Archive for March, 2008

Character: Linjamen Storm

Posted in Project 745c with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 25 March, 2008 by Wulfstan Crumble

Here follows a brief interview with Expedition Leader Linjamen Storm.

      Linjamen Storm gulps down his beer in huge gulps as we sit at the Gold Diggaz bar on 15.053 E Street. The seven foot tall, clean shaven, marine leaves to investigate the promising Earth-like planet, 745c, in twelves hours. Will he miss beer on the year-long flight from the mother ship?

      “We’ll try to store some but sure; its gonna be tough.”

Obviously it’s not going to be the toughest part of his mission. What makes 745c any different from the other planets we’ve visited in the last 298 years?

     “745c seems to have an earth-like atmosphere as well as water.”

A lot of planets have water; Mars for instance.

    “The water on this planet, like Earth, is liquid. There could be life down there.”

What kind of life are you expecting?

    “I dunno; Dinosaurs would be nice. If you want to know more ask the appointed Biologist or Paleontologist.”

At the time of going to press no Biologist or Paleontologist has been appointed. Deputy-Defence Guy, Ronald Portfield, has threatened to pluck names at random if the two unions cannot decide soon. Linjamen Storm seems unconcerned by it all. Is his squad ready for a potentially dangerous assignment?

    “The Marines are always ready.”

But, you have just come out of over one-hundred years in stasis; surely his muslces have atrophed a little.

    “Not at all. The Bio-Engineers did a good job.”

Could he tell us more about the stasis experience?

    “No, you should talk to Chief Bio-Engineer, Frank Ravanelli.”

The Lieutenant is clearly a man of few words. What will be the make-up of his Legion; as it were?

    “The  main force will be the US Marine Corps, we will have a team of NASA pilots and an Airforce Landing Crew plus engineers. The government, under a joint CIA-FBI Command, will send a team of scientists and experts. The Allies will themselves send units or observers including the Glorious Gloucesters of Britain.”

Has he ever thought of himself as a Space Marine?

    “Sounds cool.”

Storm is a busy man so we finish with the ultimate question. Does he think he will find human or humanlike species on the planet?

   “That is unlikely.”

Linjamen Storm, proud Marine, stands tall and salutes before marching off to the barracks on level 34.67. He gave very little away in his interview. Time is counting down till the, as yet undesignated, shuttle blasts off for 745c carrying the hopes of a whole planet on his shoulders. Patriots be assured; his shoulders are strong and broad. The Nation is in good hands.

Jeremiah Novotny, Space Time, October 34, 2538. 

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National Holiday

Posted in Blog on 20 March, 2008 by Wulfstan Crumble

With two days left of the Winter Term school has broken up for a National Holiday. This provides time to gather my strength for the remaining class (on friday) of the semester. It will also be my last class at that Junior High School. Kishiwada city rotates its Assistant Language Tutors every six months between its dozen or so JHS.

* Happy news: Sometimes the best ideas come a long time later than they really should. Listening to the Beeb via the internet should have been a basic discovery way back in 2004 when i first got here. Yet no, however now when i get home from work i can lay on the couch and listen to Radio 4’s Today Programme.

* The first of 2 packs from Amazon have arrived; A Science of Sleep (so now i can get English subtitles on the French rather than listening to French and trying to read Japanese subtitles), The Fountain (not out here yet), Delicatessen (classic), a guide to Self-publishing and a book on the SAS (kinda research on a new book – see below). Hopefully the second pack with the Ulysses 31 cartoon will come soon (toons are rare for me).

* Deadlines are approaching, and a good reason not to write a blog, for the Giant Creatures anthology and the Robots Beyond anthology; both by Permuted Press. Both my entries are going well. Xenophobots is conceived as a Transformers/Terminator combo story but aims to tackle two forces on the future of Japanese society; the way of old Japan rooted in feudalism and the equally unbending liberalism of Internationalisation. Tennessee Tumblebug is just about big bugs and giant balls of… well, you can guess.

* On writerscafe, myspace and wordpress i’ve posted small snippets of a fantasy story conceived in the summer then disastrously lost over the New Year. Part of me feels disinclined to return to that project right now. Its rolling around in my head once more and so i’ve decided to work on a prequal. When its finished it’ll naturally seem like Book 1 or a stand alone book but for me it’ll always be a prequal. It will try to make a discussion on language, the randomness of nature and exploration look like an action story.

* As a result of the brainstorming for the novel, while not writing those short-stories, i’ve been working on linguistics, the environment, archaeology of the new planet as well as science of the future from Stasis, space travel etc.. for someone who tends to keep away from such science its fascinating though perhaps a regression to pre-Arthur C Clarke times. who knows?

Right To Independence

Posted in Current Affairs with tags , , , , , , on 18 March, 2008 by Wulfstan Crumble

The recent uprising in Tibet and the granting of independence to Kosovo coupled with the refusal to recognise the rights of Bosnian-Serbs has opened up a large debate for the 21st century. Do ethnic groups have the right to independence? Can we split up states or provinces to recognise ethnic divisions?

 Modern rules on independence generally leans against such movements. Most have come about as a way of ending war. Montenegro is a rare example of a peaceful seperation. The rules on granting independence tend to revolve factors such as economics, politics, history and the viabiliy of the state.

Yet the most important part is the politics. Montenegro and Kosovo were parts of Serbia (formerly Yugoslavia). Serbia is not a major force these days and is not loved by the international community. Therefore certain nations feel it is fine to grant independence to rebellious provinces. Yet, they do not agree to such calls for independence in Georgia, Moldova, Armenia and so on because those new states would be broadly pro-Russian.

Rules on independence are based solely on politics not morality.

The challenge to the 21st century is to move away from artificial states and against politics determining such secessions. We should encourage states to federalise or turn into unions to maintain unity and peace. If this is not possible we should recognise the rights of ethnic unified regions to determine their own fates. There should be clear UN backed rules and rights for such regions, groups and proto-nations. This would stop chaos.

Sadly this is likely to prove impossible. We will continue to put influence and economics ahead of the rights of people. We will not back the Tibetans in their rightful claim to independence, we will not back Taiwan, Bessarabia, the Kosovan Serbs, Chechnya and so on. It is very ironic as the Tibetans are ethnically different to the chinese with a long history of independence. In fact they have more right to claim indpendence than America’s founding fathers.

The Sophia Instant

Posted in Story with tags , , , , on 13 March, 2008 by Wulfstan Crumble

“Yes, Mandy, I’ll come to your party. At seven? Okay, great. Yeah, catch ya laters,” She hung up.

       Immediately the inbox flashed on screen. One message waiting.

        Hey, what’s up? R u goin to Mandy’s party 2nite? D. 

      Yeah, sure, she replied.

       Quickly she scrolled down to her phonebook and found Janice. “Mandy just phoned about a party… and you’ll never guess what… Dave asked if I were going… yeah, like, he’s so cool; a real interesting guy.”

      Her bag vibrated; a message.

       Im glad ur goin, D

       Yeah, me 2. She phoned up Sapphire and related the whole tale. “Hey babe, what are you wearing tonight?”

       She turned into New Look for a classy number. Sweet vibrations. “Stitch!!!” She screeched. “I’m good. Yeah, I’m going too… Dave asked me out. Yeah, great innit? Yeah, I hope Josh ain’t going too. Ok, laters.”

       Sophia wandered the cluttered aisles of the clothes shop marvelling at the array of stock held within the white gleaming walls. She seemed bedazzled but eventually chose a white dress. Her legs shifted weight nervously; as if she anticipated something. Her hand touched her pocket; it burned.        Sophia wanted Michelle to phone her. It had to be that way round; not the other way round again. Vibrations brought a smile; possible relief or anticipation; certainly pleasure. After snatching the receipt she legged it out of the shop and whipped the phone from her pocket. Another message awaited her.

       See u later then, D.

       Man he was cool. The High Street was busy. Yeah u 2, she replied. Quickly she sent messages to Sapphire and Janice about her dress choice. It was an essential business that their colour schemes did not clash; unlike her path through life.

       Upon turning a corner she smashed right into a fellow with floppy hair and a clean jaw. Pain erupted in her shoulder as she spun one-eighty. She came perilously close to falling into the mystical herb seller whose main sales pitch was slapping shoppers in the face with her produce. All Sophia saw was an old woman with a poor taste in clothes.

        “Stupid prick,” she muttered.

       Instantly her phone came out of her bag. Fingers raced across the miniature keypad telling everyone on her list, except her mum, what just happened. The phone was thrust into her bag in the expectation of mass sympathy.

       She needed to calm down; a reward for stressful times. Sophia knew just the thing. She turned one-eighty, dove right through the crowd and into Costa Café, not looking at who she bumped into, ordered a café macchiato with marshmallows and sat down by the window. She scrunched her face up; her bag had not vibrated for a while. Her fingers tingled and twitched. Her eyes darted to the bag every other second.

       Were they busy? Did they not care that the floppy haired prick had ruined her day? All the permutations ran through her head. Though, she called them excuses. Did they find it amusing? Were Sapphire and Janice secretly planning to upstage her dress choice? Was Dave chatting up some other slut with his charm and wit? Did she just hear someone click their fingers?

       She could resist it no longer. Perhaps her phone had turned itself onto silent mode; no vibrations. Her hand darted into the bag and began to rummage. The floppy haired, clean jawed, man smiled from across the street; his work done. She did not notice. Sophia grappled with her eye-liner, mirrors, lippy, brush, hair pins, foundation, tissues, card holder, purses, coupons and key rings.

        Then her hand fell upon something cold. Its surface was smooth, hard to the touch yet discreetly pliable. Around three of its six surfaces she felt multiple divisions. In the crowd, and in the corner of her eye, the man melted into the beauty of her town. The beauty she could not see for its blatant lack of hedonistic pleasure.

       From the bag she withdrew a book. Its cover was a tie-dye of Mediterranean seas over a forest on top of which sat a simple white donkey above the words: 

The Silver Donkey

Sonya Hartnett

       She wanted to throw it down. She wanted to have her phone back. Her fingers tingled with thwarted anticipation. Her heart and head screamed to know what her friend’s thought of her incident. Instead she found herself clutching a book she had never seen before. More, Heat, those were her reading not some book.

        An urge burned throughout her to just leave it on the café table or throw it in the nearest bin; just outside of Woolworths. She wondered if the corners of the book could be used to gouge out the silly man’s eyes. As her eyes surveyed the cover, picking out distant, faint, branches and the donkey’s little white ears, the rage faded. It reminded her of those white horses in Wiltshire she saw while listening to Artic Monkeys and The Killers in the car. Read My Mind       She made to leave. Stood up and gathered her bags. The book sat on the table. Blue-green surrounded by red. Her cup was far from empty. She wanted to…

       …turn the first page.

       Words to France; she had never been there. Were the woods the same? World War I brought back dim memories of Wilfred Owen; she felt sad but could not recall why. Then sympathy, genuine sympathy, perhaps for the first time when came the blinded soldier. Her heart leapt then melted with joy at Coco and Marcelle.

       When she turned the last page, a tear in her eye for the ending of a story, she looked down at her table and there sat her phone. Placed beneath it was a simple note with a message and phone number.

       You looked truly at peace reading your book.

       The phone number was hers.

Cell

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , , , , on 9 March, 2008 by Wulfstan Crumble

     The brain is made up of millions of tiny relatively simple cells. It is also, according to Stephen King, able to be reprogrammed by an encoded message sent via Cellphones. King attempts to mix our fears of cellphone related damage, computer viruses (think young spotty kids in their rooms) with a good old Zombie yarn.

       The book focuses on the story of Clay Riddell, a less than successful Graphic Artist on a trip to Boston. The mayhem begins early into the book and seems clunky and badly written. Quick asides and random bits of information serve to throw the story off pace. There is also a total lack of mystery over the cause of the problem which also makes the prose look bad.      

       Yet as the novel wears on the story builds nicely. The characters are nicely ignorant of the sciences but able to make guesses; especially school kid Jordan. There are plenty of zombie deaths and variations on the zombie themes though at times it does seem a bit George Romero. Especially as the only character-zombie is a black guy (Harvard) much like the intelligent zombie in Day of the Dead.

       The book builds to its inevitable climax with a sense of inevitability. This results from the motive-less abilities of the zombies to control normal minds as well as levitate, group think, project music and use telekinesis. These are presented as base abilities encoded within our minds. They are concentrated in the 98% of the brain that remains unused. King projects the idea that a virus that wipes out the mind can regain these abilities as it attempts to reboot itself.

       Here comes the science. A wiped clean brain would theoretically loose all abilities, all control of the body and the body would simply die. Therefore the book makes a mistake to differentiate between wiping the consciousness and wiping the brain. If the brain retains base functional commands like existing then the body would not be in a zombified state. This would likely be because natural instincts would take over.

        There are certain evidences of this in the book but leaves out many things that would be retained such as self-preservation, reproduction and memory. If the brain is wiped it is like wiping a computer; the computer parts are still functioning but they are without data. For example if the hypothalamus is destroyed then the brain cannot create new memories but might not loose all the old ones which are stored elsewhere in the brain. However, if the brain is wiped clean the hypothalamus is still functioning so while the brain has no memories it will quickly make new ones. 

       He also neglects the influence of hormones which are directed by the subconscious but affect the conscious parts of the brain. The body and mind, if wiped, would still be human because the DNA coding, wiring and so on are all still human. What would happen would be an erasure of personality, memory and acquired habits. There is a potential for the deletion of genetic habits also.

        Overall the book is enjoyable enough with a healthy dose of suspension of belief. It will make you think about the effects of hypnosis, subliminal messaging, viruses and how we would cope in an apocalyptic world. The ending leaves things hanging a bit and was a little frustrating. It would have been nice to know what happened. Whether Clay’s final experiment worked or not.  

Girl In The Black And White Photograph

Posted in Story on 3 March, 2008 by Wulfstan Crumble

This piece of fiction was first begun in 2004 but lost when my disks corrupted. It was re-written in part in 2006 but lost when my computer died this year. Today I decided to rewrite it as a piece of flash fiction (under 1,000 words). It has been submitted to The Pedestal Magazine.

      Crowfoot gave the signal then disappeared behind the stacks. Fulk glanced around the library then dove over the counter. The table ran in a horse shoe shape from the Librarian’s office on the right to the main entrance on the left. Beyond the table lay the restricted and reserved books alcove. Today Fulk was interested in neither of them.

       He looked at the cold tea in the Librarian’s cup then rummaged in the small drawers under the table. The first contained spare books of bureaucracy. The second spare papers, old circulations and the red book of the banned. He wondered if he should just write his name in right there and then to save the circus to follow. In the end he decided to allow the Librarian his one pleasure in life. 

      The third drawer, identical to the rest, held a single book. It was a pristine yet aged tome; the leather-bound complete works of Oscar Wilde. A quick peak above the desk saw Crowfoot leading the librarian across the nave and into the modern history section. He opened up the book somewhere between A Woman of No Importance and An Ideal Husband. Somewhere amidst the seven of the seven veils, if one read the notes, he found his prize.

       The black and white photo smelt faintly of age. The picture within had faded just a little. Fulk removed the photograph and placed it in an envelope then put it in his coat pocket. He closed the book up and slipped it into the drawer. Crowfoot was still occupying the librarian in the deeper bowels of the lower mezzanine when he leapt of the counter and rolled into the over-sized reference section. He landed dangerously close to the housewife romance shelves.

      He quietly slipped outside and waited in the refectory with an iced ring doughnut and a glass of orange juice. Five minutes later Crowfoot lumbered in with four books on the Byzantine Emperor Justinian.

       “You got it?”

      “Yep,” Fulk patted his pocket then looked at the glossy codices. “What’s with the books? Planning on studying?”      “You won’t believe it but the whole leg fell of my table. Just keeled over onto the floor and broke in three. And you know; a wedge of paper just won’t cut it so I went for the big books. Now, eat your doughnut and let’s go.”

      Fulk cringed as Crowfoot threw the books in the back of his mini as he wiped flecks of icing off his full length leather coat. They turned out of the college and went down Bow Lane which, curved round the edge of town. New houses sat smugly on one side and an old graveyard on the other. As the road went downhill took at right at the Bullring.

       The house they wanted sat in the middle of the identikit Victorian redbrick houses. Cracked tiles and purple petunias led a merry dance to the front door. They knocked on chipped wood and rang the yellowed bell.

      A silhouette appeared down the hall way. Padded footsteps munched softly as she came up to the door and opened it. Erica smiled as she poked her head round the door.

       “You have it?” she asked.

      Crowfoot nodded. “They were freshly defalcated this very afternoon; as anticipated.”

      He took a bow. She jumped with joy, rolled her eyes and danced down the corridor to the kitchen. “Meet me in the front room,” she sang.

      Erica was thin and sprightly, her eyes so alive from their sunken sockets. Her baggy grey jumper danced like fairies in spring. Crowfoot and Fulk took a right and entered the small front room. There was little room. A vast dressing table and cabinet rose up to the ceiling on the left. Its shelves and drawers stocked full of photo albums. Under the windowsill sat Erica’s desk. It was piled high with photography books, magazines and papers. Crammed into the middle, and surrounded by boxes of albums, were three arm chairs and a coffee table. 

      They took their seats. Moments later Erica bounded into the room; her face a paradigm for Wharton’s Olenska flush with innocence and anticipation.

       “Can I see the photograph?”

      “Sure,” Fulk pulled the envelope out of his coat pocket. “You asked me if I would do anything for you and I said, ‘yes.’ In return you promised an explanation.”

      Her lips scrunched up in mock disgust.

      “It is the only photo I do not have,” she picked up a nearby album. “Look, this album is July nineteen-ninety-two, my first year at secondary school,” she flicked it open and showed them a photograph infused with lingering remnants of eighties’ brown. “This is me having dinner on the seventeenth; looks like some kind of spaghetti and meatballs.”

      “You can’t remember?” Crowfoot asked.

      “Who remembers what they ate when they were twelve?” She turned to Fulk. “Before I was born my mother lost her short term memory in a car accident. My whole life we’ve taken photos of everything so she has a memory.”

      Fulk took the black and white picture out of the envelope and looked at it. It was dated, August, 1967. In it was a woman with short Twiggy-style hair dancing in a one-piece dress. Next to her a man in glasses with a mop-top and Nehru jacket posed. For a moment he did not recognise the man but then the glasses twigged.

      “After the accident she contacted her friends and family. Together they made all of these albums. Only one person refused to donate a photograph. It was of the summer ball when she was twenty. The man in the photograph used it to gain a power over my mother. He knew she wanted it desperately and so used it to continually taunt her. That is why I asked you to get it for me.”

      Fulk nodded and handed over the photograph. “Her memory is complete now.”

      “Mine too,” she smiled.

My First Submission

Posted in Blog on 2 March, 2008 by Wulfstan Crumble

Another blog piece…

 The post before last listed a number of ongoing projects. Yesterday I submitted my first story to a real publication. It was a little scary; especially as the internet broke on my computer and i had to transfer the file over to Natsumi’s new laptop (Vista – complicated, windows simple, wulfstan simple, wulfstan like windows).

Now, i’ve had dozens of letters published in the likes of the Telegraph, Geographical (twice) and Japanese newspapers; and i’ve had articles published in our regional Newsletter for ALTs but never anything real, not even tried to be honest.

 Just to be contrary to expectations none of the previously post none of them were submitted. Instead i tried my hand at romance. The ensuing story, “Serial Something” came out as part-romance, part-mystery and part-hung over guy tries to figure out what happened the night before. Fingers crossed.

The theme of the anthology was “Love Bites.” The stories had to centre around a guy who wakes up with two bites on his neck, one from a man and one from a lady. One of the bites has lipstick, one does not. It centres around the odd relationship or love of 2 men and a woman but not in the anguish ridden love triangle plot-type.

That in itself is an interesting device. Though personally i believe that such a situation just cannot last for two long.

The story ended up as the longest short i’ve ever written at 10,600 words though the final edit came in at just under 9,000 words (to get within the word limit).

While it’ll probably fail but it’s been a good experience. There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the brain. March sees deadlines for the JET programme essay competition, a Sci-fi anthology, the Giant Creatures Anthology and one for Robots. All very fantastical and totally unserious.