Microfiction: Bug on Medium

bug blueHere’s a little sci-fi/horror microfiction, Bug, brought to you from the depths of the editing mines.

More short fiction coming soon, including some light smut for Valentine’s and some very special horrotica.

(Members locked, but non-members can read 3 a month.)

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Flash Fiction: Fraternising

Here’s some grubby Northern sci-fi for you.

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It was a small, grey, scrawny thing, slumped in the corner of my dad’s shed on a pile of compost bags. It stared up at us with those giant saucer eyes they have. I felt a pang. It was like looking at a puppy in a pound, only ten times worse; like looking at a super-puppy.

                “What the hell have you done, Jimmy?” Sam said, as he caught sight of the alien.

“I was out picking snails for my mam,” I said, “down the alleys out back of the club. Then I see it just ambling along like. And I had the sack already.”

“Jesus, Jimmy. We should phone the council… or the government. You’ve seen the posters.”

“Don’t you want to see for yourself what it feels like?”

Sam narrowed his eyes at me, then his whole expression changed and his mouth fell open.

                I crouched down and watched it watching me. The government had put up posters with warnings, and adverts on the telly giving out scares about the risks of “fraternising.” That’s what they called it. But the rumours on the street said different. Most said these aliens were harmless. More than that, word was their touch was like the best drug you’ve ever had, and with no side-effects. So when I’d seen the little grey fella walking along, I took my chance. I’d brought him down to the shed on my dad’s allotment. No one really came here since the rift opened, and my dad got conscripted. It was the safest place I could think of.

                Sam crouched down next to me. “How’s it done?”

“I think you just touch its hand.”

“You first then.”

“Too bloody right.” My stomach churned, but I didn’t want to show my nerves.

The alien was still staring at me. I put my hand up, palm facing towards it, and I hoped Sam didn’t notice me shaking. His eyes were still on the alien, nearly as wide and round as the creature’s.

                Slowly, the alien held its hand up, mirroring mine.

“Shit,” said Sam under his breath. He said it really slowly, stretching out the middle. “This is it.”

I moved my hand towards the alien’s hand, and then we touched.

                A wave of blue enveloped everything. The deepest blue, like the UV lighting in the club, but ten times as deep. It hummed with depth, but I couldn’t feel the humming. I couldn’t feel a thing. The blue was me and I was the blue. For a moment, I felt completely at peace. And then it hit me like a wave made of pain. Not physical pain. I still couldn’t feel my body. Sorrow, sadness, fear, and hurt pulsed through my consciousness. I wanted to cry out, but I didn’t have a throat to make the noise or a mouth to shape the sound.

                A second wave came, this one of loneliness. I realised how we’d connected. Could it feel what I felt? I saw myself like an onion being peeled, layer after layer, until, in the middle, the core, black and rotten, spreading decay, like something on my dad’s compost heap. Something selfish, using, corrupting. I didn’t want to feel its pain. I didn’t want it to see my rottenness. I pulled away with some part of myself, and willed myself out of that place.

                The blue disappeared. I was sprawled on the floor of the shed, looking up at the wooden roof with its damp stains and mould patches where it hadn’t dried out from the winter. I struggled to stand, limbs all at the wrong angle. The alien was curled up in the corner, its knees pulled up to its too-big-head, its skinny arms wrapped around its legs, its face hidden.

                “You all right?” Sam asked. Now he was staring at me.

“Come on,” I said to the creature. I crouched in front of it again, gesturing for it to get out of the corner. I didn’t dare touch it. I just knelt there and waited. It probably couldn’t understand me, anyway.

                Finally, it raised its head to the side, one big eye peering over its arm.

I gestured with my hand again. “Come on.”

I moved out the way, shoving into Sam as I did. I’d forgotten he was still crouched there.

“What are you playing at?” he asked as he fell on his arse. “Watch it.”

I didn’t care about him. I just wanted to let the thing go, and it wasn’t going to come out of the corner with me blocking its way. I pushed the door open, then stood back and waited.

“Go on,” I said. “Get going.”

“What the hell are you doing?” Sam shouted, picking himself up. “What about my go?”

“You don’t get a go,” I said. I couldn’t be arsed explaining. No. I couldn’t explain. He wouldn’t understand. I wasn’t sure I did. I just couldn’t keep it here anymore.

“What’s your problem?” he asked.

“I’m letting it go.”

Slowly, the alien uncurled itself from its ball.

“But …” Sam began. He didn’t bother finishing. The creature ran past us and shot out the door as fast as its skinny little legs could carry it.

                I stepped outside.

“I wanted to see what it was like,” Sam said. He just sounded confused now.

The sun was setting over the backs of the houses, spilling orange light across the rows of red bricks and the alleyways, the washing out on lines in back yards, the half-dug allotments, some going to weed since the conscription came. It reflected off windows, making the houses look like they were on fire, and leaving me twice as cold. Fizzing away like a great electric eye, the rift’s blue light warred against the orange flood. I couldn’t see any sign of the creature.

“You’ll have to find your own,” I said. “But if I was you, I wouldn’t bother.”

 

Writing Trans Characters

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I had this idea I wanted to put together a guide to writing trans characters. But the more I thought about it, the more I wasn’t really sure such a thing is possible. There are an infinite number of possible trans characters and trans stories, and having that variety represented is as important as anything else. So I’m just going to write about what I’d like to see in trans characters, and maybe it’ll be useful to others.

Here are some thoughts I’ve had recently about writing trans characters:

Transition isn’t the only story. Much as I loved The Very Hungry Caterpillar as a kid, I don’t want to read it over and over for the rest of my life. I want to know what awesome adventures that beautiful butterfly has when it’s done stuffing it’s face with saveloy and fruit. For me, it’s really important to tell stories that aren’t just about transition. Part of the reason for that is because sometimes it feels like there is no life beyond transition, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only trans person who’s wondered if they even have a place in the world. Stories of what happens next are more important than telling the same transition story over and over. (Also, as a side note, trans stories that read like surgical manuals are particularly tedious. The few programmes about trans people I saw on TV growing up were mostly just about surgical procedures. It scared the hell out of me.)

Trans people could exist in any environment or genre, not just realism, Bildungsroman or high school. Trans people could have adventures in space, or kill dragons, or fight clockwork robots, or solve crime, or get eaten by eldritch horrors, or act as a spy during the 18th century, or really just anything. Having looked pretty hard, I’ve noticed some more genre fiction emerging with trans characters. Which is really cool. But I’d love to see more of that stuff, and just more variety in general. I read pretty widely, in genre and literary fiction, and I want to be able to give my book geekness full expression.

Trans people don’t exist for non-trans people to get their tragedy jollies. Does the story really present a believable human being, or is the character really just an object which serves some cathartic process for others? I’m not saying the story has to be happy (I don’t write happy fiction), or the character has to be the main character, but does the character’s transness exist only as a symbol of something else, or to milk an emotional response? (Clue: if people say things like “her tragic struggle for acceptance taught me so much about what it means to really be your true self”, you’ve probably written something overly sentimental and should try harder next time.)

Trans people aren’t always part of the mainstream. Not all trans people want to be. Trans people can be queer in different ways. Not all trans people care about passing, (some do, and that’s fine too). Not everyone transitions, and if they do, their transition is unique to them, and doesn’t necessarily fit some formula. Trans people don’t always fit into a binary model of gender. Trans people can be part of subcultures other than LGBT ones, and might also be part of a queer social network.

Trans is not the whole character. This should go without saying, but just in case it doesn’t—being trans is just one part of a big and complex character picture. It can dominate a person’s life at times, and at others, become irrelevant, but the point is, it’s just one part of a person. You’ve got to write all the other parts as well, or you have a flimsy character.

I have a sequel coming up to my vampire novella, with a trans character in. And my plan is the third and final part of the trilogy will be from his point of view. He’s gay and goth, and a vampire (and kinky as hell). So I’ve hopefully managed to fulfil some of my own wishes for a decent trans character.

Recommendations for good trans fiction welcome.

Writing Fears

gothic typewriter

Here’s a cool typewriter. Let’s pretend I write on one of these.

I’m sat here trying to write about fear and writing. As I type, various fears are playing through my head. How much of myself do I want to put on the internet? How much do I want to push the ideas in this post? The internet is made out of human beings, and human beings are awful.

Those are my conscious fears. But in creative writing, I’m dredging my unconscious too, and the depths and heights of my own emotional experience, in order to tell a story. It’s difficult to do that and play it safe, even if I wanted to. Things leak out. Not all of them are palatable. Some of them might betray things about me. Do I want to share those things? Do I have a choice? I don’t want to play it safe.

The longer I write, the more tricky subjects I tackle, the more difficult scenes I write. Each time I push the boundaries of my comfort zone, it gets easier to do that, and next time, it’s not such a battle.

But sometimes I write stories, and they have a hole. Not an intentional hole. Sometimes I kid myself that I put it there deliberately. But mostly it’s made of the things I’m not yet comfortable writing about. I might not even realise the hole is made of my fears. Sometimes it’s also made of desires I haven’t admitted to, or don’t want to share. They’re in the hole out of fear as well. They leak out of the hole by accident. Sometimes I realise after the fact.

What if I could pin them down, and stick them on the page? It’s a process: becoming more comfortable with turning myself inside out and setting a bloody handprint down. Most days, I feel like a steaming hot mess of pain and fear and heartache and desire. What will it look like? Will people turn away in disgust or connect? It’s an unlearning process. Unlearning fear. And a learning process. Learning to balance out conscious intent with the unconscious experience of being a person in the world, and somehow distil that on a page, so that other people can see it too, and say, “yes”.

 

Bradford: Urban Decay Part 2

I took some photos of different locations around Bradford, West Yorkshire, that appear in my novel.

These first ones are around the town centre: the City Hall, Wool Exchange, and some other bits. Unfortunately the City Hall front is covered in scaffolding at the moment, so I took some round the side.

The side of Bradford City Hall

The side of Bradford City Hall

Bradford City Hall side view

Bradford City Hall side view

Bradford Wool Exchange

Bradford Wool Exchange

Steps in Bradford city centre

Steps in Bradford city centre

The next group are of Lister’s Mill in Manningham (also known as Manningham Mill), a former Victorian textile mill. Some of it has been converted into apartments, whilst some of the buildings are still completely derelict. The whole complex is huge, made up of a number of different buildings, with the huge chimney which still dominates Bradford’s skyline.

BFD Listers Mill chimney 2 BFD Listers Mill chimney BFD Listers Mill girders BFD Listers Mill Interior 2 BFD Listers Mill Interior BFD Listers Mill Sign 2 BFD Listers Mill Sign BFD Listers Mill BFD Listers Mill 2

The final area is the university area, just outside the city centre. I took a picture of some of the Victorian terraces, and the burnt out Interfaith Centre.

BFD Terraces BFD Terraces 2 BFD Terraces 3 BFD Interfaith Centre