Monday, 30 January 2017

Letter To America - How To Take On Trump

I do not want to come over preaching to Americans from this far away vantage point. I make no claim for greater knowledge of American law or politics than the citizens who live with both. But after just a week of despicable actions by the new President and the furore it has unsurprisingly provoked, I just want to make a plea that such broad-brush outrage is not the best method of opposing him. That is not to say that joining protests and pointing up abuses through social media #resistance are not useful - they are, they show solidarity with those persecuted under the regime so that indicates the persecuted are not alone. But the more clinical tactics to disarm him have to be given space among the sound and fury to work their effect.

Trump has been branded an egomaniac, sociopath, dictator, racist, fascist, liar, sexist, abuser, tyrant, despot, puppet of Bannon, puppet of Putin and probably some others I've missed. Now most of these may well be true, but hurling these epithets at him achieves precisely nothing. He will just shrug and jab a finger behind him in a "Get that lot" gesture; get that lot in both senses of the term, since he has a propensity for going after his critics and opponents and he will go to war with the media and then with Hollywood mark my words. But don't forget he is playing to his supporters, the nearly 50% of your divided nation that voted for him. The more you abuse him, the more it plays to his message that he is the outsider, the new broom and that plays well in places. Demonstrations in large urban areas and airports and he can just claim that it's the political correctness/Liberal/Feminists/Civil Rights 'mob' which he can spin to his supporters as him being on the right track if these opponents up in arms protesting. Trump has not enacted any policy he didn't tell us he was going to do when campaigning. The problem is no one thought he was serious, or that he was just rabble-rousing or talking metaphorically and of course no one thought he would win. Everything so far is playing to his constituency and they are almost certainly loving it. I don't believe that anyone who voted for him has been alienated by the first week's antics and policies. They are not in the slightest bit embarrassed by the criticism aimed at Trumps' decisions both at home and globally; like the President they just don't care about the use of torture.

So the way to get to Trump is twofold. Firstly make him look bad to his own supporters and secondly a vigorous legal defence of the Constitution to reverse as many of his enacted policies as can be defeated by other branches of government. So taking the legal side first and I am no expert, but calls to impeach him after just a week in office are never going to happen, so please stop calling for it. Only the House of Representatives can call for proceedings and the Senate hear them; both are Republican majorities, so the chances of it being successful are small. Turkeys don't vote for either Thanksgiving nor Christmas. However appalled certain Republican congressfolk are by Trump, they will not venture to destroy their own party by removing the man who won the Whitehouse under their name and on their ticket. Now, to proper business. Trump threatens the venerable Constitution like no previous President. Particularly the First amendment when it comes to media and artistic freedom as he goes after his critics. He will also look to finagle away some of the protections of the Fifth Amendment, starting with drug dealers and illegal migrants and then seeing if he can extend it to the everyday. He will wrap such attacks up under the cloak of being the Constitution's great defender, particularly by playing up the Second Amendment, a sort of under two flags approach that Putin also wields in Russia. His supporters might overlook infringement and incremental shrinking of the First Amendment in return for buttressing of the Second Amendment to their satisfaction, plus moves like overturning Roe V Wade that finally gives the religious Right what they have been craving for decades and who have VP Pence leading the charge on it. Every infraction of  the constitution has to be legally challenged. We know Congress are unlikely to do it and can only hope and trust the Judiciary (no matter their personal politics) do their job and rule on matters of law and where the Constitution has been infringed. The problem is that such processes are not quick and instead of having the loggerheads between Congress & Whitehouse that you had under Obama, you risk having a strangulation of business tied up by the wranglings of Executive and Judiciary this time. It wouldn't matter quite so much, but again Trump just turns round and appeals to his supporters to say 'who's holding up business, not me, it's the Judiciary and they need their swamp clearing too'. Such an accusation has already happened here in Britain over Brexit, although it was our press and media more than the government who took it to extremes.

So that brings us to the second thread, make Trump lose face to his own supporters. As much as they delight in Liberal baiting and persecuting of certain minorities, ultimately they have voted him in to improve their lot materially. This won't happen and that has to be played for all it's worth over the next four years as the economy fails to revive itself since rust cannot suddenly de-rust itself and become mint steel again. The coal mines have gone and won't usefully be brought back into production. To really hammer this home, you need to associate the lack of economic benefit for the ordinary man with Trump's own mega-wealth and that he is not and never was the man to represent them after all. There's no point complaining that Trump never showed us his tax returns, didn't impact the election, it's old news now. You have to hammer him on anything he does while in office. Every conflict of interest, every milking of the Presidency for his own gain has to be exposed and legally challenged where relevant. And there's no point revealing these exposés in the Times & The Post, because they're not talking to his support base. I'm afraid they are a Greek chorus when you need to be using the real protagonists on the stage. You need to get them on Facebook and Fox News. And obviously it has to be 100% evidenced and explained, the links made so it's staring them square in the face. Hell, mock up a Breitbart dummy site or hack the real one and get it there as well. Go for the jugular but in order to do so, you have to stay focused and not just go for everything and anything. Only the stuff that degrades him in the eyes of his followers. No moral arguments, just clear cases of corruption and failing to deliver on growth because he can't as he's in the billionaire camp.

The only problem I foresee with this strategy is how Trump reacts to such humiliation? He strikes me as a street fighter in the Boardroom, so that it is possible that he just says to hell with it all and pulls some crazy stunt like going to war with Iran or some equivalent just to re-inflate his ego in his own mind. But let's cross that bridge when we come to it eh?

Good luck with the fight.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

And For The Last Time Of Asking - Flash Fiction

Sunday, 22 January 2017

All The Clocks Are Broken

I am sundial. My body blocks out the sun and projects an imago of me in shadow against the wall. As a child my clump absorbed the light and grew. But now it is only the relationship of light’s angle to my mass that can alter my amplitude. I have become fixed in dimension even as time creeps on.

I am horology. Marker of time. As much as I inhabit space and move through it in dragging hope of making it somehow bloom, I am just counting off the hours, minutes, seconds. My cells age. My muscles turn to fat. My sinews seize up. My tendons lose their elasticity. My skin wrinkles. All this change on the landscape of me. Spatial changes in the lone visual dimension of the three normally accorded to life. While time proceeds apace. The wrist watch of me is losing time. There is no mechanism for winding me back up or changing the battery to restore me to factory settings. So in fact I don’t inhabit space at all. My corpus is the space across which time marches. My body the clock face.

I can sire progeny, cheat time that way. Except that they too serve as dials. Integral and separate, despite the inherited mitochondrial quartz from which we share frequency but not periodicy. For when my pendulum finally stops swaying, apart from perhaps a slight wobble on their faces, my clock is stopped and theirs runs on. For a few more decades at least. But generational chronometry cannot buy us any more time. No persistence. No immortality. Time of death. Death of time. 

We are sundials. Horological markers of time. Across the space of our bodies. Exactly what we are counting out time for remains hazy.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Writers Resist London - Only 30 Years Too Late

Today, Sunday 15th January 2017, writers and authors in London finally raised their heads above the parapet. They joined the 'Writers Resist' movement based in America but taking in many cities outside the US in holding an event to protest the imminent presidency of Donald Trump as a threat to democracy, rights and civilised values. Unfortunately I couldn't attend the event, having a previous reading commitment in London, notwithstanding that I only found out about the event yesterday via Twitter and some detective work on my part (what writers call 'research'). Humble writers like myself aren't on the BCC lists, we didn't get the memo because it wasn't sent out to us.

But that is not the source of my frustration. Without coming over like some sort of contradiction in terms as some sort of putative member of the UKIP Metropolitan Elite, what about the threat to democracy in the UK? After the election result and Cameron being returned, a small group of us writers commiserated on twitter and all pledged to write political fiction - something I have always done, from Khmer Rouge Cambodia to beheading videos, Syrian migrants to Latin American death squads - but nada. After Brexit there was the same level of wailing and gnashing of teeth and calls for some sort of protest fiction - again I have penned an 11,000 word short story, but not too aware of similar works. This is hardly surprising to me as there has been a dearth of political fiction in this country because politics is seen as a dirty word when allied to the term 'literature'.

Of course it wasn't ever thus, go back to "Gulliver's Travels" for when Brits did write politically and satirically. Where poets get put in a revolutionary Sandanista government and author André Malraux was minister for culture in France, we get chicklit write Louise Mensch as an MP and MPs like Douglas Hurd and now Nadine Dorries permeating their own boredom in the service of state by penning works of fiction. Where Camus, Sartre & De Beauvoir led every march going in 1968 Paris, with the honourable exception of the late Harold Pinter, where are our authors marching under banners? Nowhere that's where. I marched with cartoonists and graphic artists in opposition to Section 28.

Is our democracy indeed under the same threat as Trump represents to that of America? Well where have you been for the last 30 years if you have to ask that? Ever since the 1980s there has been a systematic ideological assault on the rights and values held dear in the UK, under the guise of Britain needs to get its economic housekeeping in good order. Social spaces of social and public subsidised art, local government being cut back to the bone, libraries and youth clubs being starved of funding, trade unions and associations being diminished, council housing being sold off without being replaced, clampdowns on public marches and protest, all meant a reduction in the public's ability to gather together and discourse. The arts had to demonstrate a profit line ahead of artistic ideas and exploration. Ever since then there is a distinct lack of public discourse within Britain. The British sense of justice and fair play has been undermined by the rigorous assault on the Welfare State, targeting the poor and needy (ATOS, bedroom tax), rather than bringing bad employers to book over working conditions/low pay and an unrepresentative level of corporation tax. The divide between rich and poor has got wider and these fault lines were revealed by the Brexit referendum, which should have come to no surprise to keen-eyed watchers, which is why it seems to have come as such a seismic shock to most. Brexit has unleashed hate crimes and will signal the UK withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights, something PM Theresa May has been itching to do long before the referendum delivered its vote. Where was the artistic protest on any of this? In the 1970s the British theatre stage was dominated by Marxist and Left-Wing playwrights like Hare, Brenton, Edgar, but they were unable to counter the 1980s ideology of Thatcherism and that seemed to signal a retreat in political art. Our rights have since been further stripped by the anti-terrorism legislation and our decency threatened by the increase of hate crime in the wake of the Brexit vote. 

I understand that the current Writers Resist movement is keen on being seen as non-aligned politically. Labour in the 1990s did nothing to underpin  any of our depleted rights and values from and are just as culpable. But the current UK government will seek to push through radical policies that 1980's Thatcherism only dreamed of, not least the assault on out most precious value that of the National Health Service and social care for the elderly which feeds into the current crisis. As heinous as I regarded Ronald Reagan's presidency, America has one protection we in the UK do not; the First Amendment enshrining the right to free expression, therefore not even Reagan was able to dismantle the arts community as happened in the UK. However, even that protection is now under threat as Trump will start with press freedom as he looks to hobble his opponents there and after that artistic expression would be vulnerable starting with liberal Hollywood - I suspect that the realisation of this is part what has sparked the Writers Resist movement to spring up in the US. Of course other fears are the roll back of civil rights either by law, or de facto as racism is more overt and less clamped down on by the forces of law and order. But the fact remains that the USA may be facing what we experienced in the UK in the 1980s and which we've never recovered from. 

So Writers Resist London, first you need to open up your invite lists because there are some grass roots writers who have consistently been producing political work of resistance. At present you risk just talking to yourselves ( I see the same network of writer names as all work together anyway) and we had all that nonsense with UK Occupy, a talking shop which fizzled out quick enough once the housing and jobs market perked up. Believe me, I may have a modicum of the readers you have, but with all due respect you ain't at the level of Harold Pinter and so the people you need to be reaching are no more likely to be aware of you and your voice than they are of mine and the likes of me. If we're going to do this thing let's do it properly. There are so many challenges not just politically, but in terms of language and fake versus truth versus fiction. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Flesh Wound - Flash Fiction

Lonely heart
Cold shouldered
Chin up
Toe in water
Shoulder to wheel
Give eye teeth
Stick neck out
Caught eye
Thumbs up
Shot in arm
Mouth watering
See eye to eye
Mind blowing
Feel in bones
Shivers down spine
Joined at hip
Body and soul
Belly laughs
Head over heels
Fevered brow
Love muscle
Leg over
Bees knees
Wandering eye
Achilles heel
Back foot
Face the music
All ears
Lips sealed
Cat got tongue?
Two faced
Blood boiling
Clean breast
Flesh wound
Cut own throat
Skinned alive
Given elbow
Shoulder to cry on?
Lonely heart
Slit wrists

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Guest Post - Author Louise Wise

I have a thing about time travel. I've written a novel about it and a flash tale on the subject also appears in my current flash fiction collection. So I am always fascinated to see how other writers treat the subject. And today's guest Louise Wise has a similar interest in the paradoxes of acting on the past in order to change the future. Her latest book "Wide Awake Asleep" was published last month on Kindle and adds a paranormal element to the time travel, in that each jump in time comes accompanied with inhabiting an unfamiliar body previously owned by someone else. Sounds a fabulous read. I asked Louise to talk about the book and its themes and she kindly offered the following. Over to Louise -

If I had a time machine, I’d love to travel to events of tragedy and save the day! A superhero I am most definitely not, but who wouldn’t want to save the lives of those lost on the Titanic or those from the World Trade Centre? 
But I also believe in the inconsistency of time-travel (the meet-and-kill-your-grandparent-and-you’ll-not-exist paradox).
If I went back to Henry VIII’s time and visited the gorgeous Anne Boleyn I’d warn her not to be so flirtatious with the men around her because she was executed for having ‘relationships’. But then what would have happened? 
Henry VIII would probably have become Henry II—not the same, is it? Besides we’ve already had a Henry II in 1133! And then Anne Boleyn wouldn’t have become the household name that she is today. She’d have been remembered like Catherine of Aragon—who? Exactly!
Would I change anything from my own past? I can honestly say, no. Small things, maybe, like the time a so-called friend told me to scrump apples knowing the owner of the apple tree was lying in wait and who would clip my ear! Back in the 70s ears were frequently clipped!
And then there are bigger things, like warning my aunt not to take her family swimming that fatal day where my six-year old cousin lost his life. Had I been able to save him then his younger brother would probably not have been around. 
That’s the thing with time travel, one cannot and should not mess with it, unless they are prepared for the changes it would, undoubtedly, create.

Book Blurb: ‘Past events can be changed but one must be careful of how one does it because it’ll impact on the rest of one’s life.’—Dáire Quin, Modify your Destiny if you Must, 2003

No one saw Julie’s car leave the road, no one saw her crash into the watery ditch, no one saw the gnarled tree branch pierce through the window screen and impale her to her seat.
No one heard her screams.

Yet, this was the beginning of Julie’s life.

Julie Compton, is a forty-something woman, striving for success in a male dominated business world. She thinks she’s made it. She thinks she has it all. Trouble is, her destiny has been travelling in the wrong direction and Julie is now forced to relive her life by occupying people’s bodies from her past in a time-travel, paranormal adventure.

For readers who enjoyed books like 'The Time Traveler's Wife' and 'The Lovely Bones'.

Available from Amazon (all territories)

Novel Excerpt:
Disorientated, I looked around at my surroundings. I had the strange feeling that I wasn’t here at all. I thought I heard a voice, and I cocked my head, but it was carried away on a gust of wind. The feeling of hands touching my body subsided and I was left in this paradox universe where I was me inside someone else’s body.
I looked down at myself and the first thing I saw was a plaid skirt, and thick tights, which sagged at the knees and ankles.
My heart began to beat in horror. No, no. Please, God, no. 
My hands touched the stained cardigan over my large droopy breasts. Up further to my face…
My hands recoiled.
I felt a moustache!
I gasped in horror. I was ‘Auntie’ Iris Grimshaw!
It was bad enough being goofy Sarah Marshall, but now I had a moustache! And a bloody monobrow! 
Iris began to walk, and I felt a sharp pain in my hip. I slowed, but the pain persisted. It shot down my left leg every time my foot touched the ground. No wonder the old sod was grouchy.


Louise's author bio:

Louise Wise is a British author. She lives in the Midlands with her husband and four sons, and works as a pharmacy technician.

Her debut novel is the acclaimed sci-fi romance EDEN, which was followed by its sequel HUNTED in 2013. 

Her other works include A PROPER CHARLIE (romantic comedy), OH NO, I’VE FALLEN IN LOVE! (dark, comedy romance), and SCRUFFY TRAINERS (a collection of short stories). She has written numerous short stories for women’s magazines including Women’s Own and Take a Break.
Her latest novel, WIDE AWAKE ASLEEP, was published December 16th 2016. In this novel, she has mixed time travel and romance with her on-going theme of isolation and loneliness. 

You can contact Louise through any of the following media:

I'd like to thank Louise for giving me the opportunity to talk about her latest book and would urge you to go out and read it

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Maxwell's Demon - Flash Fiction

He had locked on. He now possessed full control over the satellite. Mattered not whether it was media or military propelled. It made no odds, both were death-dealing hawkers of lies. In a post-truth world, only data counted. Noughts and ones. In his case, the vengefulness of the noughts. He started recoding. He would bring it tumbling down back to earth. Recast it into a fireball. Put on a scintillating show as it burned up in the atmosphere. The planet’s safety net for catching Icarian plunges back to earth. The hubris each satellite represented, taking its place in the firmament, only for the likes of him to puncture its aggrandised gravity. Mere fleas on a dog. These devices weren’t ever meant to return to earth, so they didn’t bother designing them with blunted contours to lessen the murderous friction on re-entry. There was too much space junk littering space already, time to clean house. They were all at it, hackers around the world trying to outdo one another, plucking the petals from the Kevlar coronal garland around the earth. No that was too poetic, too grandiose. More like applying a flea collar to the mutt. Kids who in previous generations would have been bullied by those who fired air rifles at birds in trees, or set fires. But all that paled into insignificance with the power they now held in their keyboards. If his hacking peers were anything like him, they too played out imaginary revenge fantasies, always aiming over an exact city full of bullies to bring the satellite crashing down on to, were it somehow to defy the purging heat of dragging against our humble air. Those selfsame bullies who now occupied the highest offices of state. For they hadn't stood still in their metamorphosis either. His only response to a world turned upside down, was to bring the sky crashing in to right it again.