The Last Man on the Net

23 Mar

My wife and I often joke about who comes from the poorer family. She says that she came from a poorer family because her mother used to take in lodgers and she wore her sister’s hand-me-downs.  I say that I came from a poorer family because we didn’t get a video recorder until 1987.

            When it comes to technology I’ve always been a bit slow on the uptake. I bought my first CD player in 1999, I didn’t get a mobile phone until 2004, never cut and pasted on a computer until 2005 and this year, 2014, have begun to e-publish.

            I begin this digital adventure at a time when ‘everyone is doing it’. So, have I missed the boat? Shut the stable door after the horse has bolted? Shaved my chickens before the earthquake? Pressed ‘play’ halfway through the programme? (And other sayings)

            Well, here’s another saying; better late than never.

            My fears about having done all this too late are reduced when I think that this might not have happened at all. Since 2000 I’ve written eleven full novels and one novella. Some of them I’ve submitted for publication and some I’ve just left because, well, they were more like practice runs. If the digital publishing revolution had never happened then these novels would just sit on my hard drive, unread. Maybe some friends would have read them but that would have been it.

            Before digital self-publishing I remember trudging down to the post office, a first chapter, covering letter and return envelope in my hand, queuing behind some poor soul there to pay his gas bill, and sending off my submission to some large faceless publishing house or literary agent only to be rejected a few weeks later. My scuffed return envelope would arrive with a standard rejection letter but more often than not they would always use a paper clip to attach the letter to said rejected submission. Okay, Jeremy Farquaharson-Canker Literary Agents, so you’re rejected my work but I’m one paper clip better off so who’s the loser now?  

Now, this is NOT a pop at literary agents or publishers. Having met a few at conventions I hear their side of the story. They get thousands of submissions a week and publishing is a business. They can’t take risks on unknowns who think they’re the next JK Rowling. And they did give me all those paperclips. But seriously, a few years ago it was a literary agent who kindly wrote back to tell me to get involved with the BFS which led to my first short story publication. They are not anti-writers, quite the reverse in fact.

            The sad truth was that, back then, trying to get your novel published was like hitting your head against a brick wall with the words GO AWAY, YOU WILL NEVER BE PUBLISHED  writ large upon the brickwork. So, my manuscripts sat in the darkness of my hard drive.

            Until now.

            You may have read a thousand blogs about how the literary establishment has been rocked by ebooks but it’s true. I came to realise that all the novels I’ve written can now see the light of day. My first novel, Bad Acid, was rejected hundreds of times. There were a couple of scares when one agent wanted to see the next five chapters, another wanted to see the full manuscript but decided not to go with it. I actually changed the title to The Deities (a title that I didn’t like but thought may be more saleable) to try to get it published. When Bad Acid hits the digitals shelves in May it will retain its quirky, trashy title. So, the wall with GO AWAY, YOU WILL NEVER BE PUBLISHED has been smashed down. I am now published. My first independently published title, The Acid Lounge, a 9,000 word novelette is now out there to buy for the whacking price of $0.99. When I’ve worked out how you make it free I will. How many I sell will be up to the ebook buying public. Success will be determined by the people, not by just one person somewhere in an office drowning in submissions. How many I sell will be down to how well I publicise the product and whether the purchaser thinks it’s any good.

            The most important thing, for me, if the fact that it is being published and the stories aren’t stuck on my hard drive. As a human being you want to make your mark on the world, hack a chunk into the fabric of reality. I feel I’ve done this, however small my mark may be.  

 

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The Omega Man and Me

12 Jan

One January, in a shell garage located by the A45 dual carriageway in Northamptonshire, I stopped to get some petrol, like you do. As I waited in the queue to pay at the counter I saw that they were selling a few DVD’s. Among the popular titles like Die Hard and Toy Story sat the 1971 version of The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston retailing at a whacking £3.99.

            Sometimes you watch a film with low expectations, hoping for something cheesy, laughable yet lovable. Sometimes you’re in for a surprise.

            I’ve not read Richard Matherson’s novel I am Legend but I’ve seen the Will Smith film adaptation. Basically, the majority of the world’s human populace gets infected with a plague that turns people into blood-crazed zombies. Will smith has to fight them off and find a cure at the same time. In our day and age the Man-fights-zombies-then-finds-other-survivors plot is well worn and has been seen a hundred times. In 1971 that particular plot-path was still fresh and new. Night of the Living Dead had only been out for a couple of years and the man-fights-zombies plotline was not embedded in our consciousness as it is today.

            So, back to The Omega Man. In my £3.99 DVD Charlton Heston’s character Dr Robert Neville is living in a deserted city, hunting for supplied during the day but barricading himself in his home in a hotel at night, lights blaring out against the infected victims of the plague. The big difference here is that Neville’s enemies aren’t mindless zombies but thinking, conscious, religious and totally mad.

            Neville’s nemesis is, if I remember correctly, The Family. A cult of survivors infected with the plague. They present as pale, albino-like and photophobic; The Family can’t stand light so only come out at night. Their leader is Matthias, a fundamentalist who abhors the technology that, he believes, created the plague. Neville, who is unaffected, is the heretic, the ‘Creature of the wheel’ who still embraces technology. (He drives a car and, more inconveniently for the photophobic Matthias and crew, leaves the lights on at night). So Matthias and his band of hooded cultists, Neville, the omega man, is the number one target.

            Matthias preaches from a pulpit, wears a hood like some crazed monk and has legions of loyal followers. Which, on balance, is scarier? A mindless zombie or a fundamentalist?

 

The 1971 version of The Omega Man remains one of my favourite sci-fi/horror films of all time. There are no CGI effects; the stunts are real as are the locations. The city where Neville lives and survives is deserted but not decaying or weed-strewn yet. In the opening shots of deserted streets where litter is blown around and silence reigns, a chilling sense of the post-apocalyptic is evoked. Matthias and his hordes look effectively menacing and insane with their pale faces and black cloaks. They look medieval in their get up which creates a sense of the surreal by placing them in the modern urban environment.

            The drama created between Neville and his nemesis could never have been achieved if Matthias had been a mere zombie and the sense of struggle between the two opposing view points just adds to the tension. In one scene one of the main protagonists, a young woman hardened by fighting for survival on the streets of the city, becomes infected with the blood-plague and joins Matthias’s family. You could almost say how this illustrates how seductive the beliefs of the fundamentalist can be to the lost and the frightened. But hey, this is just a movie. I really should stop over analysing this.

            In the end, Neville finds a cure for the plague, Matthias tries to stop him from getting the cure to the non-infected survivors and Doctor Neville dies just as he gets the cure to them.

            So, to the 2008 version. I don’t want to slag it off, it was an enjoyable film but no where near as enjoyable as the 1971 version. I would like to have been a fly on the wall at some of the scripting meetings for the 2008 I Am Legend. Why did they choose to leave Matthias out of it and give Will Smith a mindless nemesis? Maybe they didn’t want to invoke the image of the fundamentalist in these times where fundamentalism is a more pertinent issue? Maybe they thought they’d play it safe with the well-worn plot of man-versus-zombie. This is a shame because in Matherson’s novel the vampires’s weren’t mindless attackers, they put Robert Neville on trial at the end of the book. Whatever the reason I still prefer the 1971 version.

            Having said this I’ve not seen the 1964 version of Mathersons Novel, The Last Man on Earth Starring Vincent Price. I might like that even better but I don’t think they’ll be selling it at any Shell garages anytime soon.   

Action, action,action

13 Oct

A few weeks ago I went to the cinema to watch Elysium. I was really looking forwards to it. Made by the same people who did the excellent District 9, Elysium promised a thought provoking premise and detailed, convincing CGI. The thought provoking premise was basically this; all the rich people went into space to live in a vast orbiting suburb that reminded me of parts of Surrey. These elite millionaires had found a cure for ALL disease and illness. Of course, they were all keeping all for themselves so struggling citizens from the poverty stricken Earth wanted to make it to Elysium and find a cure for their sick children or themselves. The protagonist gets a dose of radiation from the nasty robotics factory where he works and needs a cured in the next five days so takes a risky illegal flight to the orbiting space station.

            All brilliant but then the fighting began. I sat through repeated action sequence after action sequence and this caused me to wonder if all these sequences were specifically put in to keep the audience happy.

            So, what do I mean by keeping the audience happy? I’m not saying that Britain is populated by knuckle dragging morons who’s attention is only kept by action sequences and let me categorically state that I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS IS TRUE. You cannot separate our society into two fractions; those who watch documentaries on BBC4 and those who watch the X Factor. I don’t believe humanity cannot be so easily categorised. I have friends who don’t have a humanities degree and like to watch the X Factor but also understand the complex metaphysical conundra central to the plot on a programme such as Life on Mars. They understand it but don’t use pretentious phrases such as ‘metaphysical conundra’ to explain it like just did.

            From my perspective that film producers seem to think that you can categorise society like this and an action sequence will bring in the masses of drooling Burberry-wearing chavs to a film like Elysium because they won’t understand the plot and a fight sequence will keep them entertained. The media always underestimates the intelligence of the average citizen.  

 

Sci-fi, in the cinema at least, now seems to equate lots of shooting with big, futuristic looking guns. Since the space-marines in Aliens stepped out onto LV-426  back in 1987 there has followed a trail of films where space marines step onto an unknown world and shot the hell out of the aliens. No wonder extra-terrestrials haven’t made contact with us when we make this kind of film about them. Apparently when signals are transmitted from Television Centre to our TV’s they are also sent out into space. We’ve been inadvertently broadcasting re-runs of Aliens, Starship Troopers and Doom into space for (light) years. We’ve also been broadcasting X –Factor and Strictly Come Dancing into space for the last ten years which may be another reason they’ve not made contact.

 

Literary sci-fi has its fair share of space marines-action-shoot ‘em ups but this is balanced by philosophical, thought provoking concepts. Two of Britain’s biggest selling sci-fi writers are Ian M. Banks (sorely missed) and Alistair Reynolds. Why have they never made any of these great writer’s books into films? Not enough fight scenes perhaps or maybe the media again underestimates the cinema-going public’s grasp of big thought provoking concepts. Some of the best sci-fi has been thought provoking, mind and opinion changing. Take 1984. The phrase Orwellian is now used to describe states such as North Korea. Brave New World is another example and it’s a real shock that no one has tried to put Huxley’s dystopia on the big screen (although there is a TV series from the Seventies). Perhaps, maybe, because the premise is too close to the knuckle; a society patronised by its leaders and the media, continually told to be happy and smile and not think too much. Oh, while you’re up, pass me the Soma would you?

 

So imagine if Winston Smith and Julia had been lying together in that rented room above the junk shop in the East end of London in Oceania. As they talk, asking each other if they are the dead a voice booms from the telescreen concealed behind the picture.

‘You are the dead! Make no move, remain exactly where you are…’

As the thought police smash their way in Winston, still naked, grabs two massive lazer guns from under the bed supplied by the Brotherhood.

            ‘No way, mutherfuckers, you are the dead!’

            As he opens fire on the thought police Julia produces a bomb.

            ‘What, you’re part of the resistance too?’ gasps Winston between firing off lazer rounds.

            ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you Winston, I had to protect you.’

            ‘Yeah? Well the revolution begins here baby. Let’s show these Ministry of Love bastards some real thought crime. Hey, big Brother, Eat this!!!!!’

            Winston shots a helicopter out of the sky with the atomic grenade launcher, then grabs Julia’s hand and they bolt out of the shop taking out that ministry agent, the shop owner, before they by smashing his head into the telescreen by the front door.

            Jason Statham would play Winston Smith and it would be in a cinema near you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aside 10 Dec

And so the Blog Tour participation falls to me and what an honour it is. When I was younger I used to fantasise about being interviewed and here I am being interviewed. Okay, I used to fantasise that I was getting interviews by Parkinson or Terry Wogan and this was in the eighties. Getting interviewed like this, at least you have control over that you say as apposed to a like situation where you could accidently say ‘bum’ on live TV or fu…listen, shall I just stop waffling and get on with this? Okay, I will.   

 

 

 

 

1) What is the working title of your next book?

It is Highcross. Highcross being the name of the English village where the story is set.

 

 

 

 

 

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

 

This is a long one. I originally had the idea when I was 15 (I’m now 42) and I actually wrote the whole thing and got my mum to type it out. I was inspired by a song called ‘The Tempter’ by a band called Trouble. In the original story this dead vicar comes back to life and tempts people to do bad things then they fall under his spell. This idea isn’t new. I was inspired by the children’s story ‘The Ugsome Thing’. However I called my story ‘The Church on Highcross Hill’. 26 years later I still thought it was a strong idea so revived it and the Tempter became a glamorous woman.

 

 

 

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Definitely horror. The start of it begins like an MR James ghost story but it builds up to, and climaxes in, hellish depravity.

 

 

 

 

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

 

Well, the hero is a religious property developer of Jamaican decent. Reggie Yates, the radio 1 DJ has acted in Doctor who so maybe him but he’s a bit too young. Noel Clarke? Another character is a woman who is out of prison and serving her sentence on a tag. Lisa from ‘Trollied’ would play her. The villain of the piece is Lady Grey. Beautiful but utterly evil. Helena-bonham carter springs to mind. However, there is a mature ex-page three model called Linda Lee who is Lady Grey. Does she act? Is so, does she want a job?

 

 

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Left abandoned for sixty years, Highcross is renovated into a luxury village by property developers. Highcross may have been abandoned but it it’s not uninhabited.

(Alright, that’s two sentences)

 

 

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Nothing is guaranteed. I will try for an agent but I am ultimately looking to self publish it. I think my idea is strong enough to sell.

 

 

 

 

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
                         What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m still writing the first draft but I began in August and aim to finish in March (2013). I work full time and write in the evenings and weekends. A hundred thousand words usually take me nine months to write.

 

Other books I would compare it to would be Salem’s Lot by Stephen king. There are no vampires in Highcross but there are a lot of characters. I was very inspired by The league of Gentlemen and Psychoville. Again, like these works Highcross, has a lot of characters all connected by an event or place.

 

 

 

 

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

For a start I was bored with writing about goodies verses baddies. I wanted to write about individuals challenged by an unusual situation. I never get over quite how weird people are. (I include myself in this). I work in healthcare and see people’s lives up close and get to study individual and family dynamics. For instance one old lady kept parrots as pets. When they died she kept them in a freezer and got them out once a year at Christmas. Another lady lived with her son who resented her for sending his girlfriend away when she was young. I wanted to write about these characters and what would happen to them if they were given their heart’s desire in exchange for their souls. So, the weirdness of people, really.

 

 

 

 

 

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It is set in a village that was taken over by the army in World War 2 and then abandoned much like the real villages of Imber in Wiltshire and Stanford in Norfolk. When property developer Mark Grange buys the Land from the MOD he finds the village in remarkably good condition but the village church appears to have been vandalised back in the 40’s There are bullet holes in the walls and hanging from the rafters, above the altar, is a hangman’s noose. As the houses are renovated and residents move in strange unexplained events occour, such a hauntings, strange footprints in the dust one such house that was not renovated and has laid untouched for sixty years. When Lady Grey, the resident of Highcross House, appears she offers the residents their hearts desire in exchange for a promise of their soul. Many residents agree to this, one by one, until Lady Grey has a faithful flock of worshippers. As winter sets in, all hell breaks loose as desires are granted at any cost.

 

Oh, I’ve just written a synopsis. There’s necrophilia, vampirism and taxidermy of the worst possible kind in Highcross. They houses may be cheap but you really don’t want to live there…

 

Thanks.

Merry Christmas.

Paul Melhuish.

 

 

I only found one writer to nominate as everyone else had already done a blog tour. I nominate James Rhodes.

 

 

 

 

Have fun!

 

Funfear and Realfear

24 Oct

So far in my life there have only been three writers whose work has actually left me scared. M.R.James, H.P. Lovecraft and Adam Nevill. Considering the amount of horror I’ve read and enjoyed you’d think there would be more than just three writers who have scared me. Not to denigrate other horror writers but the fear response may be due to circumstance. Adam Nevill’s novel Last Days is brilliantly written and he knows how to create tension but at the moment I’m reading it in winter and I’m living alone in a four bedroom house. (Not because I’m rich, I’m not. My missus is working away and my lodger spends every night at his girlfriends. He still pays me rent as all his stuff in here, making my house the most expensive storage locker in the Northamptonshire area)

When a book or a film scares me enough to make me jump or gasp I mentally give credit to the writer of director because they’ve managed to scare me. Well done. The other thing is that I enjoy this fear, it gives me a thrill. It’s not unpleasant. You become afraid because of fictional events. This is the side of fear I like. Funfear I call it.

Me and fear, we’re like that (crosses fingers). Funfear is fine but most of the fear I feel comes from reality. This is genuine and unpleasant. One of my biggest fears is going to the cash machine and checking my bank balance. I even break out in a cold sweat just looking at the screen when passing a hole in the wall or hearing the bleep of the keyboard. I do have another fear, though. A new fear. My new fear is opening the post.

‘Dear Mr Melhuish, you have defaulted on your mortgage repayments…Dear Mr Melhuish, you owe us, Northampton Borough Council, three billion quid for an unpaid parking fine stretching back to 1988….

            All manner of horror lies in wait in the post. I’ve got a skyscraper of unopened mail tottering in the hallway. Its not creaky stairs or wind outside that keeps me awake at night but the contents, or lack of, in my bank account and how I’m going to pay bills etc.

So here I am in a four bed roomed house on my own (which at the time of writing is on the market for £219,000 if any body’s interested in a detached house in the Northamptonshire area. Single garage, Tesco express at the bottom of the road, close to the M1).

So when I’m not avoiding the mundane fear of reality, I’m embracing the fear of nothing, of fictional events, by reading scary literature and watching scary films (note, I do not include Carry on Screaming in this list). Just lately I’ve taken to scaring myself without the help of other people’s fiction. I’m writing a horror novel at the moment set in a village that the military occupied for training then abandoned after the Second World War. A property developer buys this village and renovates the houses not knowing there is a strong supernatural presence in this village.

At one point in the story the protagonist enters a dust-covered room in one of the houses. He walks around the room, stopping to look inside a wardrobe in the left hand corner before walking to the window. After looking out of the window at the empty village below he turns to leave. In the dust is a second pair of footprints that weren’t there before, crossing the middle of the room towards him. They end right before him. (Note, he’s alone in a village that hasn’t been touched for sixty years)

I managed to scare myself with that one. And I still enjoyed it.

So, pretty soon I’ll be moving to a smaller, less creepy house but until then I’ve got Mark West’s The Mill to read and cause me to look out of the window and periodically to wonder what the hell that noise in the back garden was and a wicked little anthology called Fogbound From Five edited by Peter Mark May to make me ask myself if that sound in the attic above was footsteps or not.

Real fear will provided by HSBC, Nationwide, Northampton Borough Council and my own incompetence at dealing with reality. The rest of the time I’ll just relax.

‘Real’ as opposed to Eee.

28 May

After several months away I’ve actually figured out what my password for my blog was and got in. As I’m in I feel I should update you. Recently, my publisher and editor bought round four paperback editions of my novel ‘Terminus’. They were actually real books as opposed to ‘Eee’. It was like holding a new-born infant. However, I’ve got to lend them to friends to review and said friends will put said reviews on Amazon. However….I WANT TO KEEP THEM ALL, KEEP MY BABIES, THEY MUST NEVER LEAVE HOME. I have to fight this impulse because I need reviews. So far I’ve compiled a list of people who will be reviewing the book. I’ve also compiled a list of people I won’t be lending it to.

Graham Harris – because he only reads stuff by Andy McNabb.
My Aunt – because she’ll lose it in her cluttered spinster dwelling.
My sister – in – law – because I leant her Perdido Street Station and never got it back.
Mrs Green next door – because it’ll give her nightmares.
The bloke by the war memorial who drinks White Lightning and always asks me for a quid whenever I walk past.

Finally a note on the phrase ‘Eee’ which I’ve invented. Sounds bloody stupid, doesnt it. Yeah, well, so does Google, Wii and Yahoo but we all got used to using those words pretty quickly. Wii? Honestly, am I really the only one that still sniggers when someone says ‘I had a Wii for Christmas’?

Two New Year’s Resolutions

2 Jan

I only have two new year’s resolutions. None of them involve going to the gym more or giving up chocolate. To be honest, I’d rather spent five hours in a slaughterhouse than five seconds in a gym. No, my new year’s resolutions are both life changing and utterly orignal. If you know anyone who has the same new year’s resolutions I will give you five pee. So, here they are.

1. If you have Sky telly then you’ll know that when you are looking at the listings then the screen shrinks and appears in the right hand corner playing whatever is on the channel you are watching. For a full year I intend to watch T.V. with only that little screen on. Why? Because in a years time I will, after a whole year of squinting through series 7 of Doctor Who etc, my mind will be blown by suddenly seeing everything on full screen again. It will be like a blind man regaining his sight, only not as good. I’ve already started this. Watching Das Boot with English subtitles was nearly impossible. Fantastic.

2 To speak fluent Polish. No, readers, I won’t be going to Polish classes or listening to some tape whilst I’m asleep. I have the advantage of having a missis that speaks Polish fluently. She speaks English as well, which is handy, but my plan is to only have her speak to me in Polish when we are at home. She’d banned from speaking English for the next year. With her only speaking Polish I’ll have to work out what she’s saying to me and I reckon, after a year of this, I’ll have picked up a few words. I know Skelep is Polish for shop and I’ll imagine I’ll hear that a few times, mainly on Saturdays, around pay day. The biggest test will come in a crisis situation, when she has to tell me some bad news such as one of the cats had run into the jaws of a combine harvester or the house being repossessed because we’ve defaulted on our mortgage payments again. What an interesting and fun-filled year we will have and this experiment can only improve out relationship.
Happy new year, everyone, or as they say in Polish, Yak mash dozsi piwor (at least that’s what I think she was saying)

Oh, and Terminus is only 77 pee now (that’s $99 in pyramid-eye money) as it’s part of the January sales.

An Idiot Abroad

1 Nov

Greetings to anyone who is reading this. I’ve recently returned from a ten-day excursion to Thailand. the plane didn’t crash and, despite staying in a hotel in Phuket which was located in an official tsunami hazard zone, I didn’t drown either so the holiday went quite well. I didn’t get any writing done but it did lead me to think about the connections between writer’s and their protagonists. Do they reflect the writer’s own personality? Is Stephen Daedalus a manifestation of James Joyce’s own personality? Is Frodo Baggins an aspirational character for Tolkien, a small person achieving big things? (I don’t know how small or big Tolkien actually was) So here’s the bit where I dare to compare my own work to these literary giants. Terminus  features the protagonist of the same name who is something of a drunkard and an exaggerator. (Umm…this is sounding too close to the knuckle) He is also incompetent and, as his vampiress nemesis observes, ‘Terminus, you’re a man who stumbles into dark places and stumbles out of them again’. He goes into deadly dungeons and forgets which way he’s come in generally puts himself in more danger than he needs to.

So how close to my own peronality is he? Do I put myself in more danger than I need to and I’m not just talking about the way I drive on the M1 every morning. A few years ago I volunteered to go on a trip to Lebanon with my church. Lebanon isn’t on everybody’s list of places to go, I know. Beirut was still full of bullet holes and bombed out buildings from the last war and this was before Israel had a go at them a couple of years later. In one rural place we stayed at I decided to go for a walk on my own. As I sat on a hill contemplating the view and getting a Biblical vibe from the place an Arab guy came up to me, said ‘Marhaba’ (hello) then patted his shoulder and indicated to the land around telling me something in Arabic. Okay, I thought, I’ve wandered onto his land and he’s telling me to get off. Making my excuses in English I headed back to the place where we were staying. 

That night I was walking along the road with one of the English-speaking locals and I noticed that there were these signs along the road with a diagram of a hand, palm facing outwards, fingers splayed, and something written in Arabic across the hand.

‘What does that mean?’ I asked my host.

She replied, ‘It’s a warning not to go off the road and walk in the hills because there’s landmines around.’

I rest my case.

Weird Creatures

30 Sep

In today’s blog I am introducing you to the weird creatures that populate the planet of Thanatos One, one of thirteen worlds in the Thanatos system. Before I start I’d like to warn readers to NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES GO TO THE PLANET OF THANATOS ONE. EVER. TO GO THERE IS CERTAIN DEATH! Anyway, this mysterious alien system features in the e-novel Terminus by Paul Melhuish (available today from Greyhartpress).

Thanatos One has a breathable atmosphere and is densely forested, the type  your mother warned you never to go into. There’s a strange walled castle with twin jutting towers that you are enticed to enter (You really, really don’t want to go in there if you know what’s good for you)  To get there you will have to pass through the forest where real evil lurks. Here’s what waits for you…

Plaguewraiths - guard dogs of Thanatos One except they look nothing like dogs. They have six legs, hands for feet and no outer covering leaving the muscles and sinew  exposed. They are slimy to the touch. Yuk

Gravesnakes -  the body of a giant millipede whose head and legs look  human to the eye. Also slimy to the touch.

The Virgins of the Abyss - they live in the moat of darkness around the Spires of the Thirteen. They appear to you as innocent children until you turn the lights off, then they change into something hideous that wants to lay its eggs in your body. Scaley to the touch.

The Thirteen – so-called because there’s thirteen of them. Imagine if man had evolved from Spiders and not from apes (or wolves as some believe. At least Eric from the pub does). You’d have a bipedal arachnid with six eyes. They are all this and much, much worse.

 As a writer I love the challenge of creating  weird creatures in my imagination then transcribing them to the page.          I started to include weird creatures in my fiction when I began studying to become an Occupational Therapist.              My training included the study of anatomy and physiology, when I invent  creatures I try to anatomically distance them from anything human. The creatures must have more than two eyes and more than two legs (apart from The Thirteen which are bipedal) Even the Thanaton spaceships are drawn from my studies of anatomy: they are designed to look like rib cages.

So in conclusion, never go to Thanatos One. Instead read the handy guide Terminus by Paul Melhuish. At £2.30 it’s less than a pint of beer. Well, a pint of beer in an expensive pub, and it lasts longer!

Bad Language: learn yerself Skyfirean.

17 Sep

In my novel, Terminus, the main character (Sii Terminus) hails from the planet Skyfire. When the first part was read by one Mr Ian Watson (yes, he who wrote A.I.) in a meeting of our writers’ group (the Northampton Science Fiction Writers’ Group) Mr Watson commented that kids could read this and they’d love it because it’s packed full of swear words. No, I hear you cry, swearing in your fiction? I’m certainly not letting my Billy near such filth. Ha, that’s where you are wrong, concerned parent. The swearing is all constructed. You will have never heard curses such as this before because I made them up. Drent, vulley, digest are all words your kids will be saying after they’ve read Terminus. No, concerned parent. Don’t worry about the language. It’s the gory murders and the sex planet you’ll not want your kids reading about.

Now, to  the origins of the language. It comes from the planet Skyfire. The planet Skyfire can be found roughly twenty thousand pulses from our native planet Earth. Skyfire was colonised by Earth travellers a few hundred years ago. The occupants display all the hedonism of the 1990s but have the political incorrectness of the 1970s This can be seen in their terminology. Here are a few examples.

Drent - a general curse to express dissatisfaction when something’s gone wrong. For example: ‘Drent, the pulse drive’s on the blink. Now we’ll be stuck in space drifting forever.

Vulley - another curse meaning screwed up and also slang for sex. for example: ‘The pulse drive’s vullied and now were going to drift in space forever. So we’re totally vullied.’ or ‘Lets go down to Babel and get ourselves some vulley!’ (see what I mean about the politically incorrect business. Tut tut.)

Gemmel – house or home

Snakki - booze. Any kind of booze from low-grade chemical fizz to strong lubricant. Skyfireans drink a lot of snakki.

Skangat - yet more cursing. Very bad insult implying the person is a cat interferer or worse. ‘For example: ‘You’ve vullied the pulse drive. Now we’re going to drift in space for ever, you total Skangat!’

Strentner - horrible. This is nicked from a Polish word my second generation polish geema (woman) taught me.

Pizzdeen (for men) Pizzdeena (for women) – basically this is slang for virgin. My missis went mental when she’d seen that I’d used this word in the novel. In Polish a pizzda isn’t an Italian dough with tomato puree, onions and cheese but a very bad word indeed (the C word…ummm) so apologies to any Polish readers. I hope this doesn’t cause an international diplomatic incident.

So there you have it. some examples of Skyfirean. The novel has no glossary because I’m confident that readers will pick up the meaning of the words as they read. If you’ve ever read Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange he winds the words into standard language and they attain their own meaning. So then you ganntas and geemas, I’ll scan you next stretch where I razzle you’ll be beaky enough to take a scan at my next post.

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