Friday, 2 November 2012

New Speculative Fiction Blog

I'm discontinuing posting on this blog as of now - please do check out my new improved blog at,  and feel free to get in touch at Cheers! SF

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Mufti Rocks

Hoofcross felt he was on fire, the jagged clanging of his bass guitar discharging into the overheated atmosphere of the room like some manic electrified carillon. He must look like he was on fire, too, the handmade cigarette hanging out his mouth like a sputtering fuse, smoke blowing into his nose as he focused his callused fingers in their grip on the frets. Behind him, Mapplethwaite was busting a gut on the drums, the sweat standing out on his pasty forehead, clinging to his greasy hair as he hammered the kit in fervid concentration. At the bar before their set, Mapplethwaite’d been boasting loudly about the blackness of his shit that morning, fallout from a night out on the Guinness. Now he seemed to have lost all his bravado, and was hanging on for dear life, working away with a deathly determination as his face became steadily more pale and his suffering stood out more blatantly by the second. At the front of the band, Prig was having a whale of a time, howling like a monkey down the wonkily-adjusted mike-stand, his hands moving in only the most impressionistic approximation of the chords he should be playing. Off to his right, Pilkington completed the lineup, frowning over his guitar in dastardly absorption as he tried to remember a song they’d taught him at practice barely more than three hours before.

                The gig was a stormer. Drunken whoops greeted the chaotic disintegration at the end of every song, and at the termination of their set a trio of their mates set up a ragged chanting of the band's name as the members set about unplugging their various pedals and instruments, with Mapplethwaite removing his cymbals from the drum kit.

Muf-ti! Muf-ti! Muf-ti!

Hoofcross was stoked. They’d played tonight perhaps the best out of any gig they’d ever done together, and he was on a high as he walked outside, sweat cooling on his glowing face, to smoke his post-gig cigarette…

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

W2 1BS

            The Westway careers unceasingly onwards towards Central London, never swerving, never stopping; a megalithic concrete gangway channelling A40 traffic on towards the feeding-grounds of the City with a blood-bearing artery’s unfailing pulse. Near Paddington, south of the landscaped relic of an industrial canal turned exclusive lifestyle marina, it intersects with the Edgware Road, an ethnic hubbub of Internet cafés and small supermarkets descending out of the politer climes of Maida Vale. The grocers’, takeaways and restaurants of Edgware Road are owned by a diversity of immigrants from the Middle East; Lebanese, Iraqis, Iranians and Afghans, to mention merely a few. Into the narrow aisles of the supermarkets are crammed a bewildering assortment of imported comestibles: plastic packs of cashews, pistachios, peanuts; beans, lentils, chickpeas; a grainy, protinous mass which will migrate out across the teeming pavements and dissipate amid the steam of a thousand cooking-pots. The shopmen sweat as they unpack the plastic pallets of tins for the high shelves, moving aside courteously to let individual customers pass.

            Nearby, black youth trail clouds of cannabis as they cycle past the high-security premises of Paddington Green Police Station, bantering in hip-hop, whooping through the Joe Strummer Subway. The open-air market on Church Street is winding up for the day; middle-aged men with tightly-coiled black hair labour stolidly to clear their stalls into the backs of white vans while on either side a chaos of schoolchildren and mothers in hijab flows past. Across the road, the drunk man in the wheelchair sits at the entrance to his block of flats, trading sarcastic pleasantries with the people walking by. Smartly dressed Arabic men drive Mercedes into the backlots of their businesses or saunter southwards towards Paddington, towards the coffee shops, where they will sit and smoke their hookahs. On Paddington Green, by the small domed church, office workers and college students occupy benches in the shade of the immense trees as the Westway hurls past them to the south and the fathers play football with their children on the sun-splashed grass. The whole of the Borough of Westminster, with its disparate persons, its zones and its languages, is carrying on its business in the afternoon of this sweaty, crazy day at the long end of summer.

            The buzz from the Westway carries on as afternoon lengthens into evening. The lights in the tower flats blink on in gradual clusters as the people return from their shops and offices. The Edgeware Road pavements are still busy with the flow of traffic to and from its shops and restaurants, a traffic now swollen by the irregular patrols of yawling teenagers. In the open fronts of the stores the accumulated goods, the fruit, the bags of rice, take on a vibrant, electric-lighted bloom against the backdrop of their darkening environment. A vast picture of Kate Moss towers over the Green Man pub and over the neighbouring red-tiled front of the Edgeware Road tube station. This city is not sleeping, but working, and as the night draws on the wail of sirens assures the ear of an eternal vigilance, a ceaseless motion of brains and hands, all moving together in the service of this vast hive, this country of concrete and fibre-optics, which stretches as far north as the suburban normalcy of Potter’s Bar and as far east as the river reaches of Leamouth and Woolwich. The Westway groans on perpetually, a gargantuan mating of earth and sky, while the red lights on the tower blocks flare out like totemic constellations on some ancient map of stars. The city is working, waking through the long night of its unfolding existence, and the car-horns on the Edgeware Road cry out a prayer of thanks to their divinity; to the deity of human commerce and to all its attendant saints of high-street and of cul-de-sac, of backlot and of underpass.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Salt Fen

            The boy and the old man stood at the lip of the water. The boy crouched, playing among the drifting hairs of the submerged grass with a reed; the old man stood, staring into the distance. Around them there drifted sounds: the boom of a bittern out on the salt marsh; the clank of a bucket as one of the women drew water from the freshwater well. The weather was clouded, formless; the slight breeze stirred vaguely across the salinated fen as if dabbing its boot in a mud-tinted puddle. 
            The old man spoke. His voice was a hoarse, exhausted croak, worn out from decades of over-use; mucus ground deep in his chest like gravel whipped by an estuarine tide.
            ‘I remember when all this used to be farmland.’ He let the statement sink, settle itself, a heavy log tossed into a morass.
            He waited. There was no response from the boy. The winch rattled as whoever it was finished drawing water from the well; warblers shrilled as they whipped across the salt marsh, searching for insects.
            The old man wanted a response from the boy. He waited, thinking about making his statement again.
            The boy piped up. ‘Look at this, Grandad. Look!’
            Pondering, the old man made his way over to where the boy crouched, at the edge of the water. Holding the reed in a firm grasp, the boy was sweeping it backwards and forwards through the shallows, stirring up a current that made the drowned grass-stems swirl and gesture in limp pirouettes.
            The boy was excited. ‘Look, Grandad, look, they’re waving, wave back!’ He stirred the water again, waited while the grass-stems settled into place again, like the head-hairs on a drowned body.
            ‘Grandad, what’s that?’ The boy pointed with the reed, poking down amid the grass-roots.
            ‘What’s what?’ The old man saw nothing.
            ‘Those…thingys!’ The boy’s powers of description failed him; he pointed.
            The old man craned closer. Amid the grass-stems he now made out movement, the infinitesimal agitation of something, like tiny wings beating. He saw that there were many of them, now another, and another; beneath the water’s surface, tiny, translucent, shrimp-like things, moving like ticks amid the dead hairs of the grass. They were living in the salt fen, feeding on whatever invisible life clung on amid the shrivelling stems of the drowned embankment.
            The boy was looking up at him, wondering, wanting an answer, his small face pursed against the shrill breeze that came in from the sea. ‘Grandad, what are they?’
            The old man pondered for a moment, still looking in surprise and puzzlement at the mite-like organisms that flickered and flourished beneath the surface of the water. Then he gave up.
            ‘I don’t know’, he said.

Computer Games are the Novels of the Future

            You play Gilbert, a fluorescent pink hadrosaur whose task is to rescue the beautiful Princess Crysteen. You are aided in your quest by your loyal sidekick, Muffy. Play ascends through nine separate levels, each with its own puzzles to be solved and challenges to be faced. At the end of each level you must outsmart the Level Guardian in order to board the magic balloon which will spirit you away to the next. Make your way with Gilbert through the forests and grottoes of these nine wonderful worlds, marvel at their many curious and beautiful sights, meet the strange and charming local inhabitants (along with many who aren’t so charming!), collecting as many Faerie Cakes as you can along the way. But don’t forget to look out for Killer Bees!!!


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A Dream

            An enormously obese woman of mixed race, swathed in a diaphanous, vaguely ethnic-looking garment, was sailing on a miniature catamaran in a lagoon infested with sharks. It had been a hot day, and the evening sun irradiated everything with a rich light so intense as to be hyperreal. The tiny translucent ripples on the surface of the water could be seen in the clearest photographic detail.

            I was persuaded to take a turn at sailing one of the small, agile watercraft myself. They told me that it was perfectly safe. Despite my inaptitude for handling the small craft I felt pleasure in the achievement and in the unfamiliar motion. But at one point as I negotiated a tack the immense nose of an enormous shark dipped itself wetly and languidly above the placid surface just in front of my bow, sinking away just in time to avoid a collision.
            Having returned to dry land I surveyed the lagoon, which was circular in shape and circumscribed by a rim of concrete, a gap in which led out to the open sea. I was shocked to observe that the entire lagoon was literally boiling with sharks. The surface thrashed and frothed with the agitation of huge numbers of the carnivorous fish, while a number of monstrous Great Whites flung themselves twisting above the water in a synchronised balletic display. I was struck both by their immense mass and by the fleshy whiteness of their upended bellies.

            Somewhat relieved to thus have left such a dangerous environment, I was shortly thereafter distressed again by the emergence, from the lagoon onto the beach near me, of a bizarre creature. The creature was manifestly in some way of human design, being extremely symmetrical in form, and having a plastic-looking skin or surface. I can only describe it as a kind of cyborg sea-serpent; it gave the impression of being the result of some horrible marriage of the biological and the technological, having been bred or manufactured, perhaps, in some secret corporate or government laboratory. It moved like a snake, and was mostly white, with blue markings or logos. It was as clinical as a tube of toothpaste. It had no eyes or mouth, nor any head distinguishable from the rest of its body; instead, its cylindrical body ended abruptly as if chopped off flat, and a smaller, flat-ended blue cylinder protruded from the aperture in the white ring which served it for a snout. This cylinder I took to be a weapon of terrifying power; indeed, the whole creature conveyed a strong impression of the most implacable malevolence, so that I was extremely glad of the vantage of the curved concrete sea-wall on which I now perched. While the two of us thus regarded each other – I with growing trepidation, the creature with a sinister bionic stillness roughly approximating that of a snake about to strike – I became aware of the arrival of Tony Blair, dressed in a black suit and dark glasses. He, I was given to understand, would save me – although his means for achieving this end were, so far as I could see, uncertain.

Monday, 8 November 2010

In the hill country an hour from the city...

            In the hill country an hour from the city, up where the hills start turning into moors, there are valleys where small towns cling to the hillsides, where derelict mills moulder by rushing waterways. This is an empty space where dusty A-roads cut through the long distances between places of habitation, where the sodium light of street lamps illuminates roadside bouquets commemorating long-dead motor-crash victims. Away from the bright lights of Somerfields car-park, away from the neat estates of semi-detacheds, there are spaces where the shadows gather, spaces where the gloom from the inchoate sky intensifies undisturbed by the flash of a car headlight or a door-key being jangled on someone’s homeward return. Along one such road, that runs from the railway station once managed by Branwell, mad brother of the Brontës, towards a junction of works depots and business lots, there walked, one miserable evening, a girl…