Also in town after my hearing aid fitting, I encounted a couple of Welsh speakers. A button on my hearing aid to translate Welsh into English would be a handy option. Are you listening, NHS? Do you have your listening aid switched on? Actually, a general babel-fish translator might eliminate a lot of problems. Wasn’t it Wittgenstein who said most of the world’s conflicts are caused by misinterpretation?
Archive for July, 2007
I’ve been fitted up. And about time I hear the chorus wail. At the local hospital today they reached the final stages of fitting two spanking new digital hearing aids for me. Now don’t feel sorry for me, I’m not deaf nor profoundly hard of hearing, just deaf enough in the higher frequencies to disable consonants. My audio nerve gave up on them 5 years ago and lower frequencies live in a bucket of cotton wool too. The hearing aids amplify all the frequencies necessary for me to hear human speech although consonants will always be a memory. It was like being wired for sound in a sci fi film. A humming (allegedly) computer had wires leading out to my ears and a fancy box with speakers and microphones. I didn’t have to say if I could hear sounds of different pitches this time. A speaker made lots of gurgling and clicking noises and my hearing aid fed it back to the computer. Adjustments by the rather attractive woman operaative then took out the echoes and tinny sounds to make people sound human again. She said: “I’m afraid it will make weird noises.”
Afterwards I said: “They weren’t strange noises, that was the Vega3 dialect of Klingon. They are invading on Saturday morning.” She smiled, as if I were a silly little boy – ho hum.
She instructed me how to use the three programmed settings on my hearing aids. Normal conversation but which will pick up background noises too – handy for listening out for the postman bringing that letter from a publisher with a contract. A setting without the background noise for when the pub is too raucous now people shout and sing instead of sucking on suicide sticks. And a T-switch for when I’m in the cinema or a bank begging for a loan. She said they welcome suggestions for other programmable buttons. I said it would be handy to have a telepathy button then so much less misunderstanding would follow and so less wars. She smiled again. I was going to ask for a no-complaining button but that’s hardly original.
Now of course I realise that clocks have annoying ticks, although the tocks are tolerable. I walked out of the hospitable with my free NHS state-of-art hearing aids and happened to be a few yards behind two pram-shoving women. I switched my hearing aid to cut out sideways extraneous noise and I found I could hear what they were saying quite clearly.
“And he said are you sure and I said why the hell not and he said but you wouldn’t last week so I said that was last week so he said…” I switched off both hearing aids. Hearing aids plugged in but switched off make excellent earplugs.
A consequence of hearing as good as I do know is that I talk quieter. Not that I realised my voice had been raised these last muffled five years, but now my wife keeps asking me to speak up. Either I’m now too quiet or she needs a hearing aid. Hey, love want a second-hand hearing air? Going cheap cheep.
Because of the short story sequel to my Escaping Reality novel has now been published in the anthology, Northern Lights, I decided to search in the northern England newspaper websites to see if it had a mention. My surname of Nelder is sufficiently unusual to use in such searches. So I fell over when reading the News & Star and finding a Mike Nelder was living and converting a sea-going tug in Maryport, the very town that my Escaping Reality is based on! Mike and I have now exchanged e-mails thanks to Dave at the News & Star who passed on my e-mail address. Mike’s tug is the flying buzzard, and he has a website here. I’m hoping to pop up to visit Mike and his boat before he sets sail for the Americas. We might be distantly related. Most of the Nelders in the UK seem to have roots in the 1600s in south west Britain.
I’ve finished the first draft of The Witch’s Alien short fantasy story. It’s been a blast to write. I’ve printed and put it away for a while before hacking into it with a more critical eye. In the meantime I’m knocking off a few more.
I nearly launched myself into the first writing of my Xaghra’s Revenge fantasy but decided to indulge in some fantasy short stories to limber up. Sometimes ideas for stories pop out of nowhere but now and then a title comes first. With my memory being more leaky than a British summer, I’d forgotten where it came from but the title: Witch’s Alien stuck with me as a hook for a curious tale. It could be read in several ways, though it is tricky to do so upside down. So far, I have a post-apocalyptic Britain and the community NHS in the hands of a witch, whose familiar is rather odd.
Speaking of odd, I only noticed in today’s Tour de France that none of the riders sported tattoos. The winner today is only 24-year-old Linus Gerdemann – well done that man! So many of the riders are of the clubbing generation where a tattoo doesn’t mean you’ve been to prison or the navy as it does for my age. Some body art tattoos are wonderful and only one person stops me having erotic art on my upper arm. That the professional cyclists seem not to have tattoos is probably a fashion statement but I wondered if it went further. Is there a toxicity issue when the tattoo inks mix with embrocation oils? Or do the cycling rules disallow the tattooing of a go-faster stripe? aahh.
I had a terrible nightmare last night. My E-mail inbox bulged as normal, and I manually shifted the scamspam into the void. So whizzed away went adverts for enlarged body parts, reduced body parts, fortunes to be made from a long lost great uncle in Nigeria from whom I inherited 50 million pounds, softare I can’t live without, and incredible share deals I really must go for. Before I woke up, another E-Mail arrived from a trusted cousin. I really had inherited a fortune from an obscure Nigerian uncle, but… I’d not responded to the solicitor in time so it defaulted to the government. They spent it on a party for Michael Jackson. Ho hum.
I have an apology to make. I took the wrong Tesco trolley. The fault lies in my distaste of written lists. Consequently, as I approach the entrance to the supermarket, my head has the only compilation of consumables the Nelder household cannot live without. The problem is that as soon as I enter the retail portal my brain dances to the inane musak and glaring lights forcing me to seek exits. So, I do the trolley dash, tearing up and down the aisles hurling essential life-support goods into the chrome before my memory cell drains completely. So what were these pork sausages doing alongside the netted oranges and pears I thought I put in minutes before? As a veggie I’d never be an accomplice to murder. Only when my omnivorous wife is shopping with me does my trolley discover it has a plastic covered sanitised organic ham, hidden under the sugar-free washing powder. I cannot return the trolley because I’ve already deleted my route. However, I follow a grid search and discover my forlorn trolley. I furtively glance around for a sad man or woman, desperate for their sausages but they must be at the entrance. They’ve either alerted the Tesco Law & Order on a search and destroy mission, or they’ve restarted their shopping. So apologies to the owners of, let’s see: the Daily Mail (no loss, it has no news); tuna “natural” cat food (as if cats used to go deep sea fishing before humans came along and said aahh); coffee cream biscuits (good choice. I haven’t seen those for years and sure enough the shelf had none); family pack of condoms (isn’t that an oxymoron? Extra tickle? I can’t remember but they made me laugh); and extra extra expensive cherries. So if you recognise your shopping, I apologise again. I wish I’d transferred those coffee creams.
I note that NASA recently received a 116-page report urging them to look for extraterrestial life that isn’t necessarily similar to life on Earth. They needed telling? Ask any science fiction reader or writer about what life could be like on Planet X and you’ll be regaled with tales of life formed around silicon, sulphur, gases, magnetic fields, the aether (whatever you want that to be), photons, gravitons, positrons, and any-other-ons. The film makers of such classics as Star Wars and Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe created comical bizarre aliens, but watch any Nature program about life in deep oceans and there is nothing weirder than reality. Bear in mind, too, that the most unbelievable green-spotted translucent bug-eyed monster on Earth is related to you. We, along with amoeba, all use DNA to encode information via four pairs of chemcial compounds called nucleotides. So if a similar building block can produce such a disparity of life, what would life be like based on dark matter, or sound waves?
I’ve been sloshing through the rain on my long walks, and wellied bike rides, thinking of how to start my fantasy Xaghra’s Revenge. Action takes place early on in contemporary Paris, and in 16th century Gozo. The most shocking event takes place in 1551 when the pirate Rais Dragut abducts around 5000 people from Gozo, so logically and on the principal of kicking off with a literary hook, at least the prologue should involve a gripping bloodcurling anxious experience of an abductee. Or maybe, for a change, I should show the event from the point of view of one of the pirates? And not the chief one, Dragut. Or from an abducted person, but not the lady of the Governor – so many historical fiction books have the main characters as the nobility and not the common folk. There is a good reason for that. Most readers read to escape their ordinary lives and look in a book to experience the unusual. They don’t want a book about themselves. Or do they?
Whichever historical character I work through it can’t be doubted that decisions made by the nobility and chiefs affect everyone including the ditch clearer and quarryman as well as princes and the Knights of St John. So, I staggered home yesterday from the library with their biggest book on the Ottoman Empire and specifically, Suleiman the Magnificent. There’s very little published on Rais Drugut himself, unless I learn Italian or Arabic, so that will shorten my research time! I know I prefer to base my fiction on authenticity but I’m perfectly happy to fill the accuracy gaps with my imagination.
I was delighted to see our Northern Lights anthology being featured in the Cumbrian press. So, good for the Northwest Evening Mail and Gladys and Bob, whose photos as chief editors, adorn the article see here Grab yourself a copy of Northern Lights with Les Floyd’s gem of an adult fairy tale, Barnsley Bear, and a plethora of poems and stories of Ulverston and the North of England. The volume may be obtained here. And it contains my short story sequel to Escaping Reality. I’m really proud to inhabit this slim book – and the cover art is really cool.
It was great to see the BBC correspondant, Alan Johnston, freed today in Gaza after nearly 4 months. He describes his captivity as like being ‘buried alive’ and he daren’t listen too much to promises made for fear of the disappointment being worse. He’d been chained sometimes for more than 24 hours. With real life horror – even with a good outcome – it is harder for us writers to focus on creating fictional horror! I am really pleased for Alan and his family, but would be even more delighted if all those thousands held hostage in Iraq and elsewhere were also released. Most are innocent civilians grabbed at work or in their homes, often by gangs demanding unrealistic release-money – not from big organisations like the BBC but impoverished families.
Now I’ve finished the first draft of Exit, Pursued by a Bee, and eagerly stretching my fingers to start Xaghra’s Revenge, I should knock off a few short stories. I have a file of ideas, and while walking to town yesterday I overheard a conversation that inspired another one. Sometimes you can sit and think of new ideas for stories but usually they come in a flash often by accident. For example the Ghost before he died short that recently was accepted by La Fenetre mazazine came from a misheard phrase in a phone call. I can’t tell you the idea that popped in yesterday or you’d write it while I’m finishing this off!
While writing a couple of short stories I am starting to look for markets for the Exit novel. At 86k words it isn’t too long for a publisher to slip it in between their major bestsellers, surely? So any publisher or agent watching who’d like to see a hard sci fi novel with innovative quantum mechanics time dechoherences used as alien communications, just give me a call.
I note that it is the 70th anniversary of the Roswell incident in New Mexico according to the Logan Library in Brisbane, Australia. Do I hear you cough? Yes I thought 2007 minus 1947 was only 60 years too. Ho hum. A bit of Oz time travelling. However, Logan library redeem themselves by inviting the excellent and creative Stargate SG-1 novel writer Sonny Whitelaw along to talk about her new book which uses Roswell with the Stargate characters – brilliant. Watch out for the sound effects for it here.