via BBC. 2014’s Dangerous Visions series has been really good, give as many of them a listen as you can. It was particularly nice to see a few stories that drew the difference between ‘dystopia’ and depressing…
Coming to an etsy near you.
Today I’m sitting in a studio watching my second ad (well, partly mine) getting filmed. Right now, we’re watching a woman, - Claire, only she’s really Loren - using our brand new app - only it’s a green screen, only it’s really a picture of a green screen on a phone. What’s real? Hmm.
The blade of grass bent under the weight of the two squabbling insects. It was strong grass, sun-hardened, but these two had nudged and scuffled each other to the very tip, and they still rubbed their legs and barked barbs at each other.
"It’s very simple," said the larger. "You stay on your side of the field, and I’ll stay onmine! ”
The blade of grass sagged further in support of this notion, and the larger pressed the attack.
"If you don’t, I’ll-"
"You’ll what, you spineless loser?”
As it had done so many times before and after, on so many scales and in so many forms, a red button materialised in front of the larger grasshopper. It rubbed its legs together, sending a menacing sound round the field, the tickticktick of a bomb near its detonation.
The smaller grasshopper shook its head sarcastically. “So desperately dramatic. You’d never really turn it off.”
The larger one, the male one, had indeed never turned it off, but he felt sure that this time, some condition had been broken. The breeze shifted the grass around them, and he decided it had to be last breeze they felt.
The fact was now undeniable. He and she - for they’d discovered the terms in an amusing Urth book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, and then spent many fruitful eons as Mars and Venus, perverting their orbits until they collided, killing the nascent bacterial life that continually struggled on the two planets - were bored. Bored of sharing a furtive glance across a crowded party in order to tenderly fall in love again, of her playing the black hole and him playing the dispersed cloud of matter that found wholeness inside her maw, and the reverse; of forming covalent and noncovalent molecular bonds in order to make pathetic puns about “having chemistry” in the afterglow, of leading two warring intergalctic emprires that only found peace through their stolen tryst; bored, simply, of fucking. Bored of rutting and sweating together across time, space, and metaphor, as dogs, proteins, stars, octopi, jelaphi, machines, phenozoa, soundwaves, apes.
They’d both experienced that same turning point, holding hands in the light of a supernova that they’d loaded. Not created - even that no longer held pleasure - just called up from the database. She’d looked at him, looked at the light, looked back to him, said:
"Bit pointless, this, isn’t it?"
He’d thought about the four trillion simulated beings in the path of the star, screaming, clutching each other with claws and fronds and tentacles, then having their ones changed to zeroes, and said:
For there was a second undeniable truth; they’d run out of things to say.
What bothered him most about the stolid silence of their conversation was that he couldn’t be sure if they’d said everything they could think of, or if the computer had some unknown limitation, like a short-term memory that’d they filled with platitudes and tedious questions and, finally, barbs. Even this scene had been played out so many times in different skins that he couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t slot neatly into this doomsday scenario subroutine, and so he stroked the button and tried his favourite thought experiment.
"You’re doing it again," she said. "You’re trying to remember your body."
"No," he said, and wished he were some kind of grasshopper-eating predator, though that too would doubtless be some equally contemptible beast. Not like the forms they’d originally plugged into this great system. They’d been… they’d been…
"Nobody in this whole world but us, for an uncountable age," she said, "and you still think that you’re an impenetrable mystery to me. Like anything you do is so unique."
"Oh, go on then," he said, and moved his leg from the button, still waiting to be pushed. "What do you remember?"
"Well, you were fat for a start."
He laughed, or some equivalent, for they both knew that fat was a quaint relativism where they came from. They talked through the binary day-night cycles and gradually assembled a memory. They remembered being the last alive in a universe, with abundant raw materials but scarce little time and the two of them, whatever form they had originally been, piecing together another universe with volcanoes and magnetic fields and singularities as the hardware, and the collected knowledge of the all intelligence as the software, a perfect matryoshka universe that would last for ever, eternally stretching out the last gasp of its parent. He remembered them hauling an asteroid into a certain orbit to start the system, on the eve of the end of everything, and she remembered telling him that the software was missing one last thing.
And then they both knew they were the x and y of this particular graph, that if they could ever truly get outside the graph there would no longer be anything there, that what they’d built was now all there was and all there is: each other, two fucking grasshoppers, scratching each others legs, the tictictic of animal friction falling on nobody’s ears but those of a simulated man in a garden whose eyes now rest upon some wiggling line with no correlation to truth and whose mouth says you, you shall be called a serpent.
It’s Wednesday, so welcome to Behind The Scenes, pt.1. Us Birkbeck lot always seem to be going on about buying bigger desks and nicer pens, and the physical setup of everything - which is funny, because writing must be one of the materially lightest crafts imaginable. And yet, the desire to get kitted out, to feel particularly prepared and configured for task is still there. Witness, the way people go on about stationery. So I thought it’d be fun to have a little look round the idiosyncrasies of my room. As they pertain to writing, anyway. You wouldn’t wanna see the rest.
Starting with the desk would be too obvious, plus it’s in need of sorting out. So let’s go with that bedroom stalwart, the Side Table.
1: This is a copy of Bonobo’s most recent album, The North Borders. Bonobo makes really good working music - for me at least, music to work to needs to not have any words, because they’d replace my own. Also, the cover is nice - I’m not super-visual, but it feels blue and fertile. And no, I don’t actually have my decks with me in London, so I just listen via youtube. Give him a try.
2: Sony Sound Recorder. I bought this during a massve Radiolab obsession when all I wanted to do was make radio. And you know what? I even did. In a way. And one day I’ll do it again, with fiction a well-produced audiobook truly adds something to a story. Might go into this more another time.
3: Le Kindle. The debate over Amazon’s digital dominance continues to rage but you have to admit, we wouldn’t be in this situation were it not for the fact that amazon/the kindle work really, really well together as a book-selling system. This thing has got me reading widely, and weirdly. Tip: use the ‘read a sample’ function to gobble up loads of different writing approaches and broaden your sense of what’s possible.
4: Lighter and candle. Working in the depths of winter’s dark is no fun, you might as well make it seem a little mysterious. That lighter also opens bottles. Just saying.
5: Teacup. naturally. Be careful you don’t use teabreaks as an excuse to stop.
6: This is a stack of note cards, the structuralist’s favourite. Getting a story out of your head and into physical form has a function, but an emotional value too - it makes it real, for the first time. This pile has actually become a little smaller since the picture, for reasons I’ll go into soon…
7: Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon is a lovely little book. Hand-illustrated and sparingly written, it espouses the myriad virtues of sharing what you make as you make it, virtues such as building an audience, keeping you on task, and - well, I’m halfway through. Buy why d’you think I’m doing this?
8: Make-your-room-not-smell-spray. I was skeptical too.
…and that’s your lot for Behind The Scenes #1. Hang around, and next week we’ll try another corner. What will we find? Let me tidy up a bit, and we’ll see. And let us know, what’s your sneaky side table tool?
Hustling. There are lots of things I didn’t expect writing to include, but the submission grind is the unexpected-est of them. I heard Adam Marek say, “writing is only 40% writing.” He might be right.
-this blog, again. But different.
Hello you. Been a while, hasn’t it? But lots of things have been happening, just not on here. I’ve been hermit-writing, and the words are improving, to the point where I’ve been sending stuff out with a hope it might get picked up. But I’ve also left Salad Onionsa bit fallow, and I regret that for three reasons. A three-point experiential argument has closed in on me in the last week such that the only choice is to bring SO back, focused on those three things. I thought you might like to know why, so you’d know what to expect - and whether to bother reading.
It occurs to me that there are three reasons for the artist’s blog.
1) An audience. At the ‘Future Of The Book' talk at Birkbeck Arts Week on Tuesday, Dan Kieran from Unbound (check it out, it’s exciting) reflected that while he’d written ten well-received books (including the sublime Crap Towns), he had no way of recontacting his audience, leaving him perpetually book-to-book and at the mercy of his publisher. Contrast that with the (let’s say) ‘non-mainstream’ standup model, where if you can build an audience of about 2000 who will come and see your new thing every year, you have created yourself a livelihood. So yes, there’s cynical value in cultivating a group of people for your work.
2) The practice. Some talk of ‘morning pages’, short story sage Adam Marek of writing from 6-8 before his brain is awake enough to critique, but we all know one thing: there’s value in the little-and-often, and there’s value in reflection (okay, that’s two things). But opening up your studio is a celebration of the way you work, an acknowledgement that it has value, and an exhortation to keep on keeping on.
3) The scenius. I started reading the excellent Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon (ahh, you say, and now it makes sense), and it talk about many excellent things but one is the social nature of art. There’s certainly a lot of early-morning solitude (no bad thing), but it’s also an act of communication, no? Between creator and consumer, sure, but also between consumers (‘the marketplace’) and at its best, creators. Because we can all learn, we can all have a laugh, and we can all push each other on. The best thing I’ve got out of studying at Birkbeck so far is my own little scenius - a little collection of writers I have very little in common with either personally or artistically (we all want to make very different things). But that’s the beauty of it - I’ve learnt from techniques I’d never have considered, and I’ve had to face up to my own reliance on high-concepts. If my clever idea doesn’t have humanity, it doesn’t wash with this lot. Even now that our short story module’s ended, we still meet up. Next time, we’ll be looking at novel excerpts. I don’t know what’ll happen, but I do know the scenius can make us all better.
We’re edging into tl;dr territory here, but before you go, here’s what this means for Salad Onions 2.0. It’s going to be:
-new writing about writing/creative process
-a bit of stuff about Creature/advertising life, but only when it’s pertinent
-anything you specifically want to know
…and that’s it. No vanity stuff, not what I ate at this one fusion restaurant, no Ten GIFs You Must See Before You Die, no nonsense. Some will be rough, but I promise it’ll be good. And as regular as I can make it.
That’s all for now. But get me @jamescmitchell if you have any comments. Have I missed out a big thing? Probably, right?
After all,everything is a draft.
By Tom Spence, aged 12
Tween spec fic. I do love this. Wish I’d thought of it.
THIS THING HAPPENED
(Go to :40 for my bit. Or don’t it’s all very good.)
Joker - (STAGE 6)Desert labyrinth
Joker - (STAGE 9)SPECIAL STAGE
Joker - (STAGE 5)ISLAND YM2612
Four Tet - Kool FM (Champion Remix)
- I got offered a job in a wine merchants...
I need to mull it over…
- Wenlock the warrior
At the mascot games
fun and sweat win every time.
Dignity is last.
- Berlin Hack'n'tell 13: Quil: A Processing wrapper in Clojure
Sorry for the slightly gestört presentation.
Here are some links to the projects...