Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Island Of Stability - Flash Fiction

As dead as the dinosaurs. Though not of course coeval with them. In laboratories chemists create super-heavy elements which exist for mere milliseconds before transforming back into more stabile arrangement of protons, neutrons and electrons. Such elements, if they ever existed in Nature, have such rapid decay rates that they have long ago become iron, lead, radon and the like. Their half lives played out into immutability. Why do the scientists bother when these elements have such a short lifespan, they offer no practical use at all? Because they quest after an ‘island of stability’ at some point on this spectrum, where elements exist with increasing half-lives that mean they have a much more stable existence, only no one has figured out how to create them, nor found them existing naturally. 

Such decay would have taken place by the time man appeared on the earth, but hey who’s present to say what time is at this pre-temporal stage? We use carbon dating and other radioactive decay metrics to back-define chronology, so this cavil still holds in real time. Not that there is such a thing of course. Experienced time is not stable. Only in mathematical terms is it regularly sequenced and segmented.

Ug had mined some lead by cracking open a rock. Unsurprisingly he was unaware that it was a radioactive isotope of lead (210), as he used it for a pillow to cradle his head at night. His body absorbed its decay and would have sparked off carcinogenic mutations within his body, only the era’s low natural life expectancy meant he would not outlive the lead’s twenty two year half-life that would have ravaged him unto death.

Ug pointed to the animal skins on his feet with the very spear that had smote the beast. Unk just assumed he was boasting and flouting his fortune from the recent hunt. Ug danced from one foot to the other, waggling the raised one in Unk’s direction. Unk’s blood was rising at the perceived continued sleight. Ug emitted some sounds, but Unk just shrugged his shoulders, or scratched his head, or held his hands out wide while crinkling the lower features of his face, the precise gestures not having been set in mutual comprehension as such. Ug threw himself at Unk’s feet, then struggled to lift one of them off the ground, sending Unk into a frenzy of hopping trying to keep his balance. Ug pointed at the scars and scabs and blisters on his confrere's foot, then pointed to the skins wrapped around his own and emitted some more sounds to convey the comparative weals of skin. Look Unk, we went through all this yesterday, remember, the petroglyphs? Unk smashed him over the head with his club as his final indecipherable and yet inviolable thought on the matter. 

Wait, hold on a minute Sonny Jim, I can smell it on you. Spliff. Skunk. Yes you do. Marijuana. Sinsimilla, Mary Jane. Grass. Cannabis. Bud. Weed. Collieweed. Reefer. Chronic. Blunt. Draw. Ganja. Herb. Whacky tobaccy. Oh this is hopeless. Let me open my Urban Dictionary translation app… What? Give me a moment here. Is that ‘dope’ as in isotope 13 or 15? Come on, throw me a bone here please. Open your mouth wide and enunciate clearly. As if any imaginary doobie between your lips would fall out… Do you mean ‘bad’ in the sense of isotopes 6, 8 or 10…? Damn youth and their rapidly mutating argot. Or is it ‘ergot’? Either way I’m getting a migraine… Not least think about how much money you waste on that stuff. No not waste, ‘spunk’. What? Money, you know, money? Oh sorry, English as a second language. Bank (isotope 72). Swag. Scratch (isotope 52). Dosh. Readies. Moolah. Lucre. Lolly. Loot. Booty (isotope 107). P’s. Spondoolicks. Skrill. Ah we have lift off! Docking with the mothership. Docking your pocket money might be an idea… Hold it, I’m an ‘askhole’? What the hell is ‘askhole’ when it’s at home...? Oh here we are. Hmmmm. You’re lucky I heard that right first time mistah, see you can enunciate when you choose to… I may be your mum, but even I can see that’s a fauxpology. See not quite as beyond redemption as you might think… How do you spell that…? No, nothing, guess Urban Dic hasn’t even caught up to that one yet goddamnit… Would you care to enlighten me as to its meaning…? Pretty please…? Oh, so it’s just the silent treatment now is it? Words fail me….

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

A Bucket List - Flash Fiction

The milkmaid entered the barn carrying a three-legged wooden stool in one hand, a metal pail in the other. She set down the stool, sat down and decorously arranged the hem of her bodice and smoothed the apron of her dirndl. He wasn’t sure why she was clad in a bonnet, surely it wasn’t as protection from squirted milk? Perhaps it was a covering against straw from the thatch above. Whatever its purpose, it conjured up in him images of hair nets worn in bakeries, that trepanned the wearer and in doing so changed the proportions of the face in unwholesome manner. Always enough to put you off your bread. Now it further induced in him the image of bank robbers who pull stockings over their faces to distort their features. No, enough of this bane, hair is meant to be witnessed! The milkmaid untied the straps of her bonnet under her chin, threw the linen away carelessly and shook out her liberated tresses with such flourish that necessitated a reprise of her raiment redress.

She brought her hands to the cow’s teats. She started plucking and drawing then back and forth like organ stops. The sound emitted was the metallic syncopation of the milk striking the metal sides of the bucket. I shuddered at the thought of her hands working me with such vigour, although the cow was seemingly unmoved by any discomfort in the contact. You were briefly stirred by the tribadic association of two females, however the alien nature of the udder, looking like some sort of deep marine creature shattered any imagining of the human mammary. In addition the stream of jism whizzing evoked by the unending jet of milk was further off-putting and confused any desired picture with him at the centre of it. And finally the soundtrack. That strange stretto effect as if the liquid percussion bifurcated into two notes on impact. To your ear it elicited somewhat the same as that of the men’s urinals with all that entailed. So while the milkmaid’s dress may be playing host to milky white drops resiling from the pail’s steel sides, no happy correspondence can be drawn because of the many occasions of urinary splash-back I had encountered. 


  1. First, second (too passive?) or third (voyeur) person perspective? 
  2. Sounds other than human?
  3. No animals
  4. Keep in mind the visual qualities of fluids (colour)
  5. Consider precise motion and vigour of hands at work in symbolic activity
  6. The images (both experienced and imagined) held before any scenario even starts can knock it off kilter through less palatable associations

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Funeral Rites of JZKU-712 Flash Fiction

Both the digital recorders and our own analogue bodies inform us that gravitational force on planet JZKU-712 operates more strongly than that of our own. We deduce that is the main structural determinant of the aliens’ spherical body shape. They do not have protruding (facial) features as such. The distinctions are to be found in the patterns of tiny raised surface nodules or speckles which vary from individual to individual. We assume this is is also functional, in providing more surface friction to enable their locomotion. They operate with two modes of motion, by bouncing with a forward movement, or by orbiting, in which presumably they give themselves to the gravitational force of each other and large objects in order to cover greater distances. To see this is rather beautiful, like dancers or ice skaters passing on a partner to another, though of course they lack for open hands with which to do so. 

We have also observed their funerary rites. The point to keep in mind is that all stems from their body shape. They have no need of rectangular coffins and graves as we do. Nor do they opt for interment in the ground or cremation by fire. Instead they have what we surmise is a rather touching send off that engages the whole community with grace and due dignity and won us over form our initial irreverent treatment of their race as glorified basketballs. 

The first thing that obtains with death is they seal the departed up in a transparent membrane, which is also perfectly round. This is for the wake, which takes the form of each individual spending time with the deceased before gently and precisely rolling them on to the next mourner. The actual interaction can seemingly take many forms, from their form of whispered locution, which can best be approximated by the sound of letting air out of a ball, through to gently nuzzling or a slightly firmer contact which can induce rotational spinning of the decedent. Now you can see the reason behind our initial irreverence.

But from the wake we move to the funeral ceremony itself. The late individual has ended up with geometric precision unnoticed by us, right in the epicentre of the community. They all move to form a series of concentric circles radiating around the corpse orb. With military exactitude, they all start bouncing on the spot in rhythm with one another. That tempo changes repeatedly, but not a single creature misses its beat, the transitions are mellifluously smooth. The volume is not deafening, this is not a tattoo, instead it is clearly respectful. We conceive of this as their form of lamentation.  

Then on to the funeral march. No pall bearers and no jazz bands to serenade the way. Rather the concentric circles break up as everyone moves into one long single file, with the deceased at its head. Again, with flawless uniformity, each rondure takes a single pace (if ‘pace’ can be applied to brings of curvature), so that the file nudges forward exactly one pace, with the deceased at the head also rolling one pace only. The march inches forward with heart-breaking (to us) agonising slow solemnity. We imagine no individual can feel a personal grief out of whack with the rest, for to do so would be to send the decedent ricocheting off in the vanguard.

Finally they arrive at the burial grounds (‘burial’ again being an inappropriate term). It appears to be a lake of some sort. There is a gentle lap, but it is certainly not tidal. For lined across the water are rows and rows of spherical corpses to which this one is added. The lack of tumultuous swell means that just as with our graveyards, the dead retain their position in the ranks so that private grief can be visited upon them at a later date. While we infer the membranous skeins to be waterproof (and also to  prevent any damage of an inert entity being rolled, nudged and all other funereal impact given the lack of rigor mortis), we have no idea if the corpse decays within. Do putrefying gases within provide the flotation upon the water, where we might presuppose gravity to otherwise press them down into the depths? Whatever the physical processes at work, there is an undeniable delicate propriety to their final resting place. 

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Tilt - Flash Fiction

Naturally I have no recollection of this, being pre-neuronal and rod and cone focal, but my head shoved through the membraneous flaps of my mother’s mucosal vestibule on its way to inaugural appointment with light, air and future memories.

I tromped through an interior gloom barely illuminated by radioactive decay’s palpating the stencilled phosphorescence of the word ‘Exit’ and pushed through the cinema doors. The screen was so distant from the back of the auditorium it was barely visible, but a cone of light was appointed towards it from the projector and I froze, transfixed by the play of the tiny figures held captive within its beam just above my head.

The restaurant was busy and since my company was uninteresting to me, I settled for watching the waiting staff barrel and weave around tables with trays high above their heads like funambulating jugglers. Whenever they surged through the kitchen’s doors, dangerous stabs of flame briefly fulgurated, before the return swing of the portal eclipsed and re-sheathed them. 

With me supine on a hospital trolley, my porters used the metal frame to ram through the doors and plunge me straight into the harsh glare of the overhead surgical spotlight. My paper gown parted of its own volition with the impact’s vibration shaking it free from my quailing body, my shaking fingers trying to pincer its hem back in place.

The belt began its dolefully sedate rolling towards the shutters, inching the wooden crate along with arthritic solemnity. However any serenity was dissevered by the hiccup motion of the coffin bumping up against the incinerator doors, like a stage actor doffing his hat before taking his final leave and then battering through door and curtain lining. 

I threw my whole body into the two side buttons of the table to distend the flippers to their maximum, yet we were thwarted by the pinball shooting straight down the middle out of reach. I couldn’t even access my two remaining silver orbs since the flashing lights announced ‘Tilt’. 

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Standing Up For Readers

Over the last couple of days I've read two articles bemoaning the decline in literary fiction and offering reasons behind the trend. The first was The Guardian newspaper's coverage of an Arts Council report on declining sales of literary fiction and which I'll touch on at the end of this post. The other was Larissa Pham writing in The Village Voice that readers are failing to read 'properly' to judge by the reaction to a New Yorker short story "Cat Person" that went viral and prompted a lot of response. How very dare she claim that readers don't know how to read properly.

Why do readers read books for pleasure? Why do they devote a not inconsiderable chunk of their leisure time to a book? If you'll forgive me, from this point on I'm going to elide the pleasure/leisure reading motive as 'pleisure'. A reader can derive pleasure from a book in many different ways, so much so there is no typical reader. Myself I enjoy language, metaphor, voice (character and/or authorial) and innovative narrative structures in novels. I'm less bothered by story or endings (twisty or otherwise). Nothing gives me more pleasure than being sent scurrying to a dictionary to look up a new word I've come across in a book. Now I know plenty of readers who object to this as it drags them out of the story (I know this because my own writing has prompted this entirely legitimate response). Different strokes etc. The spectrum of readers' pleasure is very wide indeed.

"Cat Person" went viral, but does that mean every single reader and sharer committed their thoughts publicly on social media? Of course not, so why does Pham use the comment evidence to represent all readers? Her claim is that many of the commentators took the story as non-fiction and responded accordingly. So what, they still derived pleasure from the read, enough to continue the conversation after finishing it by commenting on line. She blames literary criticism for failing to educate readers to be able to read texts properly, so it's no wonder the readers missed the point. Again, how very dare she! There may well be a crisis in literary criticism, but is there only one way to read a story and that is through a literary criticism lens? Of course not, readers derive pleisure in many different ways as we have already established. I would put it to you that if a litfic novel is so up itself that it can only possibly be read in one single way, it has failed the reader, not the other way around.

Furthermore, who is to say what is and what isn't fiction? Plenty of litfic books are consciously written to give the impression they are fact: the very excellent "House Of Leaves" for one. Historical Fiction actively blurs the boundaries, since it is avowedly fiction that must appear authentic to the historical age in which it is set. And even memoir, which is filed under non-fiction, actually veers into fiction through the mere act of organising a life into a narrative, which means foreshortening, omission and the like. The very term 'creative non-fiction' is a nod in the direction of this admission.

Readers are entitled to read just what books they want in whatever way they choose. Writers are (or at least should be) free to write whatever book they choose. The trick is to make the two dovetail. If literary fiction is failing to do so (as falling sales might suggest), then the fault is that of the writer not the reader. Fiction writing is an act of the imagination. If it fails to engage the imagination of readers, then the fault does not lie in the readers' imaginations, but that the writer has failed to reach them. Good writing draws the reader into the author's imagination, if it doesn't happen, again the failure is with the writing.

I have no idea if the world is dumbing down or not, but one segment you would proffer as immune is those who read for pleisure. Reading and literacy are two fundamentals of intelligence. So even if the world is dumbing down, there is no evidence that readers are, whatever Pham alleges. And as to The Guardian's reporting of reduced litfic sales, this overlooks a different way of reading that is not included in sales figures. Readers as consumers have become cute, there is plenty of free literary content available for them to read. I myself publish my flash fiction online for free and they are well read. But that will not register as sales, yet it is still literary fiction being read. The growth of book bloggers and booktubers wanting to share their love of books would suggest both that fiction is in a very strong place (admittedly many review genres other than litfic), but also that the literary criticism so lambasted by Pham has just become more democratic. That has to be a good thing, since so much of academic literary criticism is inaccessible (both physically and in terms of legibility), what is so wrong about having a more legible literary criticism? I myself offer a BookTube review site for litfic which I would peg below the academic level but hopefully all the more accessible accordingly. A final hopeful indicator of literature's future health is the expansion (explosion?) in Young Adult fiction which augurs that there will be new generations of readers brought up on this remarkably successful genre. Pham presumably would offer that none of them will graduate on to litifc, but remain reading YA. Well if they do, all well and good. Then you need to ask the question why haven't litfic authors manage to hook them on to their adult wares?

It seems to me this all part of the snobbery and elitism around literature that keeps people at arms length from it. Look at the snobbery aimed at graphic novels or fan fiction. Yet in a way litfic also is a form of fanfic. The works of Jasper Fforde with its literary games and references is to my mind absolutely a literary version of fanfic; Fforde's employing characters and books of those who came before him in a celebratory way. Canongate ran a series of novels by literary authors such as Jeanette Winterson and Michel Faber, reinterpreting classical myths for the modern age. Not what you might classify as fan fiction, yet predicated upon a love and respect of the original literary myth from each of these authors.

Lastly on to the Guardian article. Several reasons are offered for declining litfic sales. The competing pull of other digital entertainments is one cited. But if a novel is not able to compete with reality TV, meme videos, Angry Birds or whatever, then I would posit that it's because the novel is not entertaining enough. Reading as a pleisure activity is a form of entertainment, probably the least passive of those cited above. People living on their phones does not inevitably signal the death knell (ringtone?) to novels, but novelists do have to respond to its attraction and offer an enticing alternative. As that article signs off quoting Will Self, the by-the-numbers rote writing of MFAs (creative writing courses) is a very real reason underlying why litfic is failing to connect with readers. But MFA's are far more relevant to the US than UK writers, while the article also points to the growth of independent publishers as feeding the appetite for engaging lific where perhaps the large publishing houses are failing. But of course, that is not reflected in a significant sales uplift since the typical first print run of an independent is 500-1000 copies. And hypocritical of me as this is, I would suggest the Guardian article entirely missed the point of the Arts Council report, by focussing on the virtual impossibility of a litfic author making a full-time living from their fiction. For a start, this has been the case for some considerable time predating the digital publishing revolution, with many authors having to supplement their income from other means: Kafka worked in insurance; Larkin was a university librarian, several are journalists and literary critics. But I say the article missed the point, since Will Self has so much more to say about the current state of literary fiction than just MFAs. His analysis goes into the the way we read on the printed page compared to a digital screen, how language is organised and arranged digitally; "why are people going to continue writing {novels} for a medium that people no longer read it on?"

I haven't read the Arts Council report which The Guardian was reporting on. As per usual the response to a supposedly endangered art form is to suggest it needs some sort of (financial) support. Not having read the report, I'm curious how they propose to do this. Given how many books are published each year and how many authors there are, what is going to be the selection process for supporting individual authors? To plough through the inevitable welter of submissions for funding would require the Arts Council to employ an internal staff of the order that Facebook and YouTube are finally getting round to do to weed out extremist content on their sites. it just isn't practicable and in the way of these things, will likely tend to settle for elitism in their final choices of lucky recipients, since their labyrinthine application system will weed out all but the most savvy of bidders.

In a digital age you cannot just measure people consuming litfic just by sales. If there is indeed a crisis in litfic, perhaps gainsaid by book bloggers and independent publishing house growth, then the fault is with the authors and those who produce their work for them in the form of publishers and editors. The fault is not with the readers.


My new literary fiction novel "Three Dreams In the Key Of G" will be published by independent publishers Dead Ink Books early in 2018

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Confessional - How Can Artists Confront Death in their Work?

I have two great passions in my life; being a parent and writing fiction. And I will have both snatched away from me at some point in the future (or sooner if Alzheimer's strikes at the core of me). So my passions, my loves, as with anybody's, has death and cessation at the other end of its lens.

We all die, hardly a blinding insight Marc. While that is of course true, I have been stricken with that awareness for virtually all of my life. Most people function fully because they never think of death in their daily lives, until maybe they start approaching it in their old age. Me, I think of it almost every day.

We are all exposed to death, introduced in childhood through the death of pets and grandparents. Me, I had a cat who lived until he was 23 and the first of my grandparents didn't pass until I was 18. So I wasn't prematurely exposed through the customary course of events. 

Young children with plastic imaginations are very suggestible to terrors and assaults on their body's integrity, even if they don't fully understand the ramifications. My own young son given a lesson at school on food health, including dangerous levels of salt intake, consequently went on to develop an eating disorder since he shunned food on the basis of its salt content or sell-by date under his own investigations, as his fearful imagination ran wild. I had a similar experience that instilled in me the awareness of my death and cessation at the age of 6. 

My bedroom abutted my parents' and my Dad always liked to listen to BBC Radio 4 at such a volume I could hear the BBC enunciation clearly through the bedroom walls. At about 10pm the programme he was listening too announced that some people would not be waking up from their night's sleep next morning and - here it gets a bit hazy, I think somehow the actual words got conflated with my own childish imagination - this was because they would have turned into dragons. Terrified of the possibility of never waking up again, I kept myself awake through the rest of the night. Thereby not only catalysing a preternatural awareness of death, but also laying the seeds for a lifetime of insomnia. After all, if you're terrified of surrendering to the great unconsciousness that is death, that also may make it a might trickier to surrender to it even on a temporary basis in the form of the unconsciousness of sleep. 

So I was, and have always been terrified of death. Just to be clear, not the act of passing itself which to me is a minor detail no matter how agonising or supported by loved ones gathered around. (Both of which were the case with the death of my beloved grandmother, as the congestion in her lungs led her to two hours of agitated motion around her hospital bed trying to free up her breathing, wrenching her hands from ours in her distress). No, I'm talking about the eternal cessation, unconsciousness and dreamless sleep that is death's annihilation of the self. *

So how does this black hole awaiting me and all of us actually manifest itself in my daily life? Well it's not every minute of every day as that would clearly reduce me to a gibbering wreck. But I would say the awareness strikes me at least once a day, sometimes more. It can be simply looking at my son and feeling crushed that we will be parted permanently, or something on TV, or even no particularly conscious prompt at all, it just comes upon me. And such an awareness drags you out of your immediate state of consciousness and into another, overwhelming one that blots out all other thought and offers only a single emotion - terror. 

The only way to combat it for me, is to counter blot it out. Not by thinking nice things like flowers or gambolling lambs since they too will inevitably succumb to death, but by sort of overloading my brain with an internally generated white noise. I say white noise because it is not constructed of any rational thoughts, but literally a buzzing interference (are these brainwaves I have no idea?). There is no telling how long these are required to go on for in order to tamp back down the mortal thoughts, but somehow the terror subsides. Using one void to efface another. In such a state, I am fit for nothing else. 

So much for the distinct incidences of mortal awareness. It also pervades so much (if not everything) about my life as a whole. On a mundane level, I don't fly, am not particularly drawn to speed or other activities where your feet leave the ground. Yes I know you can get hit by a car when crossing the road, but then my optician died in a skiing accident... Though I have always written about death a lot in my work, yet as I wax on into my 50's I have found this year to be dominated by writing stories about ageing, infirmity and death. If Picasso had blue and red periods, I seem to be in a literary equivalent, my death period. (It is only interrupted by a body of stories about the wider politics of the world, which the way things are heading represents a global scale of extinction, so form a parallel version in many ways). 

So far so depressing right? I may even be a depressive (there is a family history of quite a spectrum of mental illness and mental conditions). We'll get to the contrary in a moment and even throw in a bit of fun. But if I am a depressive, I must be a reasonably high functioning one, almost never missing a day's work through sickness and having turned out 10 books and been the main child rearer to my twins, including coaching their youth football team for 3 years. Suicide is not an option for me, because I am so terrified of death I could never hasten my appointment with it. I don't mean this flippantly, I cleaned my father's blood off the kitchen floor after his serious suicide attempt that left him hospitalised and strapped to his bed to prevent him repeating the act... 

How do I cope with my own internal terror? Largely through comedy and a sense of the absurd. When the terror of death is your ultimate emotional scalar, most other anxieties abounding in life seem insignificant and indeed I remain imperturbable in the face of most of life's foibles & travails. I can go a stage further, I can derive the absurd about them. I am not ashamed to say that most things we human beings get aerated about I find amusing, including those of my own doing. I can defang most things in life and derive a measure of mental calm accordingly. It is the counterbalance to the deep core of terror that lies just beneath.

However there is also a serious side to absurdity. As stated above, the human condition is absurd: whatever relationships you form and whatever you build or achieve materially, will be sundered from you. Maybe that's more tragic than absurd, but Samuel Beckett seemed to find it the latter. (Indeed tragedy derives from hubris, that is human beings daring to get above themselves and approach the semi-divine, destined to failure because humans can never aspire to the immortal). 

I also find it absurd that more people are not as terrified of death on a daily basis as I am. It should pervade each of us as per our human condition. Now I understand fully why this isn't the case, because it would utterly impair daily functioning. Not to do so is actually a pretty good coping mechanism. But the downside of this is that we are largely left both unprepared and unreconciled (except for the fortunate few of deep faith or those blessed by a 'happy death') for our own demise (or the death of a close loved one). And also we don't necessarily work back from the end point to consider what the purpose/meaning (if any) of life is. Death really ought to preface and put all the rest of life into context. 

So I in addition to the outburst of white noise moments, I have also erected a system of mirrors that keep conceptualisation of death reasonably remote; I write about it and I derive humour around the margins of what it leaves us in life. And contrary to the idea of possibly being depressive, I actually enjoy life and am amused by it. But as I grow old, I seem to have reached a stage where these refractions are unravelling. As you notice slight changes in the body's elasticity, it's harder to keep awareness of sometime impending death at bay. Will my sense of humour continue to immure me against a slowly failing body? I doubt it. You realise it is just a form of misdirection, of your own conscious thought.

I am proud of everything I've written, but literature while it can move us, always retains an intellectual element; that of the material having to be ordered into a narrative, word choice, the rules of grammar, editing etc. And such an intellectual element necessarily introduces a distance no matter how slight. I've written about death a lot so far, but I can't help feeling that the intellectual part of the approach leaves me falling short of really getting to grips with Death. All art metaphoricalises its material, and metaphor is just another refracting mirror so that you're not directly confronting Death, just as we cannot stare directly at the sun. 

And yet to go deeper invites the phenomenon that requires my white noise response to be ongoing throughout the duration of any such writing project. That way lies only madness. Probably. Do I undertake such an endeavour, with the potential risks to mental health attached? I don't feel I have any choice, not that I have a project currently in mind to broach this with. I don't have a choice because the physical process is clearly in motion anyway (I say this as someone who in my 54 years to date has had the incredible fortune/ genes to have never had to spend a single night in a hospital. But the markers of decline, however slow, are evident to me. 

Watch this space...

* Does perhaps technology offer us modes of cheating death? It's a possibility, but uploading one's entire stock of memories to some sort of smart interface does not preserve life. It would solely be an existence as newsreel, that is unreflexive and static; the essential 'you' would have no real relationship to the memories, unable to add to them. I imagine it would be like a form of Alzheimer's, where the active relationship to your memories is split asunder, so that you are cast adrift from them; the memories are preserved, they still exist, but they no longer are 'your' memories, because that 'you' has ceased to exist in any meaningful way.