and talking with a mixed group of Anglo-American tourists to the bemusement of everyone else in the train carriage. I repeat again: it was wonderful, and the main reason it was wonderful was because it was a sweet moment of human connection and human sharing.

What I learned – or re-learned, or was potently reminded of – was this fundamental fact which I very often forget: human beings are social creatures and they need to retain a link to other people, to be open-hearted and to live with compassion and empathy. ‘Free Hugs’ is a way of consciously forcing oneself to knock down the barriers and make yourself open to others as opposed to distancing yourself. As a loner prone to self-isolation (not always a good thing) and as someone who wants to make people happy (“And, by Aphrodite, I will make you happy, damn you!” *smites them all with a double-rainbow*) ‘Free Hugs’ is a win-win scenario.

I loved the experience, and I’m going to do it again (and again and again, if possible) not for attention, but because I believe that ‘Free Hugs’ is a beautiful thing. It spreads positive energy, encourages human connection and brings human beings together, even if it just for a fleeting moment. It’s a moment of love and love is something worth celebrating, on Valentine’s Day and everyday.

I’m going to go and write a Bohemian musical about love. And I’m going to try and find more people to hug, which is easy in Italy where hugs are conventional everyday greetings. I hope you all had a nice Valentine’s Day and urge you to hug more often. Embrace it, and embrace each other…

Hey! Let's hug!

Hey! Let’s hug!

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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 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?’*

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…

Timequakes and Tremendous Insight into the Current Affairs of Alternate Realities…

On 28th August 2012, James Clayton (me?) opened up his alternate reality news service. He reported the happenings of parallel realities in this reality and pushed out the headlines on the ‘Meanwhile, in an alternate reality…’ blog and on his Twitter feed. It was fun, it was interesting and it lasted for exactly 222 days until the Cosmic Will told him, “Okay, brother, enough of this for now…

Today, in an alternate reality, James Clayton (an alternate reality James Clayton. Not me? But how much of me is he? How much of he is me?) has experienced a timequake. In that universe time has slipped back a year and everyone in that timestream is going to have to relive the past 12 months all over again. While he’s there he might as well do something constructive. He has thus decided that he’s going to find out more about the alternate realities he gained snippets of insight into and provide further context, analysis and additional in-depth reportage to accompany the daily headlines we’ve already seen.

I (me, or at least I think this is me) will then publish what he sends via special psychic connection on a fresh-but-reassuringly-familiar blog. If you liked ‘Meanwhile, in an alternate reality…’ chances are you’ll like ‘Meanwhile, in an alternate reality… Plus!’ There are some awesome mindblowing parallel dimensions out there and fascinating things are occurring in them. I’d love to share them with you and find it way better than getting bogged down in the mainstream news of this reality which seems to tend towards the bleak, cynical, dubious and/or frivolous.

For a fresh alternative, join me in exploring the affairs of alternate realities. Oh, and spare a thought for your alternate reality self who’s been hit by a timequake and has to go through the past 12 months all over…