In Search of Pizza Spaceship…

Pizza Spaceship… … and yes indeed, in under a fortnight I'm flying off to Italy… #PizzaSpaceship #LiveLongAndPizza

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Live long and pizza…

Things don’t necessarily have to make sense. Things don’t have to have a reason. Their underlying meaning needn’t be clear or logical. Things can be and happen ‘just because’ and ‘just because’ is okay. In fact, ‘just because’ can be mind-blowingly brilliant when two beautiful things are brought together for no apparent purpose other than to make something even more amazing.

Pizza Spaceship is one such thing. It doesn’t make sense and we don’t know how or why it came to be. We don’t really need to know, because ‘Pizza Spaceship’ is fantastic just because it’s Pizza Spaceship. It is the meeting and blissful union of ‘pizza’ and ‘spaceship’ – two great concepts on their own. Together, their powers combine to make possibly one of the greatest notions that a human mind could conceive of.

For context, my first encounter with the idea of Pizza Spaceship occurred a year-and-a-half ago. Fittingly, I was in Italy and I and a good friend were working at an English-language summer camp in a small town on the outskirts of Milan. The town’s name will remain a secret for security reasons. I’ll refer to my friend as Sandy because her name is Sandy (at least, it is when she’s sober). Regardless, this summer camp proved to be quite a challenge for Sandy and I, for a variety of reasons. We were mentally and physically exhausted, we were often semi-delirious (inevitable at summer camp) and we were singing ‘The Pizza Song‘ every day. Even so, in spite of all that, we didn’t collectively hallucinate or imagine Pizza Spaceship. We didn’t wish it into existence or make it up. Pizza Spaceship was and is real.

We ran this summer camp in an elementary school building and this school had a large hall which we used for big games, art activities and lunch breaks. On one of the walls in the hall was a display showcasing art works produced by school children during, we presume, the academic year. Kids had taken paper plates and stuck bits of coloured tissue paper and card onto the plates to make them look like meals (for example, spaghetti, salad, chicken and chips and so on). On the wall alongside these plates someone had pasted a cardboard rocketship. Instead of a porthole window this rocketship had a pizza. “What is that?” Sandy and I both asked ourselves at exactly the same moment. “It… it’s… it’s Pizza Spaceship” we both responded, simultaneously, the spark of enlightenment catching fire in our eyes, minds and hearts.

It was like a flash of enlightenment or a revelatory ray of hope hitting us from somewhere beyond the stars. We felt blissful euphoria. Our base existence was blasted and our state of mere being was altered and blessed with radical new flavour. We had Pizza Spaceship and it was sublime and spectacular. Mundane reality was swept aside as this fantastical prospect transcending time, space and matter moved into our consciousness and captivated us completely. Post-Pizza Spaceship, life would never be the same again. We paid homage to that corner of the hall every day and showed our gratitude for its sheer awesomeness.

We should pay tribute to this cosmic combo. Space travel is immense and exhilarating and I love the idea of boldly going beyond Earth’s stratosphere into the vastness of the wider Universe. (People who know me know that offworld sci-fi is my jam or, indeed, my pop-cultural pizza.) Pizza is a supreme gastronomic invention and a signature article of Italian cuisine (the greatest type of cuisine in the galaxy, in my humble and quite-biased opinion). Put ’em together and I’ve got two things that get me really excited working together and opening up realms of wonder beyond tangible, imminent reality. I mean, Pizza Spaceship could take us anywhere.

This thing – genius in its simplicity – offers unlimited potential and possibility. Infinite joy is within reach if we don’t question it and Pizza Spaceship is not really something to intellectualise or rationalise. We don’t know who created it and we don’t know why. (Pure imagination? The result of divine inspiration? Is its origin extraterrestrial?) Its purpose is also a tantalising mystery. Is this some kind of pangalactic delivery service? Is it a message from another galaxy? Is it first contact, related to the human race in an appealing format? Is it someone or something telling me that I really need to start writing a kitschy sci-fi novella series about interstellar voyagers on-board a flying pizza? (Working titles for instalments include ‘Martian Margherita‘, ‘Prosciutto to Polaris‘ and ‘The Kuiper Belt Calzone Conundrum‘.)

We also don’t know what a Pizza Spaceship actually looks like. The crude card-and-poster-paint representation we found in that hall was a 1950s-style rocket with a pizza riding the cockpit but I can picture a whole fleet of alternative craft. I see the Starship Enterprise and Millennium Falcon as pizzas. I see a space cruiser made entirely of dough, tomato sauce and mozzarella string. I see a square-shaped cardboard takeout box the size of a small moon spinning through deep space, occasionally flipping open its lid so the living Pizza-Titan inside can survey the stars and work out if it’s travelling in the right direction.

Still, the details don’t matter and we don’t need any definite answers. We just need the words ‘Pizza’ and ‘Spaceship’ joined together and Pizza Spaceship is fantastic ‘just because’ it’s Pizza Spaceship. If anything, to me, Pizza Spaceship acts like a religious icon, Tarot cards or a mandala. It’s a symbolic conduit that transcends reality and opens up the acolyte’s mind, body and soul to something beyond. In times of darkness or confusion, I can fix my thoughts on Pizza Spaceship and instantly I’m transported far away to either Italy (my spiritual second home and the home of real pizza), outer space (a stimulating and fascinating otherworldy immensity) or, indeed, metaphysical and macrocosmic space (where you are liberated from the world of illusion and reality itself, becoming one with the Infinite).

Think on Pizza Spaceship. Feel Pizza Spaceship. Realise the wonder and joy and awe-inspiring actuality that is Pizza Spaceship. This is perhaps the ultimate soul food – nourishing Earthly substance and advanced astro-science transfigured into a totem on which we can project all our desires and dreams. Through this vessel we can escape and travel to another world, another reality and/or a superior state of enlightened being.

All aboard Pizza Starship and full speed ahead. Live long and pizza…

(P.S. In under a fortnight’s time I’ll be flying off to Italy again. In reality, I’m flying to Malpensa on a Flybe plane but in my imagination, I’m going to be gliding towards Milan on Pizza Spaceship…)

All About the Red Planet: Getting My Ass to Mars…

Mars! Yeah, MARS. The Red Planet rocks and is having a bit of a moment right now so let’s all be slightly awestruck and look to its immense ochre majesty

They’ve discovered that there’s water on Mars! They’ve released a movie about Matt Damon getting stuck on Mars! They’re getting nostalgic and remembering classic Martian literature! Me? I’m wearing my ‘Get Your Ass to Mars’ t-shirt , singing the Martian Song in twilight car parks and trying to get my ass to Mars. In reality, this mission isn’t making much progress but in my mind I’m bare-naked and bouncing about the canyons of Barsoom like John Carter. I just leaped over a minor Martian mountain and beat up sixteen Tharks bare-handed so, yeah, take that reality…

Anyway, I’m all about Mars right now. With the release of The Martian on my mind I wrote a fresh article on space movies and loneliness for the Den of Geek website. It talks about isolation and how sci-fi films are really good vessels for exploring the theme and feelings of solitude and if that sounds interesting to you, the link is there.

Otherwise, still contemplating space and Mars, I ended up creating the following epic miniature doodle. When I get into these things I kind of get carried away and start meditatively inking and then next thing I’m scribbling out the entire cosmos…

Mars…

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I’m now going to go back to my fantasies of being a naked superhuman warrior on Mars. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back soon with more stories and stuff (and probably some bruises on my ass).

 

Pictonaut Short Comic Story Challenge: ‘Square Planet’…

Alrighty! Write on! I’ve been on a mission to catch-up with the Pictonaut challenge (after several months of negligence) and now I’ve caught up. Achievement! *air-pistols, swagger, upbeat 16-bit celebratory music*

(Admittedly, I’ve achieved this achievement while I’m meant to be concentrating on other stuff like preparing my junk for several months abroad and will now, after this, do that in chaotic fashion. My mind works like this: “You have something big to handle and take care of James, so naturally you’re going to focus on doing everything else in the world first and not tackle the essential priorities!“. I’ve been very productive the past few days, just not at packing my bags. Anyway…)

For the first Pictonaut of 2015, Majordomo John Steele selected the following image by the excellent, astronaut-obsessed artist Scott Listfield

Space Ace, Square Yeah…

I like spacewomen and spacemen and I like writing sci-fi-tinged weird tales. I also like writing comic scripts so I decided to make this one into a comic after I got a clear fix on what I thought was happening in the image. The result is a script for a four-page comic titled ‘Square Planet‘ with my envisioned layout and I hope you enjoy it (no art, I’m afraid, because my illustration skills just aren’t that good and I don’t have the time and Photoshop abilities to make the words come to life as graphic magick). It’s really rough and unpolished because I’ve knocked it out very quickly, hey, I’ve got other stuff to handle before I take off on my own fresh adventure tomorrow. I’ll get back to it (and the inevitable ‘bye-bye’ blogpost) and leave you to imagine Square Planet

Pictonaut Short Poem Challenge: ‘Those Eyes So Green’…

Okay, write on. Yesterday I uploaded a short story titled The Death of Earth Patrol for the monthly Pictonaut short story challenge (set, as ever, by the eminent John Steele). That was a piece loosely inspired by August’s image, and I thought I’d try and push my catch-up mission further by getting September’s done ASAP. ASAP is today because I’ve written it, though it’s not a short story. It’s a very short poem and it’s based on this photograph (source unknown, I’m afraid)…

Those eyes… so green…

So, a pair of beautiful green eyes on a face veiled by bright orange fabric. I decided to write a pretty little ditty about it that leaned towards some of my main interests instead of concocting a longer narrative that I don’t really care about. I’m not much of a poet, but I am a Cosmic Romantic so, in total, here’s a thing about an interstellar traveller come to Earth to grace our rock with the most amazing eyes in the galaxy. It’s partly inspired by all the space rock I listen to, Pixies’ Andro Queen and things like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and stories like A Princess of Mars. I’m all for cosmic wonder and building relationships with graceful, intelligent alien beings (platonic and romantic) so, yeah, that’s how this comes to be, I suppose. Its title is Those Eyes So Green and this introductory ramble is now longer than the poem itself so I’ll just let you read it and go back to waiting for the love of my life to arrive from another star system…

 

Pictonaut Short Story Challenge: ‘New Room on the Mimas Moon’…

It’s time for an imaginative challenge. (It’s always time for an imaginative challenge. In fact, time is an imaginative challenge.) Every month, crack dance-commando John Steele (he has a war face and makes us dance and, thus, he’s a dance commando) calls us to action and sets up a fresh Pictonaut challenge. The objective: write around a thousand words of fiction inspired by a particular image of his choosing. I get a kick out of this exercise so I always make sure I come up with something. I recommend it. It’s fun and provides an opportunity to creatively experiment and engage with a challenge with built-in limits or requirements to meet (which I kind of ignore, ’cause I dance freestyle, totally to the syncopated beat of my own drum. I’m sorry, Dance Commando. Please school me and bring me back into line…).

The inspiral moodpiece for January 2014’s Pictonaut is this image by German artist Cornelius Dämmrich and it’s titled ‘Mercury‘…

‘Mercury’ by Cornelius Dämmrich…

I see this picture and am several shades of excited because this picture spells sci-fi. I love sci-fi. I get high – nay, stratospheric – on sci-fi. Furthermore, extra cosmic stimulus has come from watching BBC Stargazing LIVE and reading The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester over the past week. I’m in a very science fiction state of mind and have also been in the scriptwriting mood lately so knocked up this month’s Pictonaut piece as a dialogue. The image suggested scenarios and characters soon followed. Relocating to the Mimas moon of Saturn – because Mercury isn’t very hospitable and because Cassini mission leader Carolyn Porco‘s discussions of Saturn’s rings on Stargazing LIVE intrigued me – I came up with ‘New Room on the Mimas Moon‘. You can read my first Pictonaut piece of 2014 here and I hope you enjoy it…

Pictonaut Short Story Challenge: ‘Pegasus Faces Planet Chimera’…

It’s that time of th’month again: time to ponder on a picture, power up some possible plots and package one up into a short piece for the Pictonaut challenge. Here’s how it runs: Major John (he’s taken his protein pills and put his helmet on) radios ground control after he’s picked an evocative image and then urges the internet to be inspired and write a short story based on it. Every month I see what Major Steele has stuck up and spawn something. It’s a fun creative exercise and I encourage you to do likewise before August is over. The picture chosen for this 1/12th is the following piece by the amazing artist Daren Horley

Daren Horley takes us on a voyage to the planets…

Stellar. The call is for sci-fi space tales and I am into sci-fi space tales. I am also interested in mythology and twisting ancient folklore – say, Greek myth – into new settings. I have thus written something that emphasises the ‘fiction’ bit over the ‘science’ bit in ‘science fiction’ (though I dispute the label ‘fiction’ because everything is true). It doesn’t stand up at all scientifically so please forget the laws of physics when you read this (I’m pretty sure I’ve just produced an impossible anti-science abomination). In fact, it possibly doesn’t stand up at all and may simply be a weak, awkward slapdash spacecraft-crash of a thing. I don’t know. I just came here in search of space, in search of a fast-and-loose writing exercise, in search of ways to reweave old stories in alternative style.

This month’s short-and-quickfire Pictonaut effort is titled Pegasus Faces Planet Chimera and I hope you find it semi-enjoyable and/or interesting. You can read it here…