Collected Third Millennia Piffle is a collection of short stories written between 2012 and 2017 for miscellaneous competitions and during the odd lull in workloads.
You can get your hands on a copy here for digital platforms
Or if you are feeling flush, you can get a real one from here.
Should you have read the stories and wish to share your thoughts on them, whether these result from the heartfelt enjoyment they awoke in you, or the feelings of dejection and frustration at having your valuable time purloined, please share them here.
There seems little point reproducing the works again here, so I shall devote this space to a little background on the origin, and, intended, and, hopefully not, overlooked meaning of the same.
This book comes with a soundtrack that you can enjoy in tandem with the tracks and that can be found here.
- BLOOD ALIGNMENT NEGATIVITY THEORY Z
The first thing you may wonder from reading this is whether I genuinely have any hope for humanity at all, or do I believe we are all doomed. I would like to think that the future will be a fine and jolly place, but am aware that, like the present, it will not be perfect. BANTZ was not written for any competition in particular, none of the four 5000 word plus stories were, but as a response to seeing the apparent destruction of the UK during the Brexit process as a UK citizen looking in from afar.
It has always been a belief of mine that fiction should verge on the ridiculous when aiming to portray modern life. Of course, it seems ludicrous to suggest that governments and organisations would willingly collude to eliminate nearly ten percent of the world’s population just on the grounds of their blood group. The scale of the actions in the story are purely the realm of fiction, the main stumbling block to any plan of that nature would be the logistics, more than the belief that the actions were wholly wrong. That said, on a daily basis we can see attacks on civil liberties and the cunning use of social media to discredit, decry and bring about the downfall of voices in opposition.
The longer I spend away from the UK, the less I understand it. That does not mean that Spain is any kind of Utopia but I would summarise it by suggesting I look like a foreigner here, and feel like one there.
2. ENGINEERING SUCCESS
I have always liked the idea of fate in stories as something beyond our control and how but for a series of stellar coincidences, every day our time on this Earth could be cut short. Amanda has so many chances to walk away from that situation, yet she remains until the end, her end. At every juncture the gods are against her, even leading her to change places in the car just before it leaves.
The question it begs is if we truly knew how many times we had been seconds away from losing our lives, would anything change?
3. APPMAN (Radio Edit)
This is the shorter version of Appman that was a successful competition entry. Cheating throughout with the comical use of swearing, (I do try to keep it to a minimum as I always fear my mum might be reading) though in this case wholly justified. The idea that something so banal could become such a prominent feature in our lives may seem over-the-top, but again the use of the ridiculous is intended as a means of displaying our current reality. In an age of fads, an App that was the result of a failed attempt to do good that really just saves us time by swearing for us shows the lengths they (I hope not we, but fear it might be) will go to follow trends.
Technology is a large part of my writing. The danger with this is that perhaps as time goes on my predictions will seem way off the mark, we should have had hover boards for twenty years or so now, but it is fun to invent names, to have the freedom to create something that no-one can question, and to provide a handy ending for a story going nowhere.
The short version of this story is placed at the front of the book for a reason: it makes no sense to read the long version first, though if you do have time issues, you can start the long version (if you get that far) from the scene with the interviewer.
I’ll be honest here. I had the first part of the story in my head and wanted to use it, so very loosely adapted the idea to the theme of a competition. You can tell it is clearly disjointed and the patching is far from seamless. The old dream of eternal life and its pitfalls, with the protagonist desiring death at the end with even more fervour than she wished for a never-ageing body.
The heist in the first part is my favourite bit. It was actually exhilarating to write and at times hard to keep up with the pace the story was going at in my head. It also seems perfectly plausible, although very difficult to organise, so perhaps one day it will form the inspiration for a real job. I hope that as a mere work of fiction I would be exonerated from blame as a result.
More to follow. CC DEC 12, 2017
Let’s move on then.
We still have to add the soundtrack but I need to work out how to do that. For now, more stories.
5. INCIDENT 326B
The idea is quite simple, if everybody is dressed the same, how do we know who is the most important? Moreover, who decides this? When the lift breaks down, the four occupants fresh (more like stale) from the company fun run were seemingly indistinguishable from each other. Yet the one the others thought had no place being anywhere near them was the one who had their salvation in his hands.
Would they realise in time? For once, and for all the Willy Lomans, the downtrodden come out on top.
6. BOARD OF FILM CENSORS’ CERTIFICATE 326B
Again a little man comes to the fore to take starring role. Someone who can actual be overlooked to the extent that he can walk naked and nobody will see him, and yet when the expensive suit comes on, heads turn. This is actually a section from the Spanish novel ’11 Noches’ that I just rewrote in English for a competition. I like the dialogue and the way that Malcolm (I felt it was important to have names like Derek and Malcolm for heroes of this ‘ilk’) becomes more and more confident as the charade goes on. Written in my attempt at screenplay text, there is a touch of slapstick to the chase scenes that make it even more fun. Not my best work by a long stretch, but enjoyable to write and one of the few things that has been rewritten as a short story that doesn’t suffer from a lack of contextualisation.
7. BASE 326B NORTH MOON SECTION 3912 AD
This is one of my favourites. It has been commented on that it could be longer but I think the fact that it is pretty short is to its advantage here. If I tried to extend it, I feel it would just end up with another similar scene that adds nothing. If you are going to fiddle with something, then there had better a be reason behind it.
I like writing about the future. Hopefully so far into it that I will never be discovered as a fraud when none of my predictions come true. This story deals with having everything, and wanting something else.
8. FACE CRIME
Black Mirror has been a major influence in recent times, occasionally my wind wanders and I imagine versions of my own stories given the Brooker treatment. This story came into being from hearing a story that began with an innocuous yet potentially embarrassing situation and running with it. The “That Escalated Quickly” meme was in my head. I have always felt that the ending was a bit forced and could be improved.
9. INVENTION 326B
This began life as a story called Blue Monday that involved a genius with a Bob Geldof syndrome being allowed Mondays off owing to the fact that his productivity was so high on Tuesday to Friday. The stress he felt on a Sunday evening was causing a strain of his home and professional life. Now with Mondays free, his happiness was guaranteed, until he started getting the same pangs on Monday nights before Tuesday.
I can’t remember why I changed the first part, must have been to fit in with a competition, but it ended up being Deryck’s virtual dalliance machine. Would happiness be truly attainable if we saw what we desired rather than what we had? Probably not, but it might not lead to France and Germany partitioning England and a minor nuclear war. The original was from 2008 but Brexit seems to have given in further relevance.
10. THIEF A CATCH TO
This was originally called Killing Me Backwards. Too much information and it got a name change. It doesn’t quite work as well as Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis and honestly, the short nature of the story means people can work it out quite quickly and read it the other way round. Still, it was fun to write and I am pleased with some of the imagery.
11 / 12 THAT’S AMORE / LIFE AFTER WARD 326B
These two go together despite being from different competitions. A whittled down version of the two was published in Spanish in La Linterna if you fancy hunting it down. I wanted to write a Christmas story with a happy ending but extolling the true meaning of the season. The fall from grace and all the trouble that they had seen between them did not stop them enjoying undrinkable Lambrusco in the cold whilst the children sang. Another attempt to show off my warmer side.
There was some discussion on the search for perfection in football, would it ever be reached and that? Then I began to think about what perfection actually meant and before I knew it, I had a 5000 word story with a future league on Mars.
The set-up was almost as fun to write as the ending. Maybe I find it easy to imagine future societies based on points (I did actually write this before I saw that Black Mirror episode). The games mentioned in the story did actually take place and you can watch the, ahem, highlights, on YouTube just like the star did.
14. CHOOSING MY RELIGION
I have thought about doing stand-up, but didn’t. The monologues were always hilarious in my head (I should say the idea was to do it in Spanish) but the delivery was forced and maybe I’m funnier in a more natural setting (or not at all). This was one of the themes that was bandied about for it, probably stolen off Izzard and Hicks, but under the assumption no-one would know in my audience.
The idea is selling Christianity to someone who had never heard of it before. Some of the criticism suggested that would be improbable anyone could live in the modern world and not have heard the spiel before, but I am not so sure. I wanted to make her loathsome, and think she well and truly is.
15. GIRLS ON FILM
I have tried other alternative ending stories so this followed quite a logical pattern. I actually did not like this story until others did. Face Time and this were the weakest in my view and would have been chopped if cyberspace had imposed a limit on me. Her husband is annoyingly wet and the lover is ridiculously two-dimensional. Other than that, it’s a belter.
16. MACCA’S FINANCING
Sometimes you write stories in which the idea is better than the story. This is one of them, and it is the second time that I have tried to write it. Probably, then, it’s time to move on.
17. LOT 326B
I liked the idea that an object can have powers over the world and its machinations. The chess set was intended for a purpose as was the need for the stalemate. An idea that would be taken further in Soccersperience, in which the idea of the perfect 0-0 match was the driving force at the time of writing (in the 24th century, so to speak).
I like throwing things in that might exist like the mail drone, alongside elements that are pure fantasy and may never happen. If they do, I will have the luxury of being right.
18. MOUIA L’ITALIA
This is, of course you realised straight away from your extensive reading and cross-referencing, Section 35 of Costa del Trolls reworked for a competition entitled Viva L’Italia. The original version takes place on the outskirts of Coimbra whereas this version takes place in Palermo. All references to Costa del Trolls characters are removed and I’m not sure it works as a stand-alone story as it misses out on all the back story of Graham’s meandering towards madness that convinces him he needs to commit this act. It is heatless and gruesome, particularly in the scene where he tries to visualise her family receiving the news. Not one for the faint-hearted.
19. POLAR RESEARCH STATION 326B
And they call us bitter? I have frequently resorted to the cheap literary device of giving the goodies in the story Everton players’ names and making the baddies rednoses. Pretty sad for some in their mid 40s, wouldn’t you say?! This is probably one I will go back to one day and flesh it out a bit, as I like the setting in think that it ended up a little rushed towards the end (due to word limits). Maybe it would be nicer, not for them as they all die horribly in the snow (do they have spoilers here? Anyway in my pomposity, I am imagining you reading this after the book, not before, like a DVD commentary), to have the drop in temperature done more slowly and focus more on their desperation as they realise that there is no solution.
20. SECURITY DOOR 326B
This actually happened to me in a museum in Bologna. Well, I mean I got locked in a toilet. I was actually freed in a matter of minutes but the idea for the story remained in my head. Short, not overly sweet and not particularly well received. Track 4 on an EP at best. You are excused for skipping.
21. LAWASTERN / GIRADO
The premise of this competition was two stories of 500 words with the last word of the first and the first word of the second being the same word. It is nice to try and force something that works out in such a few words, especially when it is two completely unrelated stories.
You have to be quite inventive with dialogue with 500 words and I think that, especially in the first story, the stage was set rather nicely. Both stories required making the reader dislike the main character in the first sentences. Maybe there is scope for more but I like leaving them as these little short pieces.
22. APPMAN (Extended Version)
Now I have to scroll up and read what I put for the first bit. The first half is almost exactly the same for both stories, in that sense like an old 12″ single that just forgets to fade out after middle eight chorus chorus. The ending to this one contains what for me is some of the best writing contained herein and it is my second favourite story in the book.
Our reliance on technology and our obsession with having it do things for us that could be perfectly performed with our own dear hands is something I touch on a lot. Massively hypocritical as I often berated by my erstwhile and long-suffering better half for paying more attention to screens that to her.
You will love this one.
23. THE SPUGAL NUT
Mad scientists have always had a place in my writing and Daniel’s plan for world domination was fun to delve into. That said he was a bad lad realises at the end that his only means of atonement is self-sacrifice.
I also love making up stupid names for people and things and in this story artistic licence went right out of the window. Fortunately, thanks to the idiocy of my former countrymen , a post Brexit world means some of what happens seems less farfetched now than when it was originally written from a position almost ousted from British politics.
24. SINGLE STORY TRILOGY
This has been around for donkeys. I believe it was my first entry in the old old Writers’ Thread on the (presently defunct F365 forum, to no other place do I such a debt of gratitude to Pauly454, Gravity Worm, Grifter, Sheedy, Pink Baron, Made of Lentils and loads more I can’t remember or access the thread).
The Spanish version of this was published in La Linterna two years ago, a Spanish literary magazine with which I have sporadically collaborated in recent times.
The French version was my French homework and selflessly corrected by Marie Collet.
25. SMALL BUSINESS PLAN 326B
The big one. Around a quarter of the book and touching on everything. Intense, haunting, inspiring and disgusting in equal measures. Inspired by the Fyre Festival and taken to another extreme.
Revenge is the fulcrum of this tale about wishing the worst on your enemies only to realise that what they took from the main character in the first place meant that he could never be free from his demons.
The POV video diary was an idea suggested by the legendary Paul Blake.
If I have written a masterpiece, this is it. If not, this is as close as I will get.
Would make a great movie.
26. PLAYER REGISTRATION 326B
This story had been bouncing around my head since playing Pro Evo on the Wii and they could not use the names of the Premier League teams, so they replaced them with ridiculous provincial sounding names that sounded like a Dad’s Army Olympics.
The idea was for the player who had everything to end up with nothing and then losing that. The boy wonder whose dreams turned sour and ended his days a shadow of his former self.
The first part of the story should be used as an academy model for all major European clubs.
27. LOVE IN ANOTHER ELEVATOR
And we end with love. I even thought about sending this to Love in Canada’s mayor but their website is like a primary school project from 1997.
After all the pain, death and misery to get to this point, maybe with a brief stop off for some elderly Italian love, we end with a heartwarming tale of a Canadian backwater and its struggle to revive its males. Factually accurate, if you wish to check it out, even Jigger’s Tavern.
This was always going to be the last story in the book and have the softest of spots for it.
So those are the sleeve notes.