Old New Story and Hiatus Reasons

Hello. Gosh, hasn’t it been a while?

First off, I have a new short story up on the internet. And by new, I mean getting-close-to-a-month-old.

It’s a very brief little sci-fi ditty called “Not as we know it”, and can be found here on 365 Tomorrows. It involves trees.

So there’s that, but also I suppose I should explain why this blog has been collecting dust for so long.

Basically, I’ve spent a while unemployed, and, as any unemployed person can tell you, it’s a little bit shit.

Visiting the Job Centre is a funless, dehumanising and demoralising affair, and that doesn’t stop when you leave. Every second spent not compulsively looking for jobs is filled with a fear that you’re not going to make your arbitrary hoop-jumping quota, and that the meagre financial trickle coming in will suddenly be cut off by the dreaded sanction. Conversely, every second spent compulsively looking for jobs only serves as an exercise in depression and futility: due to the fact that at some point, “skills” were redefined as “corporate contribution”, you find yourself having to pass up on jobs that you’re perfectly qualified for because you’re not “qualified” for them (it seems you need two years experience in order to wait tables these days for fuck sake). And those jobs that you can apply for, knowing that you wont be immediately rejected, will more than likely have somewhere between dozens and hundreds of other applicants, many of whom likely more attractive to the potential employer than you. Rejection after rejection (assuming employers even get back to you at all) saps your self-esteem and makes you feel worthless and shitty all the time. Like a complete and utter good-for-nothing failure.

As you would expect, it’s not good for story writing. Or any kind of writing really.

Seriously, that story linked above, that tiny little thing, took me days to write. Literal days. There was a time when I could shit one of those things out in an hour, including proofing, editing and submitting, but whenever I sat down to write it, my mind just turned to static and it became an uphill battle to get anything down. In the end I had to chip away at it slowly until I won that goddamn war of attrition.

But now I’ve got a job, and with it a steady income and guiltless free-time. Hopefully as time goes by, I’ll be able to get back into the groove of things and start writing again, both stories and other stuff on this blog. Fingers crossed and all that.

If you’re really lucky, I might actually write something good.

Friday Fluffeh 4

Once again it is Friday for the fourth time ever in history, so that means that it’s time for some fluffeh I guess. As pictures of two different animals getting along tend to be popular for some reason, today involves a hedgehog with a dicky leg, along with some squirrel attention seeker who wanted to be in the picture.

A squirrel attempts to eat an injured hedgehog's delicious brains

http://www.thecutereport.com/index.php/category/hedgehog/

Whether the squirrel was the one responsible for the hedgehog’s injury is currently unconfirmed.

-CPoffley

Short Story: Cornucopia

Another thing I have written has leaked its way onto the internet. It’s called Cornucopia, and can be read here at fictionontheweb.co.uk:

OH GOSH HERE IS THE LINK YOU SHOULD CLICK IT RIGHT NOW DO IT DO IT DO IT!

It’s a largely satirical near-future dialogue between two characters (getting all Plato in this hizzle) regarding replicator technology and its implications, based on a rather horrible realisation I had a while back. I would say more, but I don’t want to spoil it.

Fun fact: this story is notable in that it took me slightly longer to reach the “OH GOD THIS IS TERRIBLE WHY DID I WRITE THIS” stage in the writing cycle.
Anyway, enjoy I guess…

-Cpoffley
(Mad props to Charlie Fish for hosting my story)

Spiders are Bastards

WARNING: This post contains evidence of spiders being dicks through the magic of anecdote, and as such may be highly inappropriate for arachnophobic types.

Spiders, amirite?

I wouldn’t say I’m arachnophobic (in fact I find jumping spiders kinda cute in an ugly kind of way) but when they reach a certain size, they start to make me uncomfortable. Not so much out of fear, but just a general kind of aversion, like some kind of instinct to keep my distance and keep my eye on them in case they try anything.

Besides, it’s hardly irrational. I have reasons for being wary of spiders, and as I’ve been rather lax in updating this blog as of late, I guess that means it’s time for another fillery fluff piece so I don’t look like a total lazy person who can’t even be bothered to update a blog that can essentially be about whatever I want it to be about meaning that really I have no excuse.

Anyway. Spiders.

Exhibit A:

So a few years ago, I go to bed, pull the duvet over myself and get ready for a good night’s sleep. Y’know, basic stuff. Time goes by, I get comfortable, start to drift off…

And then this fucking spider runs across my face.

A fucking spider. Ran across my face.

Fortunately it was only a teeny tiny one, but I think it’s more the principle of the thing. At the time, however, I was half-asleep and just felt a tickle, so on complete reflex I slapped my face.

And then the spider exploded.

Or rather, that’s what I choose to believe, because that’s the most likely way to explain the fact that it split up into like a million fucking pieces. It took me a little while to realise that it was, at some point, a spider.

So not only did this spider run across my fucking face while I was trying to sleep, but in death it provided me with a highly fiddly cleanup operation before I could get back to sleep.

Proof that being a bastard is not a trait held solely by big spiders, and that small spiders are just as capable of feats of dickitude. I mean, let’s be intersectional with our spider hate.

Exhibit B:

I’m the kind of person that recycles unused stuff whenever possible, so when, years ago, I get my hands on a plastic pot, I use it to store stuff. Except after a while, I obviously moved whatever was in there out of it at some point, as it appeared to be empty. So I go to check inside to see if there’s still anything in there, and I can imagine most of you already know where this is going.

Massive fucking spider. Sudden pot movement causes it to freak the fuck out. About 6 inches away from my face.

I just about had a heart-attack. I’m pretty sure I went into shock, sitting there hyperventilating while the spider ran around the bottom of the pot like a moron. When I managed to get my bearings again, I decided to just leave it there. Ignore the pot and wait for the thing to die so I could dispose of it.

Even after that happened though, I suddenly found myself with this aversion to that pot. I kept my distance from it at all times, and especially didn’t look into it. Eventually I told myself I was being ridiculous, that the spider was long gone, and to prove it to myself, I went to look into the pot.

Another fucking massive spider. Freaks the fuck out right by my face. I’m not even joking: the exact same thing happened twice. The exact same thing.

Fortunately I was subconsciously expecting it that time, so it wasn’t quite as shocking. Except for the fact that the same thing happened twice what the fuck goddamn.

Luckily that was the last spider to appear in that pot, so it seems I was a victim of incredible statistic unlikelihood rather than possessing a pot that could summon spiders from the spider dimension.

On the plus side I was eventually able to use the pot to store stuff again, which I’m willing to chalk up as a happy ending…

Exhibit C:

It’s late. I’m on my computer, and everybody else has gone to bed. Nothing really out of the ordinary, until I turn my head slightly and see a big-huge spider just chilling out in the corner.

It was being quiet and relatively well-behaved, sure, but what makes this spider a dick is firstly that it had set up camp in a highly inaccessible place, namely the corner where two walls and the ceiling met. Also there was stuff in that corner, meaning I couldn’t just get a stepladder to take care of it. As mentioned, everybody else was asleep and in no mood for spider shenanigans.

So I had no real choice but to go to bed. With a bloody great spider in the room with me, while trying to ignore this fact so that I could get to sleep.

And this leads me to the second reason why this spider was a dick: when I got up in the morning it was gone. There was no sign of it anywhere. Obviously I imagine a lot of you would consider this a good thing, but for me at the time it just caused paranoia. I was constantly on edge, looking over my shoulder, expecting this fuck-off spider to pop out of nowhere.

This lasted for a couple of days, until a big-huge spider turned up in the bathroom, was unceremoniously kicked out of the house, and I was able to convince myself it was the same one.

The moral is that spiders can be dicks while doing nothing at all.

Exhibit D:

Toothbrush spider. (Yes that is my toothbrush)

Exhibit E:

Playing on my DS on a bored afternoon, minding my own business, all good.

Suddenly I feel a tickle on my arm. Naturally I assume it’s just hairs shifting, but decided to have a glance anyway.

Yep, you guessed it. Spider.

And of course, completely on reflex, I jumped. The DS went out of my hands and landed on the floor, causing the hinge to break. Fortunately it still worked alright, but it now had a wonky hinge and a much reduced lifespan as a result.

And where was the spider after all this? Gone. Vanished. Apparently into thin air. Or it had returned to the spider dimension from whence it had came. Whichever is more likely. All I know is that it was more than likely pulling a little trollface as it disappeared, content in the knowledge that it had caused me to break my DS.

I hate the spider dimension.

Conclusion: Spiders are bastards and there ain’t nothing you can say that will convince me otherwise.

-Cpoffley

50 Shades of Grey Matter Death: a ramble

So I’ve read 50 Shades of Grey. Or rather, I’ve read the original Twilight fanfic that became 50 Shades of Grey.

It started out as a kind of  challenge from @stavvers and @pitandpendulum along the lines of “how far can you get before you ragequit?”, and being a stupid poopyhead, I foolishly decided to take up this challenge.

Roughly three days later, I had emerged. And not better off.

As many of you reading may already be aware, this book has problems. I know there are going to be those that will tell me that I’m not part of it’s target audience, that it’s “not for me”, but to be quite honest the main problems this book has transcends simply not being my cup of tea. These are problems that are not endemic to any particular genre, and as this thing has apparently sold so well, I feel it’s only fair that it gets a stream-of-consciousness type critiquing from an inconsequential guy on the internet.

(*SPOILER ALERT*: The inconsequential guy on the internet is me.)

Exploring the book’s erotic themes and idea of gender and sexuality has likely been done to death, and I don’t feel qualified to talk about that stuff anyway. So instead, I’m going to look at it from a literary perspective, because that’s more my forté as yet another cockstain on the internet with delusions of being a writer (or ‘lexomancer’ as I would prefer to be known).

So let’s get this rambly, sort-of review train a-rollin’!

*WARNING: This post contains spoilers for 50 Shades of Grey. Y’know, if you care. Which if you’re reading this is very doubtful. Also, once again, any information is accurate for the original fanfiction, so if any of it is inaccurate in regard the book itself, contact me and I’ll see how few fucks I can give.*

First off, I’d just like to point out that the thing that became 50 Shades, despite being called a Twilight fanfiction, actually isn’t really. The names are all there, yes, and the setting is kinda sort-of similar geographically, but otherwise it bears no similarity to Twilight whatsoever. “Edward Cullen” (Christian Grey) isn’t a vampire, he’s just some rich guy with a BDSM fetish, and at no point does the topic of vampirism even come up. “Bella Swann” (Ana Steele) is just some bland, characterless… ok so there’s some similarity, but still my point remains. It’s like some kind of weird anti-plagiarism, where rather than stealing text and changing the names, they’ve stolen the names and changed the text.

But aaaaaanyway…

The main issue I have with the whole thing is that it’s dull. Dull dull dull. The whole thing is roughly 760 pages of… well… nothing much. Large chunks of text are used to establish stuff that has already been firmly established (Grey is wealthy and likes to be in control of every little thing. He has kinky tastes. Ana is not sure if want. She is naive and inexperienced in all matters sexual. They love each other very much. Grey is wealthy and etc etc etc). In the begining, the plot seems to gradually waddle into a kind of narrative status quo, and then seems terrified of moving an inch away from it, never really going anywhere, let alone anywhere worth going.

You’ll occasionally get indications that something is going to happen, but nothing really comes from it. For example, a whole plot point is brought up about one of Grey’s mentally ill ex-subs called Lauren, who has recently obtained a gun and is stalking our intrepid protagonists. This important sounding development is vaguely foreshadowed, crops up and is promptly forgotten a few times, and then when it finally comes to a head… the whole thing is resolved pretty much offscreen. There is a brief hint that the implications of this whole episode will have some effect on Grey and Ana’s relationship, but then it doesn’t. It amounted to little more than some minor bickering to fill up a few pages.

Meanwhile earlier in the story, Grey gives Ana a belting (literally), causing her to break up with him, upset at the idea that he’s getting a big ol’ stiffy from seeing her humiliated and debased. This looks like it could be something major to shake up the plot, but soon enough we’re back to our old friend status quo as they get back together with renewed interest in each other. The book treats this as the major turning point of Grey’s character, but there’s nothing to really indicate this. He doesn’t really seem different that afterwards, and the thing that the subplot seems to set up, namely Grey’s ability to enjoy a sex life that doesn’t necessarily include beatings and humiliation and stuff and junk, was already set in motion well before this thing occurs: not long after meeting Ana, he’s perfectly willing to try vanilla, kink-free sex for the first time with absolutely no convincing needed, and is perfectly fine with it.

Also established early is Ana’s friend Jose and his love for her. At first it seems like there may be a love triangle brewing to make the love story more interesting, if cliché (made more apparent in that Jose’s name in the original fanfiction is Jacob), but it gets established almost as early that his love is unrequited, and that this subplot, much to your surprise I’m sure, is going absolutely nowhere. Jose pops up a few more times after that, but he’s mostly just something to highlight how crazy jealous and overprotective Grey is.

The worst example, however, is the “Ana might be pregnant” subplot. It plays out like this:

Gynaecologist: “Ana, you haven’t been taking your pill. YOU MAY BE PREGNANT.”

Ana: “Oh no! Oh shit! What am I going to do? What am I going to tell Christian? Oh fuck!”

Gyn: “Not really lol”

Ana: “Oh snap you got me.”

Gyn: “lmao”

This is barely exaggeration. This… ‘plot development’ is solved in literally paragraphs and is never mentioned again. There is some buildup (repeatedly pointing out that Grey doesn’t like condoms and Ana having trouble remembering to take the pill various times for example) but, like pretty much everything in this story, it goes absolutely nowhere.

Obviously I could go on, but I’m already starting to worry that this is becoming just as tiresome and repetitive as the very thing I’m critiquing, so let’s move on to characterisation!

Or lack thereof.

Characterisation is, of course, sub-par, but not quite as bad as you would expect. Although I did touch on it earlier, it may surprise you to learn that there is in fact a character arc in this book. Just the one mind, but y’know, baby steps. The Grey at the start of the book is a somewhat different character from the Grey at the end of the book. The inevitable problem, however, is that, despite the book trying to convince you otherwise, there is no real indication that this character development is really occurring, and it’s not due to subtlety. As mentioned, already he changes his tact when he’s barely met Ana, and doesn’t really change further a substantial amount for the rest of the book. Sometimes it really feels that you could essentially shuffle the scenes of this book around randomly, and it would still largely make sense.

As far as the other characters, they’re satellites. All Ana’s friends and family are little more than bland non-characters who have little point to their existences other than how they relate to her, ditto Grey’s family and him, though to a slightly lesser extent. Ana herself is essentially a satellite to Grey, as not long after she meets him, pretty much everything she says, thinks or does relates to him in some way. I’m sure there are people who will argue that this shows how important he is to her, and the sheer magnitude of his presence in her life owing to his domineering, controlling personality, but really it comes across more that she’s simply bland and characterless.

As for the quality of the writing itself, it’s all rather repetitive, and very much adds to its dull, meandering tone. Tying into the whole overestablishment thing, you can be sure that you’ll never forget that Grey has long fingers and green eyes, because you’re going to be smacked round the face with that fact pretty much every time he’s in a scene. The concepts of “inner goddess” and “subconscious” as a kind of id vs. superego thing keeps getting mentioned again and again to the point of frustration. Large amounts of prose can be skimmed or even just ignored completely without anything being missed, the best example being the full BDSM contract Grey presents to Ana, replicated in full among the pages in all its tedious legalese glory.

The sex scenes, arguably the main reason people read this poop-fest, also feel samey, and there were points where I literally began to wonder if they were being copy-pasted. To make matters worse, some of them breach the sacred, ultimate rule of writing, ‘show, don’t tell’, by having Ana as the narrator outright state that the scene you are reading is erotic. Thanks for clarifying, but if you have to outright state that, it tends to suggest the opposite.

To make matters worse, language-wise this book reaffirms my belief that all prospective writers should be banned from using a thesaurus, because, like all bad fiction, this book is rife with thesaurus abuse. “Loquacious” is a word that crops up, a word which you would rarely if ever hear in real-life dialogue. The term “cloying” is also used at one point to describe a smell, the phrase “that strange place in my medulla oblongata is firing synaptic impulses at me” exists, and various other examples pop up throughout the story, too numerous to list.

Also, and for some reason this one bugged me more than anything else the book threw at me, there seems to be this strange aversion to just describing something as red. In 50 Shades land, people don’t flush red (and they flush a lot), they flush crimson, scarlet,  “the colour of my old truck” and in one case, “the colour of the Communist Manifesto”.

I wish I was making that last one up.

(The only thing, strangely enough, that is simply described as “red” is Grey’s playroom, called “The Red Room of Pain” in Ana’s internal narration. I’d wonder if there was any symbolism behind that, but then this book doesn’t have enough grasp on the concept of subtlety to knowingly pull off symbolism…)

Overall 50 Shades of Grey didn’t make me angry. It didn’t fill me with hate and it didn’t cause me to vomit until I started to puke blood, organs and regret. Because quite frankly, all that is a more emotional response than this book deserves. Hell, this whole blog post took some effort to write. If anything the book itself just made me kinda sad and bored. Because it is a sad and boring book, and that’s all it can ever hope to be.

It does, however, mentally wear you down the more you read. It is the literary equivalent of a high pitched tone. Even if you can withstand it initially, the dull, meandering plot that moves like apathetic molasses and is shit-scared of moving out of its little status quo comfort zone, shallow characterisation where it bothers to characterise at all, and directionless narrative will break you down much as this metaphor has broken down.

All in all, not recommended. If you’re that desperate for a wank that you would use this book to help you, maybe try the internet. I hear there’s porn on there these days.

-Cpoffley

The moral of this story, incidentally, is that @stavvers and @pitandpendulum are bad, awful people.

Flash Fiction: No Such Thing as Monsters

So today (May 16th) is National Flash-Fiction Day. To celebrate, I (quickly) wrote this short little thing. Enjoy!

* * *

“Daddy…” said Suzy nervously, holding the bedclothes tightly, “…I think there’s a monster under my bed…”

“Look Suzy, we’ve been through this.” her father sighed. “There’s no such thing as monsters.”

“But…”

He leant in close, his voice a reassuring whisper. “Think about it. You are utterly convinced there’s a monster, right?”

“Yes…”

“But monsters aren’t real, so there is no monster. So your imagination is going to be playing tricks on you. Every creak, every movement of shadows, every little thing you’re going to think is that non-existent monster. So you see, what you think is a monster… is in fact nothing more than your fear! All you have to do is be brave. When you’re not scared anymore, that ‘monster’ will vanish forever!”

“But daddy, I…”

“Trust me, Suzy.” he smiled. “It’s all in your head. You have the power to make that monster go away. You can do it! I believe in you!” he made some exaggerated fist-pumping motions, causing her to giggle.

“Thanks daddy…” she said with a smile. He leant forward, tucked her in and gave her a kiss on the forehead. “Love you.” she said.

“Love you too sweetie.” he replied. “Goodnight!”

He clicked off the light, gave her one last smile as he left the room and then carefully and quietly clicked the door shut. The sound of his footsteps as he went down the stairs was all that could be heard, and soon that too went quiet. Suzy lay in bed, staring at the ceiling.

“Did you understand any of that?” asked the monster, poking its head out from beneath the bed.

“Not a word.”

 

-Cpoffley