David Cameron has thus far had an extremely lucky stint as the country’s premier laminated bellend. Somewhat inexplicably, he’s been afforded a financial crises that discredited Labour economically, a coalition he didn’t deserve, a majority even he thought was impossible and a growing (of sorts) economy.
Then there is the scandal that he has so doggedly ignored; his close chum escaping jail for arranging the phone hackings of murder victims; his spin doctor resigning in disgrace; his political mentor being convicted on sexcase charges; the failed bskyb merger; the omnishambles budget; George Osbourne’s recreational activities; Grant Shapps’ every waking moment; grassroots youth suicides; Boris Johnson’s spectre looming with undeserved and incomprehensible entitlement. Throughout all the bullying, all the bluster, all the cringingly transparent ‘I can’t be arsed with this but I’m going to persevere anyway’ rebuttals and denials, he has somehow lasted nearly six years as Prime Minister.
Part of this survival strategy has centred around arranging a suit of armour of hideous bastards. His cabinet is a deflection force, populated by ideological nutters so thick and obsequieous that Cameron’s own failings of judgement have often petered off into the night. Whenever he dropped a bollock, somebody would drop a bigger bollock, and all would be forgotten. So long as he had the backing of most of the media, he rode it out. He bent over backwards to avoid sacking anybody, engineering a grumbling loyalty of sorts that could stretch against the weight of most things. But not Europe.
Of course, with all Tory nonsense, there is no bigger mindfuck than Europe. Europe represents nearly everything that the most squirrel shit paper-shouter-atter hates the most. Europe is nice. Its increasing federalism is a stick in the urethra for those who spent their early teens in braces and wistful dreams of by-gone Imperialism. The idea that Britain, with all of it’s stuff and things, should play second fiddle to an entire continent is not only outrageous- it is contemptible. They froth. Spittle actually collects at the corners of their mouths as they ponder things like paid holidays and maternity leave being forced upon us (read: Them). Nobody gets to tell the bully what to do!
Then of course you have the other Conservatives, the ones who have gay friends and like drugs, and worship money above and beyond. Money is the highest good to the children of Thatcher, and not merely the means to Imperialistic domination. They’re looking on at their colleagues in horror, the prospect of somebody actually setting light to a universe of cash becoming frightfully, tantalisingly real. They’re looking at pink Dave and wondering how the living fuck it has come to this, how he managed to let the nutters out of their box, how he failed to schmooze and charm the tabloid editors that goad the chimps.
Many were surprised when Dave declared that he couldn’t really be arsed being Prime Minister anymore, and that at some vague point after the election he would fuck off to do something that will probably involve lots of money. It was the huff of a man who could no longer be fucked with any of it, who saw nothing but conflict and nonsense on the horizon and was planning a get away before the shit hit the fan. Unfortunately for Dave, he won an election, and in doing so had to follow through on all the insane compromises he made to the battalions of elderly nutters and young adult sociopaths who froth and seethe the Conservatives to power.
And this of course is where it all truly begins to unravel. The warning shots were fired when it became apparent that Dave once fucked a dead pig. Somebody, perhaps many, had decided he had outlived his usefulness- and when a Tory outlives their usefulness, they must commit seppuku lest they be thrown to the sharks.
Dave’s renegotiation, like much of his foreign policy during his tenure, has been hopeless. When a blind man on a galloping horse could see that he didn’t want to burn the cash, what else was going to happen? There was never any conviction in anything, because Dave, unlike the bastards that constitute his armour, does not believe in anything. At all. He just wants to be Prime Minister, because he thinks he’s ‘quite good at it’.
Now that the Tories have a majority, now that they have a referendum, now that they’re tearing themselves apart, they all have taken up the attitude of Dave himself, and can no longer be fucked in anyway shape or form to defend him, stand up for him, preserve him or otherwise. The clown car is picking up the next round of contenders, idiots and lunatics galvanised by the possibilities shown in the US for hateful dickheads with unsubstantiated world views. They look at the records he broke- highest immigration in British history, the largest increase of debt in peace time- and they areapopleptic.
But what’s that on the horizon? Financial doom? A civil war in sand-land that’s spilling out into a regional conflict? The implosion of the eurozone? The real depression that has been stalled since 2008?
It isn’t complaining about what the government is doing. It isn’t voting against them on every single item. It’s building up a coalition of voters so that when the next election comes the incumbent government will have to moderate their policy in the face of potential removal.
What you’re actually going to get here is bolstering of Tory support, because now they can point to the shambles that’s began from day one and say ‘look at Labour, isn’t it sad that they sunk to this, can’t even agree amongst each other, their leader cannot lead, the country simply isn’t safe with him, you’re going to have rely on us now, but it’s okay because we’re going to do our best to be more inclusive whilst they’re finger pointing and protesting’.
Unless there is serious, serious danger of an overwhelming backlash against themselves the Tories will continue to do what they’ve been doing, and now they will feel confident that they can do it for several more terms. They’ve already begun to brand Corbyn Labour and if you think that it’s because they’re scared you’re simply deluded. They know exactly how to play this out, it’s a battle they’ve fought and won time and time again for the best part of 100 years. They’re taught how to handle Corbyns from the very first day of secondary school.
The only opposition is one which can extract the soft ground from the Tories. A one which can bring the middle class into the tent, one which will assure EVERYBODY that a better life will exist under Labour. Picketing, rallies and protests will never draw mass appeal in Britain. 500,000 of my fellow Labour members is a microcosm of the electorate, it’s not a mass movement, it’s not an opposition. It’s political seppuku.
If Corbyn were a shrewd political operator, a great orator, a rhetorician who commanded confidence and loyalty, a decisive leader who could weather a storm maybe this would be different. He isn’t. He’s a ditherer, he’s already dithering. He’s got no leadership experience, he doesn’t command an army. He’s a sympathetic figure with a blacklist of misconstrued comments and associations, elevated to the purple by a praetorian guard of clowns and fools.
It matters not a fucking jot what he stands for, if he cannot work out how to stand for it without damaging the cause.
The Zoo is owned by a hands off bloke, he kind of lets things run as the staff decide it should be run. The Zoo staff used to be managed by Boring McDour, a nice scottish bloke . The Zoo has been through some hard times recently. A few years ago a virus broke out amongst the hippos, it leaped to the big cat enclosure and before anyone knew what was going on the bears were fucked and the elephants were trying to mate with the dead. McDour did his best to limit the damage, but he ended up being thrown out when his contract ended. He couldn’t shake the virus situation even though he didn’t have much to do with it, and did a good job when it happened. People said he spent too much money on vets and fruit, so it was only natural that the operation should balls up when a bit of bother hit.
After McDour’s clean up, the customers got together and demanded that a smartly dressed young accountant, named John Bastard would get the job. People still liked McDour, but he was just so bloody dour that John Bastard got in anyway, even though they all knew John Bastard was a dickhead.
Thing was, John Bastard had a good team around him. They knew that the customers didn’t fancy paying so much to go to the zoo. The animals would be fine if they stripped back on some luxuries. People didn’t get to see when you took them out back and shot them in the face to finish them off if they were ill, all they really cared about was having a walk about the zoo in the sunshine and they happily bought John Bastard’s schtick, because they’d thoroughly convinced themselves that it was probably a good job they had any zoo to go to in the first place.
After a while, a handful of the zoo go-ers started to kick up a bit of a fuss. They had placards and they picketed a bit. The people queueing up to get in wondered what all the fuss was about. The animals had their basic necessities. They thought it was worth cutting the entrance fee if it meant that the monkeys had to lose out on a proper tire swing. They saw the protestors and thought ‘What a bunch of wankers. They should be at work, like I am half the day. I didn’t come to the zoo to be patronised by a bunch of hippies’. Meanwhile, the protestors got madder and madder at the disinterest of the zoo-goers. Why didn’t they care about the welfare of the animals? Couldn’t they see that the happier the animals were, the more efficient the zoo would be? Didn’t they realise that a few extra pounds on top of the ticket price would make everyone happier, the animals better off, ultimately leading to a rather brilliant Zoo as it once was? Nobody stood up for the protesters, really. A zoo manager named Andy Amiable challenged John Bastard for the running of the zoo, and for a while it looked like he might win. However the protesters decided that he didn’t go far enough, and called him worse names than they did John Bastard. John Bastard won a surprise victory. Andy Amiable stepped down, and a bunch of others scrambled for his old job. Who would lead the anti-bastard brigade at the zoo?
The protesters decided to take matters into their own hands. And Amiable, they thought, had lost his way. He didn’t want it badly enough. He rejected their ideas of marriage for animals, passports for fish and a free bicycle for every bipedal. They didn’t understand that the public might think they were enormous bellends, because more people would come to join the protest. To them it was a matter of time before the zoo-goers moved from the queue to the picket. All it would take was somebody who truly, truly put the animal welfare above profits. They found their man in Clive Nicebloke, a bearded 60 year old Janitor who had been kept on the fringes of the zoo for many, many years. Nicebloke was an old school zookeeper. He believed that bears had human rights, although he was deeply skeptical of the pigeons, they having bred and multiplied in the butterfly enclosure to the point where the butterfly’s only had a little box to live in. People were mostly on the pigeon’s side following the great pigeon kill off of the last century, but Nicebloke stuck firm to his principles.
There was nobody else for the protesters to back, basically. So they got Nicebloke into the job, even though Nicebloke had a potted history of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He hung out with animal traffickers and invited them to the reptile house, because he thought it would be sensible to hear both sides of the argument. He sympathised with the Orangutan who beat Barbara Trout to death with her very own plimsole. He once told his colleagues at the Zoo that it was quite right for a stork to pick on the pigeons, because they’d caused trouble in the first place. The customers were deeply skeptical of Clive Nicebloke, but the protesters adored him.
The protesters had been warned that Nicebloke, whilst still a nice bloke, would be utterly destroyed by the cunning John Bastard and his cronies. They had 30 years of silly comments about animals, vets treating furry patients with magic water, the unfettered guilt of the pigeons. The customers watched what was going on with total confusion; in principle they kind of agreed with Nicebloke, but he was just so silly and unmagnificent compared to John Bastard that they decided to stick with what they had long before John Bastard had to go back and ask them to back him again.
Nicebloke was thrown to the wolves. As the Wolves were biting off his bits, the protesters stood aghast. How did this happen? Why didn’t anyone see this coming?
John Bastard eventually sold off so much of the zoo that the animals were pitted against one another, the weakest being eaten alive by the strongest. All the while John Bastard and his cronies clapped and jeered. The protesters began to wonder whether they were the problem all along. ‘It’s not fair!’ They shouted. It went ahead anyway, because there was nobody with any power to stop it.
Yo yiggidy yo, fellow inside-out triple bluff super spies.
I was lucky enough to receive MGSV a week early and I’ve been hammering it. Now that I’m about halfway through the game, I thought I’d share some tips to help newcomers get to grips with the difficulty. MGSV can be hard, but there are always options as to how you handle it. Don’t worry, it’s story-spoiler free, but I have mentioned some gameplay unlock stuff.
The game has a definite gameplay loop that will turn you into an infiltration crack head, so nail it early and reap the rewards. Later in the game, the Mother Base stuff can become a bottleneck for progress, so nip that shit in the bud early and start building up your forces.
GET YOURSELF A VANTAGE POINT
No more radar. That particular crutch is gone, but there are replacements. The binoculars can be used to tag enemies, and later they’ll tell you everything you need to know about the target and their stats. Before you begin sneaking, get yourself up high and spend five minutes or so picking out targets. You’ll never get every soldier from a single vantage point, but you’ll soon get used to working out where the others should be by tagging the ones with a visible patrol. This is the core of your strategy. Early tagging and a good understanding of what lies ahead lets you mark the best soldiers to fulton back to Mother Base, accelerating the access to the higher tier gear that enables the crumbly goodness of an S Rank. S Rank is required for a few missions toward the end of the game, so you’ll be replaying missions at some point. No use worrying about that for now, anyway. Mark your targets before you get moving.
INTERROGATION IS HABITUAL
You’ll open up side-ops and missions that let you snatch an interpreter soon after entering a new area. The interpreter can, um, interpret. This means you can now interrogate the dudes you’re grabbing before you knock that sucker out. Interrogation works in a cycle. The first guy you interrogate will give you some info about the map and maybe mark up other soldiers you didn’t see when you were surveying from your vantage point.
Each guy you interrogate will open up a little more information on the map, so as part of your strategy you should be working out who the best four guys to snatch early on will be. You can then adapt your path through the map to pick up the goodies as you go. Blueprints and prisoners are often hard to find unless someone tells you where they are first, so ask around.
TRANQUILIZE AND KNOCK OUT ENEMIES WHERE YOU CAN
MGSV is a lot like Dishonoured in that it gives you a million and one ways to kill people, but 2 or 3 ways to incapacitate them. Remember, every solider on the map can be whisked back to Mother Base and that should be your first objective, especially for any with a C or above in any skill set. You will not be able to fulton any dead soldiers, and dead men can’t talk. Feel free to kill the useless D and E drones from distance, but avoid killing anyone or anything with a decent stat. Knock them out instead.
Also, you can easily rouse any enemies that you tranq or knock out once they’re on the ground. If you’re in danger of being spotted, you can always take them out from distance with the tranquilizer and then wake them up when you’re close to interrogate, before knocking them out again and then fultoning back to Mother Base. Get into the habit of doing this early on and your Mother Base will grow much, much faster.
FULTON EVERYTHING YOU CAN
You’ll want to get in the habit of fultoning pretty much everything not nailed to the ground. As your fulton capability expands, you get more opportunities to send things back before a re-supply and you can send bigger stuff, too.
The enemies can spot the fulton balloon if they’re up high or nearby, so make sure you clear a path before sending somebody back. Mother Base has capacity limits so try and build and upgrade as quickly as you can, whilst sending back as many skilled soldiers as possible. Again, this is vital for the late game, which could become grindy if you don’t start early.
D.D IS SUPER USEFUL
You’ll find D.D pretty early, and it’ll take a while for him to become available as a buddy. Once he’s ready to be deployed, he’s a god send. D.D’s main ability is being able to spot enemies, prisoners, items and animals around the map. Approach a base with D.D at your side and the place will light up like a christmas tree, with unseen enemies tagged thanks to your doggies’ super sense of smell.
Later you can equip him with his own weapons, and he’ll carry a knife in his mouth like some super-badass version of Sif from Dark Souls. He gets a stun knife too, and you can send him to pick off soldiers in the centre of your field of vision that you can’t get close enough to.
EVERYWHERE YOU GO, ALWAYS TAKE EXPLOSIVES WITH YOU
The game judges you on being seen and on being shot. Once you can make C4 and a rocket launcher, you can blow things up. Even though you’re alerting enemies you still won’t be seen if you do it from distance, so it won’t affect your ranking.
Blowing up anti-aircraft equipment will allow you to call in the chopper to more areas of the map, making some of the side-ops backtracking a little easier. Plus, it makes you feel like a full blown soldiering god. Later in the game you’ll see a lot more heavy equipment, with patrol helicopters and other vehicles. Planting C4 and then getting on with the job, or rocketing from an unseen vantage point will take out the stress of a lot of the missions ahead. There’s something ridiculously cool about planting C4 all over and then blowing it up one by one when you’re about to leave the hot zone.
STEALTH IS STILL THE BEST OPTION
Sure, sometimes you’ll want to fight your way in and out, but if you get yourself into a sneaky mindset early you will adapt to the game much more quickly. By following the above advice you’ll soon find that extraction missions in particular are so much easier. The enemy soldiers are clever and their eyesight is good, but the sandbox nature of the maps mean that you can usually enter areas from pretty much any direction.
Soon after the beginning you’ll get access to the sneaking suit, which dampens your footsteps and makes grabbing enemies much easier. D.D gets his own sneaking suit too, and who doesn’t like a dog in armour?
It’s something I’m proud of, and it is a core part of my identity. I come from the northern tundra of leftieland, raised on a diet of despising Tories and taking turns on Night Watch looking out for fascists on the horizon. My parents were trade unionists and I have been elected as a representative at school, university and at work. I am an attack dog serving to savage those who seek to increase inequality across sex, class, disability, gender, nationality and race. I am forever suspicious of nationalism, I believe in the binding unity of globalization and commerce. I hold precious the notion of essential public services being run specifically in the best interests of the public. My mantra is, was and will always be ‘From each according to his or her ability, to each according to their needs’.
While my chief concerns revolve around making society fairer and protecting the vulnerable, many of my colleagues on the left have more powerful ideological dogmas to follow. I am not a Marxist; I find Marx to be better understood as a critic of capitalism and a keen analyst of history up to his own time. I am not a Trotskyite, although were I ever to indulge in real radicalism I feel that I’d probably be best placed under Trotsky, given that he is almost certainly my favourite Communist. I find myself more in the vein of Rousseau than that of Robespierre. I have no time for Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Chavez or Castro, the idea of the vanguard party and dictatorship of the proletariat at odds with my instinctive championing of free thinking and the importance of questions over slogans.
Labour’s performance at the last election was damning. I woke up the morning after with a sense of doom comparable to that of a man living a double life that just sent the wrong text to the wrong woman. I had managed to convince myself that it was nigh-on impossible that the Tories might cobble together a working majority. I was deluded by the polls, by the surprising competence and strength of Miliband during debates and the actual campaign. The scale of the loss gutted me, and shook my core beliefs surrounding politics in the United Kingdom. It was compounded by the fact that in the run up to the election I had been devoting a strange amount of time to researching the events of previous elections, all the way back to Anthony Eden. I educated myself by proxy on Militant, Bennism and the impotence of Labour in the 1980s, discovering some hard-to-stomach truths about the party to which I have tribal devotion. To me the worst thing about the election result was the rejection of the most left wing Prime Minsterial candidate since Michael Foot; Ed Miliband, despite his presentation flaws and lack of bite, was in many ways the best PM we will never have. Rejecting socialism of the 21st century seemed, to me, the final nail in the coffin for genuinely leftist platforms. Wort of all, it meant five more years of the Tories.
The scramble between candidates for the Labour leadership in the wake of Miliband’s resignation has led to scenes which parallel those I encountered during my pre-election UK politics nerd-binge to such an extent that it bewilders me. People are asking me on a daily basis what I think about Jeremy Corbyn, pregnant with expectation that I’m about to fall to the ground and sing high praise to a proper socialist. However my answer is causing more confusion; I think Corbyn is probably the worst possible outcome of this leadership election.
My principle objection to Corbyn is that he’s a gift to the Tories. The story goes that Osborne was orgiastic when he heard the news that Ed had beaten David. Jeremy Corbyn is the medicine for all of Osborne’s strategic ills, and we all know how much George loves marvelous medicine. I won’t patronise by trying to paint a picture of where the political centre ground has shifted exactly, because I contest that at this stage nobody really knows. What is certain, however, is that Osborne’s danger has always been that of the veil of obscurity being lifted from his strategy, with naked Tory policy outed as the extremism that it truly is (think to how desperately Osborne rowed back on his Autumn Budget when the ‘back to the 30’s’ soundbite caught on). Corbyn provides Osborne with cover, masking his own extremism by pointing out how extremist Corbyn is in so many other ways.
We’ve been here before
Now I do not consider Corbyn’s economic or social policy to be particularly extreme at all. It is a little further left than I’m used to, but he isn’t a Marxist and he’s not espousing full blown Bennism. The problem is that the truth is often of minor importance in these matters; perception is everything, and right now the Tories control perception. The idea that Jeremy Corbyn will be able to change the terms of debate through plain speaking, intellectual integrity and rustic charisma, like a messianic Farage for the left, is pure fantasy. The rough treatment doled out on Kinnock and Miliband will be like tickling by comparison. He is going to be savaged, and the electorate will pay heed. It is a shame, because I think Corbyn will likely show more economic pragmatism than some on the right of the party will give him credit for.
Corbyn’s most extreme leaning is in his Foreign policy, and this where I disagree with him most strongly. Leaving Nato, unilateral disarmament and near pacifism are admirable but entirely unacceptable positions to me and many others, left or right. His parliamentary career is a goldmine of easily misrepresented statements, pledges and petitions involving dubious and sometimes outright-strange characters and causes. I believe that the mediocrity of a Burnham, Cooper or Kendall is far less dangerous in the long term than Corbyn, who is a cardboard cut out of the Tories’ perfect opposition.
They’re good at this. That’s the problem.
I do not blame Corbyn for any of this. I think he’s taken a very brave and uncharacteristically opportunist position and it’s clearly chiming with the bulk of the Labour support. Furthermore he’s conducted himself with admirable decency, refusing to get drawn into mudslinging (except when baited by Tony Blair). He has been remarkably savvy and has said much of nothing, focusing his campaign on emotion rather than policy. The few tidbits of policy he has spoken of have been modernising and genuinely socialist, with the highlight being the Obama influenced National Education Service. The other candidates failed to use Corbyn’s far left positions to differentiate themselves and highlight their own strengths. Pathetic as this is, the Tories will not fail to do so. They have ancient tomes, written in hemoglobin and bound in human skin that detail exactly which form of witchcraft is necessary to not only undermine any potential danger or opposition from a Corbyn led Labour, but also to sow salt in the fields and ruin any budding promise. Do not delude yourself. The Tories are not ‘running scared’ of Jeremy Corbyn and neither are the establishment. There is no complex double bluff, they really are looking forward to this. It’s actually bringing them together at a time when they’re on the verge of splits themselves, given the small majority and advance of UKIP. There are absolutely no negatives to a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour for the Tory party, which is why they’re currently keeping schtum, indulging in the old maxim- ‘never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake’. The panic is on the right and centre of the party, those who know how this plays out and are left impotent to prevent the looming tragedy. They’re now thrashing and spewing, foaming with incredulity at the old style left for having the gall to succeed with their platform. It’s pouring gasoline on the fire, as in this world any warning based in fact, history or reality is put in a box named ‘Project Fear’ and sent to the moon.
Reality, it would seem, is a scarce resource at the moment. The mass delusion that swept the SNP to a galling victory during the election is beginning to infect the wider left, willing to set aside disbelief in the name of a promise that rings true to their souls; Scottish Nationalism up north, the dismantling of the neo-aristocracy down south. It is alarmingly clear that Corbyn is due to win, with Blairite witch hunts in full swing. A Blairite has become anybody who disagrees with a 1980’s socialist platform, anybody who thinks there is some heavy value to national security, anybody who finds environmental issues a low priority, anybody with a fundamental suspicion towards appeasing the likes of Russia. I have been called the worst thing it’s possible to call a person such as I- I have been accused of being a ‘Tory’. ‘Why don’t you just go and join the Tories’, is something that someone has actually said to me. I found it baffling and incredulous, but then it happened again.
I am now resigned to the fact that Corbyn is going to win, and I’m not going to join the Tories. I’m going to do what I’ve always done; take a sensible, pro-socialist position on most issues while attacking any wrong that the Tories do like a rabid, mangy dog. When the dust has settled and the apocalypse of the left has cemented Tory hegemony I may offer up an ‘I told you so’, but I have no intention of doing anything other than carrying on the fight. I would advise the genuine Blairites, the soft leftists, those on the actual right of the party and supporters of Lib Dems, Greens, SNP or anybody else who wants to remove the Tories and burn their bones to do as I plan to do, and I would advise the neo-80’s crowd carrying Corbyn to victory to accept us as part of them. I concede that it’s your turn.
Just don’t call me a Tory. I’m a man of History and a man of Realities, not a man of emotion. Maybe my weakness is my lack of trust in the possibility of a genuine sea-change in British politics. Maybe it’s my protectiveness of the disabled, the disadvantaged and the downtrodden that unnerves me so when faced with the prospect of Bennite Labour, certain in the knowledge that the Tories will take full advantage.
While the inbred of Wearside stewed upon Sunderland’s dreadful opening day performance, cautious optimism permeated the streets of Newcastle. After the horror-show decline that signalled the long, lingering death of the Alan Pardew era, Newcastle United seem to have awoken to a tougher, more conciliatory reality.
The fan base still split, with a vocal minority still outwardly disgusted by anything associated with the Mike Ashley regime, never the less the club has attempted to fix the roof. What it was that finally broke the spell of delusion under which the club has been labouring is up for debate; Ashley’s failure to leverage influence over Rangers, the bombscare relegation fight predicted by everybody but the club leadership, the influx of television cash injecting smaller clubs with purpose and ambition that threatened eclipse Newcastle’s meagre wheeler-dealing.
One by one, the ghosts of the terminal Pardew period appear to have been exorcised. The club is not fixed yet, but-crucially-there is now hope. John Carver is gone, left to lick his lips at home and spout nonsense to Journalists he’d been banned from talking to just months earlier. Mike Ashley broke his vow of silence before the do-or-die West Ham game and has largely backed his words with cash and-most importantly-new footballers. Good, proven international footballers, with pedigrees and acclamations as some of the best players in their respective leagues.
Walking through the streets up to the stadium, it was clear that the atmosphere had changed. Improved communication, and the appointment of the immeasurably more likeable Steve Mclaren (he’s saying the right things, for shure) have satiated the anxiety of the normal majority. Pre-season was typically calamitous, but as an Arsenal fan will tell you pre-season is rarely indicative of the real stuff.
Money spent, staff appointed and the olive branch of skeptical parley extended, Newcastle began their first game of the season well. The fans sat, shuffled and stood with a strange nervous energy. A mix of possibility and promise, served with a measure of anxiety. As the ball was passed out from the back from goal kicks straight to Mbemba, confusion began to battle it’s way into the emotional cocktail. Here a centre half-not Mike Williamson-playing with the ball at his feet without the look of quiet panic of a man emerging from an amphibious landing craft, moving comfortably with it. In midfield a mix of energy, composure and game intelligence, possession overwhelmingly in Newcastle’s favour, dictated by the chosen beat of Gini Wijnaldum. An early chance for Wijnaldum blocked, a few half chances created by Moussa Sissoko, who bombed on with vigour and purpose and showed little of the pea-hearted capitulation which sandwiched the positives of his second season in English football.
First impressions are important, so Mbemba brought a tux
Capitulation was the chief worry of the anxious in the stands, put to the test when Newcastle’s decent start came undone by poor defending and the power of Graziano Pelle. Instead Newcastle held it together, kept up their possession game and continued to flood the wings with pace and power. A short corner to Haidara led to a deflected cross which looped over the unimpressive Stekelenberg, into the path of Papiss Cisse. A shrug of the chest and Newcastle were back in business, before half time.
After the break Newcastle picked up where they left off, playing some of the best football the crowd have seen for years. Triangles around the full backs, moves forward with purpose. Newcastle broke with real pace and Southampton couldn’t cope. Cisse picked the ball up south of the halfway line and chipped a ball forwards. Obertan bursting through, then a sublime cross onto the head of Wijnaldum, who tracked the ball at such speed for 80 yards that his momentum and jump were enough to deflect Obertan’s cross into the far-side top corner from almost 18 yards. For years, good goals at SJP were scored in moments of individual, accidental brilliance. Wijnaldum’s debut goal was made all the better by the obvious synchronicity between the team, a promise of better times ahead.
Vurnon Anita, often bullied and maligned, was central to the possession football of Newcastle’s best spells, picking the ball up from the keeper and centre halves and keeping the play ticking over. In doing so he finally revealed his purpose in a Newcastle side, growing in confidence with every successful transition. The turning point of the game, around the 75th minute, came when Anita fell awkwardly on his back. On came Tiote, looking bulky and off-pace. The anxiety began to creep in once more, and after much probing Southampton found their equaliser from another good header by perennial Newcastle villain Shane Long.
In an attempt to shore things up and replace the tiring legs of Wijnaldum, McLaren turned to the now-fit Siem De Jong and Newcastle’s brand new Serbian headcase Aleksander Mitrovic. Whereas De Jong spent much of his time ambling off the ball doing much of nothing, Mitrovic followed the applause at his introduction with an immediate wincing assault on the Southampton left back, picking up a yellow card for his trouble. Mitrovic was starved of service but what little action he did see after was wrapped up in harrying and bullying, a solid frame of madness bumping into less solid beings.
Sadio Mane fluffed a few late chances but Newcastle emerged from the game with a result and confidence, applauded off the pitch by a grateful Toon Army who’d finally seen an entertaining game of football, contested by a Newcastle side that appeared to have a plan and the seeds of a footballing identity, topped off with promising new signings enjoying solid debuts.
This is the beauty of football and of supporting Newcastle in particular. When the mood changes for the better it’s hard not to get sucked up in the love, even while everyone tries to keep their optimism suppressed. I left smiling and others did too. We couldn’t help it.
I’m in the middle of writing stuff. Big stuff. It has a title and characters and a beginning now. Writing is all about reading, too. The stuff you put into your brain has an effect on the stuff that comes out. Think of it like playdough being pushed through a funny shaped hole or something.
I thought you may be interested in finding out about what I’ve been reading, ‘cos my taste is fucking ace (read, I’m good at parsing recommendations from the internets).
I have a few of these lined up, but I’m not going to be reviewing from the perspective of a reader. I’m going to talk about how these books have been written, what the dude or dudette writing must’ve been thinking as they went along. See this shit isn’t as much about symbolism and haughty prose and dilletante taste as you might think. Most of it is hitchin’ your way from A to B.
To start, recently I went back to my first love. Horror Novels are brilliant. They’re really the tippity-top of cheap thrills, and as covered elsewhere on this blog nothing affects your mood like a really fucked up horror novel.
In a shocking turn of events, THEY THIRST is about vampires. So many books are about vampires. There’s like, dozens of them. Only a tiny white-rhino sized population are worth reading though. There are a few people to blame. First of all, as we all know Bram Stoker went to America, heard a fucked up story about gravedigging shenanigans and then wrote Dracula. Hollywood piggybacked it, ‘cos whilst Dracula is epistolary he was in fact a playwright by day, and it’s very likely that the whole thing was written with drama in mind in the first place.
After Dracula and hollywood, people got sick to fuck of vampires because really they’re just fucking everywhere. It wasn’t until Stephen Motherfuckin’ King came back with Salem’s Lot that they came back into vogue. Salem’s Lot, other than being a truly bad-ass piece of fiction in every sense of the word, was also yet another doorway into cinematic legend- Danny Glick at the window. I bet you haven’t even seen the terrible TV movie, but I bet you have seen this long toothed, bad pajama’d motherfucker right here.
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GOOGLE SHIT LIKE ‘BEST HORROR WRITERS FOR HORROR WRITERS’
Robert McCammon is more famous than I have any right to understand, given that I lived in blissful ignorance of his entire existence until about a year ago. Even then, it took plenty of glowing testimonials from ardent fans-turned-writers before I took the dive with him. RM quite famously gave up on writing for a while. Pigeonholed as a horror writer, he tried to break free and write, err, horror by other means. The man wouldn’t let him, so he fucked off and took his ball with him. He’s back now and I have it on good authority that his new stuff (most recently THE FIVE) is actually pretty fucking cool indeed.
If you google about for info on legendary horror, RM’s name pops up all the time. His most acclaimed novel is Boy’s Life, which is sort of his version of ‘IT’. Bzzzt, we’re not interested in that shit today. Oh no. We want the grimy early novels, the ones written in a fugue of potential, the ones where we can still parse the thought processes behind the words.
THEY THIRST IS ABOUT PAR AS A NOVEL
Should you read THEY THIRST? I don’t fucking care dude, there’s too many books. It’s like, okay. But at the same time it’s really cool. Cool in a way that it wouldn’t be allowed to be these days. There’s very little of anything pretentious here. Occasionally RM tries to make literary allusions to Sumerian myth. He writes about Hungary the same way the Victorians did about the fucking Congo. He also commits that god-awful sin of cross referencing characters and themes from an even shittier, earlier book, as if anybody but him gives half a damn about them. KILL YOUR DARLINGS, word nerds.
In THEY THIRST, Vampires take over LA. Led by some Hungarian Poindexter undead Prince, they fuck up everything- the barros, Hollywood, Cemeteries, the po-po. I’d like to think that RM was thinking of some kind of awesome high-level satire, taking aim at how many vampire books there were out there by setting one in a city of uppity-billion people. However I think the dude just got dem vibes from the city for reals. Like, he sees LA as a nice place and all (or so he’ll say to interviewers) but you can smell the dislike for LA and it’s walking-deadness, even at a distance of 30+ years.
Written like a Stephen King novel, RM drags some fun characters forwards with no plan and only a few tentpoles. Getting Prince Vulcan (yeah, he’s called that alright) to the Kronsteen Castle. The sandstorm that fucks everyone up. The Hungarian cop being fired because he’s the only one who realises hundreds of thousands of Vampires are fucking everything else up. There’s a reporter who is just trying to be the best goddamn reporter she can. There’s an Albino motor-cycle gang of one, operating on Terminator levels of ultra-violence for no reason other than ‘well that’s pretty fucking cool, in hindsight’.
My favourite vamp novel innovation from RM was the Coffin tycoon, who was sadly discarded soon after the novel opens. Horror geeks, write me a novel about a Coffin tycoon and I’ll buy it. Or read the sample on smashwords, or something. Maybe.
RM writes with a sense of urgency over any ornament or style. He’s trying to finish this fucking book and it shows. He’s hitting dem tentpoles, and dragging you with him. That’s always an obvious effect of a ‘page turner’. A good writer keeps the reader with him as he tries to smash out that wordcount, a bad writer fills you with nonsense and doesn’t want to finish it him or herself anyway. About every other sentence in THEY THIRST starts with ‘In an instant’ or ‘In the next moment’ or ‘Immediately’. This book is a great exercise in learning how to move forward at pace. The whole thing is just one big rush to the finish line, even given it’s relative size (550+ pages or something).
The prose itself is workman like. RM would later go on to do great things, such as the aforementioned Boys Life and the post apocalyptic SWAN SONG, and it’s only recently that his earliest 3 novels have been made available again. THEY THIRST is probably the strongest of the three early attempts, and RM has said publicly that he was lucky that he could ‘learn how to write in public’. It is probable that THEY THIRST could’ve been something really cool where it to percolate for a few years more.
HEY, AT LEAST THE VAMPIRES ARE NOT TOTAL PUSSIES
As it stands, it’s a pretty standard Vampire novel that does not entertain one moment of fuckery with emotions and feelings. RM’s Vampires are bad-ass, except for when they’re being poindexters complaining about NOT BEING A CHILD, or being called things like Prince Vulcan or Kobra. In retrospect this whole book is dripping with late 70s musty bullshit, but there’s a fucking charm to that. Like a racist uncle telling war stories, or a tramp necking a bottle of cider. It’s wrong and it’s not clever but shit, you’re consuming it ain’t cha? The gruffness and attempted machismo kind of works, especially if you grew up in the aftermath of VHS 80’s crapathons.
There’s a bit of bother surrounding the Queen and her bellend uncle Edward.
Doesn’t look good, does it? It’s not quite cricket, although the Queen is not in the docks over this. She was six years old. Her mother and uncle, however, are a different story.
Naturally, this scoop has prompted a bit of discussion. The Guardian have come out in defence of the Sun, which is possibly even more curious than the photo itself. The Sun reckon they’ve performed an actual feat of Journalism, which probably makes it the first they’ve managed this decade at least.
Thing is, I agree with them. This stuff is important. Many have seen this as an easy opportunity to attack the Sun for sensationalism, and lord knows they deserve it as often as it can be thrown at them. This time though, they’ve done something that has some value. It is important to put it into context.
The Queen’s age, the history of Edward, the relationship between the old blue blood of Europe and the rise of the Nazis. All of it very interesting stuff. Time for a history lesson.
GERMAN ROYALS FUCKING THEIR COUSINS
The Queen’s family were part of a web of aristocratic, autocratic rulers with tentacles across Europe and beyond. From the time of Charles Martell, and later Charlemagne (Or Karl De Grosse, depending on what side of the French/German border you grew up on) Europe’s noble houses had been intermingling, marrying off their sons and daughters to each other much as royal families throughout history have been wont to do.
Charlie Big Dog, first Roman Emperor of Europe since the last ones.
The idea being to build alliances, secure dynasties and neutralise opposition. Naturally this led to some Ancient Egypt style complications, and despite what the portraits would have you believe most of these chaps were born with serious genetic problems. Fucking your cousins and sisters over an extended period of time leads to things like impotence, difficulty conceiving, fucked up mutant children and kings and queens who looked like this:
After the execution of Charles I, England became the first state in Europe to have it’s first and only proper, modern revolution. Cromwell won the civil war, fucked Parliament about and was reluctantly declared Lord Protector. After his son proved to be nowhere near as ballsy, Parliament decided they’d had their fun and had won enough concessions, and that England didn’t particularly work without a Monarch even though they had no intention of handing over real power.
The next few Monarchs had a problem securing legitimate heirs that Parliament grokked. Eventually a second, more benign revolution (at least for the English, anyway) gave way-The Glorious Revolution-and we imported William of Orange and his wife Mary, to rule together as joint Monarchs. William and Mary were too busy fucking up Ireland and being big fat protestants to bother to get with the makey-make, so when they died off Mary’s sister Anne took over. She too was awful at stopping her children from dying (she had 17 miscarriages/stillborn/sickly to death young’ins), so the tenuous English/Scots line died out.
Parliament still wanted a King. They brought in George of the House of Hanover, a proper teutonic dandy who ruled over a Duchy in what is now Germany. See there were absolutely loads of countries/states in what we now think of as Germany, most of them divvied up according who who was fucking which cousin. George had another George (the last fully card carrying German king of England and Scotland and Wales), who had another George. George 3: The Georgening is the one who famously went start raving bonkers and used to take governmental advice from a tree in his garden.
From the famous film, King George is a Looney
He had another George, and a William. George mark 4 was a right wrongun, spending his time following the accession to the throne getting fucked up on Laudanum (known to you and I as smack, horse, skag, the crazy world of Arthur Brown). He had one child legitimate child, who died, leaving the throne to his brother William. William was another wrong’un, and he too left no kids that the hoity-toity types felt comfortable sticking a crown on. You see, it didn’t count unless you came from a line of fucked up, inbred mental Germans.
The throne passed to Williams’ niece, a young lady named Victoria. Victoria’s mother was yet another imported German princess, who had married her imported German father. Victoria married-you guessed it-her German cousin, Albert. They had fucking loads of kids. Victoria was so good at carrying through with this pregnancy lark that she became known as the mother of Europe, her inbred kids doing backflips over family trees and marrying all the way to Russia. Victoria’s kids and grand kids became kings and consorts in Germany (now united, GULP), Russia, Belgium, all over. Name a posh twat on a throne and chances are at some point it was down to somebody crawling out of Victoria. This was a new house, the House of Saxe-Coburge-Gotha.
EDWARD THE SCOUNDREL
George V ended up having to formally change the name, because he’d found himself in a bit of a war with his cousins. In fact, at the funeral of George’s uncle Edward the future belligerents were all sitting amongst each other, calling each other pet names and imagining which fucked up mental future cousin they’d send their sons and daughters off to marry.
They settled on the House of Windsor, because it sounded English or something. When George died, the throne passed to his son, a total rotter who took the name William. If it’s not enough fucking your cousins until children are born inside out, the key to being a proper European monarch is to recycle names as though there are only a dozen to choose from. Edward was a shagger, and got himself in all kinds of bother with the upper classes and politicians and other royal families of Europe, because whilst the act itself was expected the publicity itself was becoming harder and harder to contain. Edward thought of himself as a modern type, had scant regard for traditions and loved fucking married women who compromised any semblance of hanging on to the idea of a divinely appointed ruler.
It came to a head when Edward decided he wanted to marry Wallace Simpson, an American divorcee socialite. It was decided by and large that such a thing was not cricket, and Edward created his own legend by abdicating the throne in favour of his brother, so that he could live the life of a dilletant with Simpson in Europe and beyond.
HITLER AND THE ROYAL FAMILIES OF EUROPE
I’ve already exhausted your patience, so I won’t go into what everyone knows. Hitler was a bastard, he connived his way to the chancellorship in the wake of the vacuum of hard power in Germany following the great depression.
At this time Fascism was incredibly fashionable with the elites of Europe. Paranoid ever since the French Revolution, and doubly so following the rise of the Communist party in Russia, many of the blue blood grandchildren and great grandchildren of Victoria saw Fascism as the logical vehicle to restore their former glory, disavowed by the masses following the advent of electricity, running water and the unimaginable upheaval of the first world war.
Everyone was to blame for the weakening of power of the Germanic cousin fuckers, except for the cousin fuckers themselves. It was merchants, bankers, foreigners (chortle), gays, the disabled, communists and proto communists BUT ESPECIALLY jews.
Hitler’s rise to power came on a wave of Europe wide anti-semitism. In Britain, Oswald Mosely and the Daily Mail’s owner lord Rothermere had a serious hard-on for Hitler’s bad boys. Britain too was weakened severely following the first World War, and Edward and his chums held onto a hope that possibly the changing tides on the mainland would eventually filter through to England, putting him at the head of a Fascist government supported by grand blue blood aristocratic bastards.
The Daily Mail, telling the truth for once.
Hitler was canny enough to make friends with the Germanic cousin fuckers of Europe. Whilst Hitler was a maniac, desperate for power and unwilling to cede anything to anybody else, he actually had a huge hard-on for old school German cousin fucking purity himself. His powerbases were often not the everyday, average Nazi party member but the former aristocrats looking to drag their family lines into the future. Naturally, he struck up a great friendship with Edward, and was sympathetic toward his designs on being a fascist leader in England. Various plots where struck up over the years, involving Mosely and Rothermere and others.
Not-King-Edward and Adolf Bumhole
Nazi and Fascist bastardry was no secret. At the same time the Queen was heiling as a child in the gardens of Balmoral, Churchill was delivering speeches like this, having turned his invective from Communists and Indians towards a more immediate threat (and opportunity, for him at least)- Nazi Germany.
Much of the reaction today has been along the lines of ‘Well nobody knew then about the concentration camps and the evilness and just how much of an absolute parody the Nazis would become’. This is bollocks. People knew fine well what they were up to. People agreed. Not just in secret, but openly, at least up until the declaration of war against Nazi Germany. The old families of Europe, especially, sought to exploit fascism for what it is- a means of controlling the proles, while securing all the goodies for the land owning classes, and doing so with impunity. Much the same as it was back when they were at the height of their cousin fucking, except industrialised on a scale unimaginable to anybody except Mad George of the consulting tree.
THE QUEEN IS ALRIGHT THOUGH
But the Queen? The little one heiling to the camera? She done good. She didn’t expect to ever become Monarch. During the blitz, she drove firetrucks and ambulances around London. She lived through the war and set the tone of history in it’s wake, becoming one of the few non-bastards of her lineage. She’s lived through an unprecedented era of peace in Europe, and most importantly perhaps, made a big effort to stop her children and their children from fucking their German cousins.
EDWARD CONTINUED TO BE A BASTARD
After the war, Edward was resigned to just being an old racist, seething at his foppish racist reputation being superceded by the the Queen’s husband Prince Philip. Here he is with America’s arch bastard, Richard Nixon, looking exactly the same as all his cousins did and still do when they get old.
Writers are like fucked up magpies. We’re strange people, we ask strangers strange questions and we’re constantly on the look out for interesting shit to think about, then write about. A huge part of this gig is being active and aware. Everyone thinks they have at least one story in them, right? I’d be surprised to find somebody who hasn’t at least thought of one thing that they want to write into a novel or tv show or film.
These ideas are usually high concept. A perfect example; at a recent writer’s meet-up I attended, an old dude was talking about having started writing four years ago. He has an idea, a word he seeded with mystical intonation. Problem is he can’t get past the first chapter. Why? His idea is a conspiracy. The conspiracy began 14,000 years ago. He has too much backstory to wade through, or so he says.
The real problem? He doesn’t have an idea for a story. He’s got a sequence of events in his head that he thinks sound pretty cool. Hey, that’s where it starts for most of us. We think of something that we want to read, and we stick it in the cranial slow cooker for untold time until one day it all makes perfect sense.
Problem is, it never just happens to make perfect sense. When my old beginner-writer colleague sits down to write, he has no idea where to go, because he’s never thought of how the idea translates to a story.
IDEAS ARE THE FIRST DOMINO
So, you’ve been outside for the first time in months. The apartment is beginning to creep you out, it smells like dog and you do not have a dog, the kettle has begun to shout at you and the internet has switched off in the dead of night. You decide to go for a walk, and at some point you begin to people watch. You notice something about what they’re doing, you overhear a conversation and BOOM. Your brain has handed you a little present. That’s a cool idea, brain. I wonder what I can do with it, can it stretch out into 90,000 words of a novel?
No, it can’t. Chances are somebody has already thought of that shit, too. So what should you do? Should you just pack it up and park it in the corner of your memory, to be revisited hazily at moments when you regret your entire life and the unfulfilled potential you once had?
Fuck that. Write your shit down. Doesn’t matter what depth you do it to. Make a note that makes sense to you about the important aspects of your idea. Dwell on that shit. Let it percolate for a day, a week at most. Next, we’re going to turn that idea into something useful.
MIND MAP THAT MOTHERFUCKER
Get yourself an app to make mind maps on your phone. Take that note you made earlier then start bouncing around, extrapolating from it. What’s the history of it? Why are you interested? What are the problems and positives of writing an idea from that premise?
Mind maps are not just for schooldays revision, or wanky meetings at work about synergy and low hanging fruit. No, mind maps are mana from heaven for a writer. They show you how you think. They visualise the process of peeling back the layers of a concept, showing you the web of connections that has convinced your brain that this is something you’d be interested in hearing about.
When mind mapping, there are things you need to think about, and ask yourself.
-What are the themes here? Is it a morality tale?
-Where is this taking place?
-What would happen if I took this in a completely different direction?
-What does it remind me of? Is it Nightmare on Elm Street meets the Tellytubbies? Rambo in space? Smashing familiar concepts together at an early stage can help you solidify a direction to take this thing
Once you’re three layers deep into the mind map, and you’ve covered a half dozen items or so, let it rest. It needs to cool down a little.
THERE ARE NO ORIGINAL IDEAS. ORIGINAL STORIES COME FROM CHARACTERS.
We have a cool idea. It now has a little context. We’ve created a mini universe centred on one concept that our mind can quarry. This is often the stage where people get stuck. How do you take it further?
Don’t start plotting out a sequence of events. This is the time to think of some characters. Give them names, personalities. Make them want something. Make them different enough so that if they’d ever meet, they would be suspicious of each other. Starting from your idea, think about what lives they might lead that would be changed the most by coming into contact with Freddy Tubby or Space Rambo. Now send them to work. Send them to their mom’s at christmas. Send them to church. Send them to a sex party. Now your idea is a chrysalis. It’s changing into something else, energised by the context and the people.
START AN OUTLINE
Now we’re going to take that idea, the context and those people and we’re going to make them do things. We’re going to put them in trouble, of their own making. Then it’s going to get worse. Then they’re going to change too, because of how their wants and needs relate to the idea from the very beginning. They’re going to fight over it, or it’s going to cause them to fall in love, or whatever. This is, at a very basic level, how you take something from an idea and make it into something that other people may want to read.
Horror fiction is dead, they say. Horror writers! You’re wasting your time, boys and girls. Folks are full of Zombies and Vampires, nobody gives a fuck anymore, it has all been done to death, yadayadayada.
Well, smarty pants business human majority, I put it to you that you’re full of shit. I’ve looked into my bowl full of quail bones and I’ve seen the future. I’ve read the twitters, I’ve scanned the bloggeral, and I’ve done the sums on the amazons.
HORROR IS FOR THE YOUNG
Why is that so many of us cut our teeth writing spooky stories? Why does nothing scratch an itch like a good horror flick? Why do I look for Candyman in my toilet even though he comes out of a mirror?
My extensive, thorough, double blind anecdotal research has led to an interesting conclusion. I put it to you that new writers of fiction LOVE writing horror. I argue from atop this pedestal that Horror is the perennial genre fiction flavor, that it’s about to undergo a huge resurgence and that the backlash against nicey nice mainstream fiction is already bubbling under.
The reason? Young people, duh. You remember being a kid? What exactly is it about being a kid that you remember so vividly. Is it the ice creams? Sure, you remember it being fun and all but you’ll be fucked if you go for detail. Is it the cuddles, the parties? Vague snapshot flashes blurred through years of binge drinking and over sleeping.
No, the things you remember with the most precision, the most clarity, are the things that terrified you. The time that dog growled at you for no good reason. Being left alone on your first day of school. A bigger kid starting rumours that he was going to beat the shit out of you. Nightmares that you’re still not sure were not real events, the UFOs you thought you saw. These things, real and imagined, are burned into your visual memory and neural networks, canals and valleys cut through flabby grey matter like the remains of lava flow.
WE WRITE TO EVOKE TERROR BECAUSE TERROR WAS EVOKED WITHIN US
I’ve just described some standard things that almost everybody can relate to, but the reason that some of us are pushed so far as to write horror is that the memories are only a part of it. Being a kid is all about not understanding stuff-and to go further-not believing stuff. When you’re all growed up into a big person, the stuff you don’t believe becomes the nonsensical, the fantastical. When you’re a kid the stuff you don’t believe is the stuff that’s right there in front of you. Why do you think toddlers ask why all the time? Why do you think I’m asking that? Why am I stuck in a loop of Whys? Because horror writing is the essence of that feeling, distilled.
The need to disbelieve is stoked by tales of the speculative and supernatural. Scary stories cut out that bullshit and speak to something deep within us, the all perceiving animal brain that operates on a binary basis of ‘FUCK THAT’ and ‘COOL SHIT, YO’. It’s already fully developed when we drop out of the womb, and friends and relatives and their creepy tales make it go ‘Mmm, yum yum. More Jungian tasty reactions for me, please’.
Kids like being scared. They want to think there is a monster under the bed, a big fucked up clown in the closet waiting to eat them. We spend most of our younger days being treated like fucking idiots, mainly because we are, but also because nobody wants anything to hurt us. They tell us scary stories as morality tales, with an incredibly simple moral- Be careful, otherwise things such as these may happen to you.
Our kid brain imaginations are the safe place to exercise this stuff, and it animates in irrational fears of stabby things and toothy bat folk.
When I was 9 or 10, I didn’t want to read young adult or kid’s books. Fuck no. I had this uncle, he was amazing. He’d sit me down, turn off the TV and tell me about the ghosts he’d seen. Straight up, serious, finger pointing stories about things that had followed him, things that had woken him up. He had fucking witnesses. I think I must have heard the same three or four stories thousands of times, but I loved it. I loved the sincerity in his voice. I loved the lingering fear in his eyes, the fact that his experiences of being a decade or so older than me had stayed with him to that day. Even as youngster I thought about how thrilling it would be to do the same thing with my kids, further down the line, and hoped to god I’d see a ghost or something to inspire the stories. If not I’d steal his, which is exactly what I have done for much of my better fiction. When I think of my childhood, this is what comes to mind immediately.
HORROR IS SUPERFOOD FOR DEVELOPING BRAINS
When it came to fiction, I picked up the stuff I wasn’t supposed to. I read Salem’s Lot at about the same time. It spoke to me, man. It knew me. It knew the town I grew up in, even though it was an Atlantic ocean and two decades in distance. It knew the adults in my life, it knew other people’s parents. It had me in the future, walking me in the present through a deadly and dangerous situation fraught with religion, betrayal, adultery and evil. It showed me the world of adults in the way that adults wouldn’t want me to see, and I fucking loved it. I finished that book on a boat, in the middle of the Carribean sea, moored up outside an old creepy whaling island that had a huge whale jaw bone erected at the port. I was terrified and enthralled. It was a mystical experience.
Whenever people ask me why I don’t try and write nice things, why I don’t like to focus replicating the reality of the world I grew up in, I point to that moment and the stories of my uncle. It’s who I was, and who I was is the primary reason behind who I am now. That, my friends, is the lingering presence of horror on the brain. It’s good for you.
STORIES ARE ABOUT CHARACTERS THAT CONNECT, CHARACTERS CONNECT THROUGH PITY AND FEAR
Go read a writing advice blog. Look for the character posts.They will invite you to create believable characters who make an emotional connection with the reader. Often they’ll tell you do to this by having the character make bad decisions. They’ll say a character’s arc is about escalation of tension, and that a story won’t work unless you’re invested in the outcome of that character’s decisions.
Why is this? I refer you to the god of writing, James Joyce. Joyce once wrote that the only genuine reactions you can invoke in a reader are pity and fear. Loving characters? Bullshit. You pity their circumstances and fear for them in times of peril. Guess what genre gives you free reign to do whatever the fuck you like? Horror, that’s what genre. HORROR IS THE ZOMBIE THAT REFUSES TO DIE, BECAUSE HORROR IS THE TRUTH
Why am I so certain that Horror is due a resurgence? There are a few reasons.
First, people like me. Kids who grew up in the aftermath of the horror boom of the 70’s and 80’s, who picked up dusty books on their parent’s shelves and read in secret. Who stumbled upon their cousins playing Atmosphere and freaking out at the cloaked dude on the VHS. People who have lived through the fifth or sixth extinction of popular supernatural fiction, and have grown to be adults in a world that has changed so rapidly and unexpectedly. A world where there are no more towns like Salem’s Lot, where nothing can be forgotten because everything is permanent and immutable and traceable.
It is oft’ claimed that you can’t do anything new in horror, and that is why it is dead. I say No! Wrongess! Horror is truth. There will always be new truths. Truths that lurk behind the things we’re not supposed to talk about with decent folk in public. The smoke behind the fire, the spark behind the rumours. New technology, new relationships, new taboos. New truths in all of them, about who we are, what we are for and what is to be done about it.
There is too much new in the world. People are changing, man. We’re becoming isolated and connected all at once. We know so much more about other people than we ever have done, what with the facebooking and the smartphones and the tinder. You know what? All that knowledge just raises more questions about each other. The validity, the quality of the truth. That’s just going to make people like me disbelieve all the more.
What do we do to express that disbelief? We invent spooky stories to freak the fuck out of the next generation, passing our brain scars down the line.