Three-minute Flash Fiction.

Following delivery at Alt.Fiction, here is the three-minute piece I wrote for the open mic panel.

Mr Ipkiss, and the monkey who poops pomegranates

“I’m so glad you could come, Stanley.”

The man’s name was Ipkiss, according to the nameplate on his desk, and Stanley was so overcome by the strangeness of him that he had quite forgotten about his toothache. There was nothing spare about the man, as if all the excess that could afflict a human being had been winnowed clear. He put Stanley in mind of a stalk of wheat, albeit a giant, talking one that was standing over him wearing a look of polite apprehension.

“I’m…glad I could make it?”

It was, apparently, the correct response, as Mr Ipkiss clapped his hands together in satisfaction.

“Excellent, Stanley. Quite excellent. Now, if I might trouble you with a question, do you know what we do here at the office of fair trades?”

“You throw the book at shopkeepers who fiddle their books?”

“Ha!” said Mr Ipkiss. “The book! That’s very good, but not quite it. We at the OFT are concerned with maintaining balance.”

“Like a bank balance?”

“More universal, but essentially, yes. We work very hard – strive, one might say – to keep the natural accounts of our world in the black.”

Whatever it meant, he sounded very passionate. Stanley wondered how far it was to the door. “That sounds…complicated,” he said.

“It is, Stanley. I agree. Sometimes the fate of everything can depend on one small item. Empires have crumbled on the turn of a playing card. Imagine the chaos that could result from a single, tiny seed.”

“A seed?”

“Yes, Stanley. The seed that’s stuck between your teeth right now has a destiny, and we’ve asked you in to help us realise it.”

“Well, I was going to see the dentist…”

“Oh, there’s no need.”

A strong, long-fingered hand gripped Stanley’s jaw, expertly popping his mouth open. He jerked in surprise, trying to come to his feet, but discovered he was unable to move. As his head was tilted back, a pair of gentle, simian eyes met his own.

“I’d like you to meet Charlie,” Mister Ipkiss said. “He’s one of our agents in the office.”

Charlie the monkey reached into his open mouth. There was a strong tingling sensation and a twist, and as quickly as the operation had begun, Stanley found it was over. He prodded weakly around the inside of his mouth, expecting to find a gap. Instead, the tooth had been replaced, and the ache was gone.

The monkey hopped onto the desk, popped the seed into its mouth, and appeared to swallow. Stanley found his voice.

“All that for a monkey to swallow it?”

“Ah yes, well, normally, of course, we grow our fruit, but in this case expediency demands a different course.”

A burbling gastric rearrangement rang out from the belly of Charlie the monkey. There was a moment of tremendous, terrible pressure, of expansion and release, followed by a thud as something round, dark, and ripe landed on the desk. Mister Ipkiss produced a handkerchief and moved deftly to sweep it up, before presenting it to Stanley with infinite courtesy. Foolishly, Stanley accepted, and was treated to a sensation he would never forget; the warm, tacky weight of a freshly-laid pomegranate, heavy against his palm.

“Thank you again, Stanley,” Mister Ipkiss said. “It’s been an absolute pleasure. I’d shake your hand but-” he cast a look at Stanley’s hands, “-well, you understand.”

 

 

Alt.Fiction 2012

I have a special place in my heart for Alt.Fiction. It was the first con I ever went to when I decided that I was a) sick to the back teeth of simply walking into bookshops and trying to psychically divine what books I should buy and b) sorely confused about what the hell I was doing with regards to the desire to write things and have people other than my brother read them.

It was very hard going, that first con. I don’t think I talked to a single soul for the first three hours after arrival until I finally recognised someone from an internet forum and then trailed in her very understanding wake for the rest of the event.* I did, as hard as it was to get started, enjoy myself immensely and resolved to keep coming along to events like it.

My con experience had changed somewhat in the two years since.

I think Alt.Fiction has been the first con I’ve been to where I have managed to miss every single panel. I did make a determined effort to attend the New Writer’s panel, but due to space issues it was not to be. Other than that, almost every single moment of my weekend was spent talking to people and having a great time doing it. This is not a criticism of the con and the content of the programme; it just turns out that’s the kind of person I am. I perpetually found myself either catching up with people I knew, getting to know better people I had kind of met before, and meeting entirely new people altogether. Since it’s a fairly small convention and a fairly small space, the event and the venue were perfect for doing just that.

I made a resolution a while back to deliberately not talk about my own writing at cons, if only to avoid the “please don’t pitch at me” look that crosses the faces of other con-goers (particularly industry professionals), although I’m now beginning to think that it may need some revision. One of the high points of my convention was being introduced to Ken MacLeod, who I am an enormous fan of and was struggling to think of things to say to for fear of going “you know what, I read Learning the World so many times that the book fell to bits and I had to buy another copy”. Having overheard me talking to Anne Lyle about writing, he asked what I was working on. Lacking anyone else nearby to high five about this, I found myself blathering through the world concept for Gunslinger Symphony without ever getting to the point of the story. Way to go, I thought, but no damage seemed done.  I think there’s something exciting enough about the words “frontier scientist” that it can survive two minutes of ill-thought blather.

I would like to say I improved after that, but really I didn’t. Anyone who asked about my writing rode out the ensuing blast of interesting but not entirely necessary guff about science communications on a wave of their own patience and goodwill towards me. It occurred to me later I should really take a leaf out of Tom Pollock’s book – not literally, of course – as he was able to talk in a very engaging, passionate, and direct way about his book (and the one after) that made me a) want to read it immediately and b) grind my teeth into dust out of sheer envy. Ironically, he did go on to talk about the Long Price Quartet, and asked if I knew the feeling you get when you read or talk to another author and their ideas just make you feel insanely inadequate and jealous at the same time. “It’s not just you,” I said.

I took part in a lunchtime flash fiction reading, which I thought went rather well. I came up with the title back at the SFX Weekender, where I suggested to Lou Morgan that three minutes is not enough time to tell a full story, and that the build of tension could be faked by frontloading a scene with a squick-inducing title that doesn’t pay off until the very, very end. Thus, Mister Ipkiss and the monkey who poops pomegranates, was born – a tale in which everyone is waiting with bated breath for the moment when a primate shits fruit. It worked, kind of, and I was glad I chose it over the other, more meta effort that was a bank robbery told in real time called, unsurprisingly, Three-minute bank job blues.**

Adele and the rest of the team behind the convention deserve massive congratulations for the event. I think they pulled off pretty much exactly the right mixture of space to event to attendance that meant as an attendee I always felt busy and never felt as though I was missing out. I spent the weekend with some incredibly enthusiastic and interesting people, and have come away from it feeling charged up and even more excited about the world of SF/F than ever before.***

I would love to mention people specifically, but I just can’t. I’d be at this keyboard until Wednesday. Please, go to my twitter feed @mygoditsraining, go into my “following” tab and just start following people. They are all there, they are all genuine, excellent people, they are all worth talking to and getting to know and if you ever find yourself at a table with one or more of them you will never be disappointed in the conversation.

 

*There is a Swedish phrase for people like this. It translates to “goldfish poop”. Apt, if you’ve ever seen a goldfish poop.

**I blame Cowboy Bebop for the repeated occurrence of (NOUN) (MUSICAL TERM) titles.

***Although after two late, late nights on the trot I now have a sinus headache that has put me on the couch with a duvet and the curtains drawn. Enthusiasm has its limits.

Alt.Ficion, Mexico’s Premier SF/F convention

Last year, I decided that I was fed up – sick to the back teeth – of not actually knowing anyone else who writes (or tries to write) genre fiction, or even reads genre fiction.  To that end, I swallowed my terrible nervousness at the prospect of introducing myself to people and having nothing to say after that point and signed up to go to Alt.Fiction.

In my mind, it could have gone either way. What I didn’t count on was the community being completely receptive to the prospect of people who just rock up and say “hi”.  When I went to NewCon later in the year, I knew a few people by name and more by sight, and when I signed up for Eastercon, I was quite safe in the knowledge that there would be no shortage of conversation.

So one year on I signed up for Alt.Fiction again, except this time I was actually going with the expectation of knowing people there.

Warning: picture spam incoming.

Continue reading “Alt.Ficion, Mexico’s Premier SF/F convention”

Alt.Fiction – the full story.

So a warning to start with.  This will be a pretty long post, and I’m probably going to namecheck a lot of people in it (mostly so that if they google themselves then they find and remember me – insert evil laughter here).

Also, Lisa has lost her voice.  When I got home last night she had literally written out a short vocab on the back of an envelope so that she wouldn’t have to talk.  Here are the phrases she thought both essential and sufficient:

Hello!

Love/Kisses!

Sadnessfruit!

Happinessfruit!

Sorenessfruit! (because of the sore throat, obviously)

It’s amazing how much she can say just pointing to bits of that.

She also drew a pie chart indicating how much of the bed space had been allocated to me in my absence.  About 5 % from the looks of it.

So yeah – Alt.Fiction.

Continue reading “Alt.Fiction – the full story.”

Alt.Fiction – short version.

Just back from a mammoth day in Derby at the Alt.fiction festival/meet/con/whatever.  I am very, very tired from driving so this will be a short post.  I’ll do something proper tomorrow.  I promise.

So, was it productive?  Well, technically yes.  I think I broke the record for most nose blows in a single day during the event, which (considering the volume I blow my nose at) was probably very annoying for all and sundry.

More seriously, very enjoyable.  I got to listen to, and meet, some very cool people and talk a great deal of my usual nonsense.

Win and awesome.
Also, Paul Cornell is a Nazi.  Just sayin’.