The OMP is a multi faceted thing and while the charity aspects are the most prominent, its also a book full of great stories of varying genres. Over a bunch spread out blog posts I’ll be telling you a bit about the stories, starting with the first two.
Story number One is by Dan Impossible and also has an impossibly long title – STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE. Actually the original and intended title was even longer – STOP ME IF YOU THINK YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE. I had to shorten that on the print version for editing/aesthetic purposes.
In my introduction to the story in the collection, I sum up why I chose Dan’s story as the opener – ‘Short, sharp, snappy and clever.’ This is a tale of time travel (a favourite sci-fi concept of mine) but not presented in the usual way. You won’t find any blue boxes, adventures in the past and future … or even any actual time travel! The time traveller himself – one Jelly, by name, is giving an interview – he talks about time travel, paradoxes and even parallel universes.
‘Jelly was a dangerous man to have the gift of time travel. Nobody that impulsive should ever have the ability to go from one time to another, but Jelly did. He had seen the past and he had seen the future. He’d seen them with his own eyes, lived in each of them in turn. He had straddled time like a whore with dislocated hips and he was unsure as to which of the two was worse. I know this because he told me. Eventually. But first I had questions. So many questions and so little …
‘Time’, said Jelly as he pointed to a picture on the wall of his East London flat. ‘Time is … complicated.’
Dan’s protagonist has done and seen a lot – he’s stolen famous art work (replaced with forgeries), seen hat wearing goldfish the size of men and had sex with Marilyn Monroe, among other abuses of his ability.
‘He had owned everything there was to own at one point or another – he’d amassed great wealth and lost it so many times that the very idea of ownership held no meaning whatsoever. Jelly was everything that anyone could hope to be. He had fucked his way through time and made a Messiah of himself in the process. Jelly was Jesus Christ. He was Elvis. He was Charlemagne.’
This was a very different take on time travel to many I’ve read – mature, immature, irreverent, deep, shallow and complex. I hope Dan writes more with this character – it’s certainly a unique take.
Story Number Two is SLICE OF LIFE, which is one of mine.
I wrote eleven out of the twenty four stories and also put the collection together – one important facet of that was to decide story order. Slice was chosen as the second story for several reasons – firstly because it wasn’t a comedy. I do a lot of comedy and light stories so I wanted my first entry to be more serious and literary, based on the assumption that if I started with comedy, I might be ‘typecast’ as ‘the funny guy,’ and I wanted to show straight off that I could do a lot more than that.
In fact, up until this point and with certain big exceptions (my novel FOREVER TORN) I mostly did comedy, sci-fi and fantasy writing. In a way Slice and one or two others in the collection were the start of me really branching out and experimenting in other forms, types and genres. With Slice, I challenged myself to write something grounded and real – I think I succeeded but would love to know your thoughts.
Slice of Life does exactly what it says on the tin – it presents slices of life. There are ten characters who live and work in or around a council estate in London or the home counties. I keep the location slightly vague but there are clues in the text, although this may not be immediately obvious as the first two characters are a Northern woman and a guy from Scotland.
Slice takes a slightly cinematic approach – imagine the camera on our first character (Enid) – it follows her and then she meets character number two (Ross) – focus then shifts to Ross and follows him – he then meets a third character and the focus shifts again, through ten characters in all.
This is a visual technique I use loosely in a lot of my writing – literally imagining my story playing out as if on film, in my mind – in Slice it’s much more tighter and becomes part of the layout of the story.
There are four pieces of amazing art to be found in the download, by the talented Renata Kopac, who rendered 5 characters/scenes (Enid, Ross, Samantha, John and Michelle) in their full painted glory.
Here is an excerpt from the story.
‘Ray lived on the north side on the 14th floor and Rakim and Matthew were downstairs on the 3rd and 7th. He saw them home and walked slowly up, shaking his head.
Things had been very tense lately around the flats and the greater estate. Seven years ago when Ray had been eleven and he had moved in with his mum and gran, they hadn’t been much better but recently the bigotry and hate seemed to be getting out of control.
Ray and Rakim had been friends since school and now they hung out together with a few other black and Asian kids, mostly for protection; around here if you weren’t protected you were in trouble and it wasn’t just race hate. Them two gay lads Stephen and Michael had been found badly beaten last month and their openness was obviously the reason.
The irony is that there was not a competing gang of black youths dealing drugs on the estate. Everything was controlled by Danny H and this wasn’t the first time they had, had to go and get him to get his old man to back off.
Danny would help, he hoped. Danny always said that hate between the races around here was bad for business and he had a no exclusion policy – when it came to dealing drugs, Danny Junior believed in equality and he didn’t care if you were white, black or purple – if you had money, you could purchase his product and that same philosophy extended to hiring youths around the estate to work for him.
Of course Danny Senior had a blinkered view and nobody could convince him that his darling son was the major dealer around here (Big Danny Henshaw admitted only that young Danny sold a bit of weed mostly to mates and that was ok as lads would be lads) and he was convinced that a mythical black and Asian gang peppered by Polish immigrants had been stealthily over-running the area and turning it into a cess pool.
The truth was it had always been a cess pool but most of the residents lived blinkered lives and wouldn’t admit that to anyone least of all themselves.
As for Ray, yeah he dealt some weed – he had to. Otherwise Rakim and the others wouldn’t hang with him and that would leave him exposed and alone. He refused to advance to harder drugs though and even what he was doing now wouldn’t be forever.
Ray was taking some college classes and pinning his future hopes on good grades. He desperately needed the scholarship he was working towards. If he got a uni place far from here, he could turn his life around and get a good job. Then he would come back for one brief instance – just long enough to move his mum and his gran out of the flats and into the new place he would buy them.
When Ray turned his key in the door, his grandma Florence opened her eyes and breathed a sigh of relief that her boy was back home, safe and sound. Another day survived.
Early on Monday morning Florence started her week in her usual manner.
She was up at 6:30am and dressed by quarter to in an orange and brown florally dress, covered over by a red cardigan that had been a cherished possession since her daughter in law Lisa had bought it last year for her 67th birthday.
Kneeling by her bed and facing the white ‘ivory’ cross edged with ‘gold’ Florence began her daily prayer, shifting her eyes from time to time from the cross to the small porcelain figurine of Mother Mary holding the baby Jesus. She liked to start her day looking into the sympathetic eyes of the blessed virgin – in some small way she drew strength from the gaze as if the real Mary and baby Jesus were with her through her travails.
A little after seven, having prayed for her poor dead son, her daughter in law and her beloved grandson as well as the souls of all the sinners on the estate, Florence, a plump but not fat woman, none-the-less feeling the weight of her years, struggled to rise from her kneeling position.
She sat on her small bed puffing with the effort and took some more time to regain her breath before the first chores of the day; Florence liked to tidy up the evenings mess so everything was perfectly spotless for her family in the morning. By the time they emerged at around 8am, it would be to the cheering smells of frying and hot coffee.
Suddenly her mind took her back to the old days, when breakfast would hardly stretch between Papa and Maman and her eight siblings, not to mention Grand’Mere and Uncle Sebastian. As bad as some aspects of life in the autumn of her years could be, at least they weren’t hungry – not like back home growing up in the slums of Cap-Hatien.
It was a hard life back then but it could be beautiful too. Glorious sunshine ruled her memories though of course the rains and the winds and the occasional hurricane were there too, edited out in the fondness of recollection until she reminded herself of the worse parts. That scenery though – whenever young Florence felt hunger and despair, she would take herself on long walks along the northern coast of Haiti to either side of the city and she would thank the almighty for his bountiful creation and the beauty of nature.
Eventually though, the beauty and warmth of home could not make up for the feeling of hunger in your belly and clothes turning to rags on your back. Disease ran rampant through the slums and took her brother Albert and her baby sister Sally. So finally when Grand’Mere died of natural causes, Papa had said Enough’ and he had told them of a life of opportunity in a far of land where they would never starve again.’
Thank you for reading – look out for the next blog in this series.