June 2011 Issue 129
Yesterday it turned really hot and sunny… confusing my eternal questions as to when summer actually begins and spring ends. Andy might insist that it doesn’t begin until June 21st, but to me the whole of June is summer and this sort of camping weather supports my belief. Now I’m beginning to look forward to doing some camping in a few weeks in Kent. I’ve been somewhat less than enthusiastic about it before, though it’s actually been quite fortunate that the weather hasn’t been too good for the past few weeks, as I’ve been very busy on the computer, with various writing projects. But now summer’s well and truly begun, it’s time for a bit of a change, I think!
Without doubt, the best thing about the internet is being about to get in touch with people all over the world so easily and quickly. This recently came home to me when I heard from a very old friend who I haven’t seen for nearly 30 years. also I found out about a writing project based in Spain, but more about that later. Another thing I found out about on the internet, is an alternative online journal to the Oscar Wilde Society’s Wildian, called Oscholars (great title, don’t you think?) As the internet becomes more and more full of information, it seems to be completely taking over from encyclopaedias, magazines, letters, journals… even the telephone. I wonder if soon, postmen will go out of business completely?
THE RELUCTANT VAMPIRE
Another thing about the internet that’s recently come to my attention is that complete novels can be made readily available to read for any one who’s interested. This seems particularly attractive to me in relation to my anarchist views… where as I used to believe that quality writing should be paid for, now I think that quality writing should be available to as many people as possible without any money involved. So Andy and I are contemplating the idea of publishing a complete novel of my own on the internet… Andy says “Start with something small,” which is probably quite wise. As there seem to be quite a few books around a the moment on the subject of vampires, I thought I’d strike while the iron’s hot and dig out an early novel I wrote about Vampires, which is a fairly light-hearted yet tragic tale. This project won’t materialise imminently, I have to find someone who’s willing to type it up for me! But I’ll keep you informed…
BILL MASON BAND REUNION
The very old friend I mentioned above, now lives in America which is a bit different from the streets of Stockport, which is where I remember him living. Bill Mason was telling me that there was going to be a reunion of his band in the Autumn, which seemed to me to be one of those amazing coincidences that always freaked me out!! I used to be a great fan of the Bill Mason Band when I was going through my evangelist phase, the BMB were pretty well known, particularly amongst young Christians. They were a really good band actually, playing a sort of punk influenced Christian rock, if you can imagine that! The gig’s going to be at the Wythenshawe Forum on October 21st… I’ll definitely be there. I’ll remind you again nearer the time.
FA LITERARY PROJECT
My interest was immediately aroused when I heard about a novel being written by a bunch of people, mainly Spanish, but the project is spread all over the world. Particularly interesting to me was the fact that each chapter of the novel was to be written by a different author, each one with Friedreich’s Ataxia. Of course I was dead keen to support such a venture – it just goes to show how full of imagination FA people are. The idea of writing an entire novel by a number of totally different people is an extremely ambitious undertaking, I thought, but none the less deserved my support… so I immediately became a member of the group. I’ve read a few chapters so far, only a few of them have been translated into English. Most of the novel is still in Spanish and as there are so many languages involved in the writing of it, it’s difficult to get an idea of the general gist of the plot as it moves on through time. Basically the plot involves many different generations of a family, starting in 1840 in Germany and ending in 21st century America. As FA is a genetic disease, the naughty gene is carried down through the family and alongside this there’s a bit of a murder mystery thrown in. if you want to read the novel yourself, I believe it’s coming out in September. All proceeds from the sale of the book are going towards FA research, which is cool. I hope you’ll support this venture, which is a very positive way of FA people using their imagination to help themselves!
OVER THE WATER
I was asked to write Chapter 5, which I immediately agreed to do because it meant I didn’t need to read much beforehand. At first I was very daunted by the subject matter… for the transition of the characters between Germany and America was not something I found immediately inspiring! However, I did a bit of research into jazz music in Nazi Germany and Einstein, and came up with quite a few ideas. I wanted my character to be a lot more substantial and living than in the other chapters I’d read so far. So I think that my chapter might stand out a bit, but I hope it will still fit in alright with the rest, which is all going to be a bit disjointed, inevitably.
MY OWN LITERARY PROJECT
Although I may have criticisms about the FA project, I do have a great admiration for Maria, whose idea it was in the first place. She’s inspired me to start a literary project of my own along the same lines, of a complete novel written by different people, but without having anything to do with FA. I thought I’d start off by writing the first chapter and then… whoever wanted to could take it on from there. Andy says that there are plenty of similar things around already, but I want mine to be different in that each writer would need to write an entire chapter instead of just a few lines. I like to think that some people would have the time and inclination to participate in such a venture. May I have some feedback on this from you, please? There must be a few of you who are willing to be involved in a communal RAW MEAT novel… what do you think?
Having reached the end of the first book in the Inkheart trilogy, I’m glad to see that my favourite character, Dustfinger, is still around. Ms Flunke has left plenty of scope to continue within the same vein, more fictional characters interacting with real ones in the real world so far, though her next move may be to shift the story into the fictional world of another book, so it’d be like a story within a story, if you see what I mean! I’ve decided to have a little break before starting reading Inkspell, the next part of the trilogy, and get on with a few books that I’ve had but not read, for one reason or another. One of these is Grimm’s Fairy Tales… I can’t understand why I’ve never read it as I love the more macabre tales, rather than the Hans Christian Anderson Tales, which I found a little too squeaky clean for my liking. To me Fairy Tales should always be associated with the sinister, impossible and strange… I can see why Angel Carter was so obsessed with them, her book The Bloody Chamber being one of my favourites.
I’ve always thought that the bible is full of wonderful stories… I’ve got absolutely no desire to get any Christian readers’ backs up by saying that. But the story of Noah’s ark was one which Andy and I were recently talking about; he’d just been reading some factual information on the internet about it. Apparently it’s been found that the exact dimensions of the ark given by Moses matched the dimensions of the pyramids exactly, thus it seems the ark may have been pyramid shaped, but this doesn’t seem to me to be surprising at all – especially not if Moses was around a the same time as the ancient Egyptians. Anyway, whatever the shape of the ark, Noah would still have been hard pushed to cram into the pyramid two of every species of living creature. So Noah’s ark remains a classic work of fiction, no matter what the scientists may say.
There seem to have been quite a few recent discoveries made by New Zealand Heritage Trust in the Antarctic – actually in Ross island, which is where Scott’s ship landed in 1910, a few years before his South Pole expedition. Scott’s hut has been discovered there amidst the beautiful scenery of the island… I would love to go there, even if it is pretty cold – minus twenty, I believe. There were many objects found inside the hut, which have all been preserved. In fact New Zealand have put loads of money into making a proper conservation area around the hut. When we read Scott’s journal, it became obvious to us that Scott was quite a worrier, and this is also evidenced by the discovery that’s been made of several boxes of food on a nearby hillside. Apparently Scott was afraid that the hut would catch fire when he left… which seems hardly likely, in a snow-covered place.
I’ve got several projects on the go at the same time which is kind of a bit confusing… but luckily not too much so, it only takes a little time and reading to get back into exactly where we’re up to. I can’t ever completely leave Harriet, incomplete as she is now, while I’m aware of what’s going to happen. The thing is, it’s all been pretty much written already in my head for the past few weeks, so now it’s just a matter of sitting down in front of the computer and writing the damn thing. Not that I mind doing so at all – far from it, I really want to get it down before I can turn my mind on to anything else properly. One of the main reasons for my distraction is the FA literary project which I’ve already explained about more fully in the editorial. In fact, I did think about including a piece of the chapter I’m writing for it in RAW MATERIALS, but in the end I decided to stick with my own novel, both because I’ve been racing through Harriet’s final confrontation with Georges, as this bit of The Space Between is pretty gripping, I think, so that I’m pretty much obsessed by it. hence I broke off writing it with great reluctance while I turned my attention to chapter 5 of the novel by the FA Spanish bunch.
Not that I mind doing so, not at all. It’s a really exciting idea, this novel, which is an entirely communal project, with each chapter by a different author, written in different languages. Straightaway I knew I wanted to be involved in such a project. I felt happy that it was well within my capabilities, as a novelist with some experience. I was a little daunted by the fact that it would have to be translated into various other languages. I felt quite limited because of this because I’m used to using English expression and other flights of fancy absolutely freely in my usual imaginative writing, sentences that wouldn’t make any sense in another language. Perhaps I’m just too used to writing for English readers, but I felt a bit limited by this. I’ve now been assured that the project has professional translators involved, so there shouldn’t be any reason for me to worry. Well, they said just go for it and write the chapter… so that’s what I’m doing. I’m not going to include any of it here, if you’re interested you’ll have to get the novel when it comes out.
So, the extract here takes place at the Freedom Press in Angel Ally. Harriet has just heard Georges come into the house and so she hurries upstairs with Jack – as she has neither seen nor heard from Georges for several years, she doesn’t want to speak to him again, but at the same time, she does, of course. So it’s a dilemma. I wanted to spend as much time with Harriet, as I feel she deserves it. also in this extract, Jack’s Dad is mentioned, and this could possibly lead on into the next novel… I haven’t quite decided yet. I hope you’ll notice also that this extract is set during the space between Christmas and new year, which makes it a particularly significant period of time for the final scenes.
THE SPACE BETWEEN
Copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2011
- THE STORY SO FAR…
It’s now the end of 1906; Harriet is still living at the Freedom Press in Whitechapel with her son, Jack, and the following extract takes place there. Georges has one of the two remaining copies of Wilde’s manuscript, which he has taken overseas to America before returning to London for a final visit. The other copy is with Kathleen Bruce, who has just met Captain Scott for the first time. NOW READ ON...
CHAPTER 6 - 1906
“He says he’s come to collect some of his things,” Harriet said numbly, looking at her hand and seeing it was empty, no candle stub after all. Was this a sign of her own madness. She frowned, shaking her head quickly, denying the fact. I don’t know… I really don’t know why he’s come back, Jack. I just don’t want to see him.”
“That’s alright, don’t worry. Like I said, I don’t want to see him either… so we’ll just stay over here for a while.” Turning back to the window, Jack took several slow strides across the room and touched the panes of glass which were covered in frost. The sensation of cold on his fingertips seemed to bring back some memories which caused him to smile. “You know, I was just thinking… it must be my birthday soon. A few days time, isn’t it?”
Harriet nodded quickly, glad of the distraction from herself.
“Yes, I suppose it must be. Another year gone by - can you really be seventeen now?”
Jack nodded very slightly, then turned to face Harriet directly. Their eyes met for the first time that evening… drawing in his breath, Jack spoke in a carefully controlled voice.
“I was thinking about changing my job… as I told you before, I don’t want to be a sailor or anything like that any more. It’s not just because of Georges, but it’s also because I want to go back to Pa, back to drawing and painting. I don’t know why I ever thought about stopping…this is not something I can just forget about anyway, it’s always there - I can’t leave it just like that. I want to go back, maybe I can meet up with Pa again. I know he works in a theatre, so maybe… do you have any idea where the theatre is?”
She stared at him speechlessly for a while; was this really Jack, her boy? Finally she shook her head.
“I’m sorry, Jack, I really can’t help you… I’ve got no idea. And…” She could feel the frown creeping gradually over her brow. "I’m not sure if your Pa would want to see you again… not after all this time. He might not want to remember the old days -" with me, it had been on the tip of her tongue to add but she broke off, simply allowing her words to sink into the boys consciousness.
“But… why should he not see me? I don’t understand… I never did understand why he left. Why did he, Ma?”
“Oh…” Harriet sighed shrugging helplessly “Jack… I don’t know, he just wanted to go back to his old life.”
Jack was silent for several long moments. When he spoke again, it was in a matter of fact tone, as if he had abandoned all emotion by the wayside.
“Well, alright… but why shouldn’t he want to see me again? I don’t think that’s right… I think I’ll try to see him once again, thought I don’t know quite how. There must be some way…” he paused drumming his fingernails on the windowsill thoughtfully. “I wonder if Freddy could be of any help? Though I’m not sure where they are now, him and Mr. Ross.”
Harriet could see this sharp edge of pain in his eyes, even though he looked away quickly trying to conceal it. “I suppose he’s still with Ross… though I don’t like to think about that. But I suppose I could go back there… maybe. What do you think?”
She stared at him helplessly, shaking her head very slowly as if it were a disembodied thing.
“I don’t know Jack… I don’t know what to say or think. I don’t feel I could go back… I don’t want to go back to anything. I don’t want to move through time at all… I’m so frightened.”She was staring without seeing anything, there was nothing any more. She felt Jack move slowly towards her, holding out his hand as if he wanted to take hers, but he didn’t. He simply patted her arm briefly and tried to smile reassuringly.
YOU CAN READ ANOTHER EXTRACT FROM THE SPACE BETWEEN IN JULY
Welcome to Andy's bit...
Hot as a summers day night, already
Already wishing that spring would come now
Nowhere to be seen in the extreme cold
Cold like she put ice to make his drink hot.
Ganging up on me, beating me like eggs
Egocentricity and his own gang
Landing is only possible on ice
Iceland and further north wish it was May
Coasters not giving them much attention.
Attention is paid to many wrong things
Thingy told me about the frozen ice...
Ice creams on the beach sitting by the coast
Cold as December in a frozen land
May on the other hand is just as cold.