Book of the Month :: The Key to Dreams

The Key to Dreams


I came here because there is nothing left to lose.


The callow, willow-thin doctor was very clear: your cancer’s inoperable, I’d give you probably a year at most, these monthly payments support basic treatment and palliative care. The mass in my lung, behind left shoulder blade itches within, prompting a wish I’d made better choices as a teenager. That’s not true: this life has been lived to the limit. It is ironic therefore the slide towards demise could be bitter and painful, if I decided to allow other people to dictate that course.

I’ve never stayed put long enough to suffer indignity, and that’s not about to change.


The medical study invitation is discovered on the back of the Hospital bathroom door. It is a sad state of affairs when you’re being sold to whilst throwing up, but on reflection the concept is sound. Already here because you’re sick, a miracle cure that costs nothing will undoubtedly appear more attractive. I fit the age range, am in good physical health regardless of the Stage Three tumour. What’s there to lose by phoning the number?

An overly cheerful operator asks where I saw their media, and maybe this is not the moment to state it was ruined with shock induced vomit, as that would admit a measure of sudden despair. Already the settlement being offered as incentive is enough for a beyond decent holiday, chance to spend last days in some far-flung resort, slowly drinking towards oblivion. They must be desperate too, an interview is organised in under fifteen minutes.

Perhaps these people know exactly where I grasped their lifeline, and appreciate there’s no time for delay.


The gentrified part of town’s intimidating for a man who’s spent a life living in various degrees of squalor, shanty towns and refugee camps. Everything is too clean, scrubbed magnolia bright, no litter to speak of and not a single sign of homelessness. When all you want is to survive, where to sleep rarely matters, just that you can. I had to buy a new overnight bag, replace disintegrating trainers to stay at the Clinic, aware my disregard for appearance could count as a hindrance. Presentation matters, the representative they sent to my low rent apartment complex home had reminded me, effort does not have to be expensive. She’d stared disdainfully around my recycled house, full of other people’s discarded furniture, refusing to sit or to accept any effort at hospitality.

My exemplary work ethic and record as a care worker, years spent with relief projects in War Zones, made me an excellent candidate for treatment, I was told in the Clinic’s boardroom as each legal waiver was exchanged and signed. After six hours of exhaustive tests the day before, this was undoubtedly the harder task. I understood exactly the risks involved in this treatment were not simply significant, but tangible, unavoidable and all the other terms they threw into the mix… and yet still there was disbelief at my almost cheerful willing to succumb as lab-rat.

I’m going to die in a year and can’t afford chemotherapy, which bit of I’m desperate and don’t care do you not understand?

The youngest of the lawyers stared, blonde hair almost translucent in early morning sun, expressing amazement at the lack of fear. When you’ve spent every day for thirty years living with death, watching the inhumanity of man to his brother, rationalising choice becomes surprisingly simple. She will have healthcare, a partner to look after her. If I pawned that diamond engagement ring she flaunts, it would buy food for the rest of my life with enough left over to cover funeral costs.

Everything, when you break it down, ends up a matter of perspective.


After a further week of poking and prodding, mental and physical tests seemingly without end, it is decided Max Jacobs is approved for treatment, and the black car arrives to take me away. An hour of driving in darkness brings us to the edge of the Combat Zone where it becomes apparent who my real benefactor is: fat, green military transport’s being loaded as I’m helped from my seat. Everybody else is on stretchers, making me wonder why all that time was spent addressing mental health.

It is a long, predictable flight north, across terrain inhospitable for many years, toxic forests full of beasts mutated by humanity’s stupidity. My parents had both fought in the last of the Ground Wars, scars all too obvious even as a child. They’d wanted a girl, because then she’d have avoided National Service, but instead I left them at sixteen as a conscientious deserter and never came back. Perhaps if we’d all loved each other more things could have been different. My mother died last year, lost in mental deterioration as had been the case for close to a decade.

When Dad passed in my 30’s, she’d not even asked me back for the Funeral. Instead there had come a letter, money spent in a year of excess and conspicuous consumption, before returning to work with this continent’s refugees. The faded remains of that letter shake in cold hands, words barely distinguishable. ‘Your life is what you make of it. The key to dreams is living them in every moment possible.’ My ambition, such as it was, remained simple and earnestly applied until the diagnosis: regardless of who you are, life is yours and not for others to dictate.

Grant everybody one fair chance.

It had been this ethos, the medical team stated, which sealed my participation in the project. Having spent a life allowing others opportunity to start theirs anew, it seemed only right and proper to afford that same courtesy to me. They would cure my cancer, and in exchange I would become a spokesman for this new treatment, granted to those who had worked hardest to deserve it. Except now sitting here in the belly of an aircraft, Sunday School lesson from childhood is remembered, as blood runs cold.

The Devil will tempt you with promises he cannot keep.


This mountaintop hospital is home, has been for nearly three months. Every day is the same: breakfast, exercise and thirty minutes in the Halo; bright light that surrounds, attacking disease at a molecular level. After that I am allowed to do as I wish: climbing, cycling plus countless other distractions. Anything I want is available, yet I dare not ask for a thing. Stage Three inoperable cancer was, as of this morning, downgraded to Stage Two. The facility doctors expect me to be cancer-free by the end of the year.

I knew I was cured even before the man opened his mouth.

Unseen by anyone, my mind’s transformation in the Halo spreads tentative shoots of new, unexpected awareness. Disquiet is held within: I’m beyond adept at hiding the disparity each day makes more glaring. The fatality rate here is worryingly high: the body bags in the black van leave daily, sometimes twice. I’m kept away from anyone else, distracted by an unending stream of scientists and nurses, who are clearly grateful there is no sexual desire or need to form attachments harboured within.

Being a loner was exactly what was required: I hear their thoughts, confirm belief I’m becoming insular, when nothing could be further from the truth. His body chemistry is the key my doctors whisper with glee, this unexpected set of conditions which will allow resistance to everything. The lies continue to deepen, each person living their part on cue. For a while it was body language that gave them away, a manner in speaking but today for a moment, I was able to force a doctor to utter the truth. I am being altered, cell by cell, to become Patient Zero.

Continued life expectancy, suddenly, is a hindrance.


Two weeks later, I wake to whispers: Jacobs is no longer required to remain either conscious or free, and it is time for rebellion. Testing my now quite practised skills on the nurse sent to prepare me for transfer to the Isolation Unit results in far better than expected results. Ridiculously easy to mentally manipulate, the injection meant to render me unconscious drops to the floor. If I am to escape, it will require assistance, but that is already anticipated: I send Nurse Carter away to fetch Naomi Fisher, woman in part responsible for my extraordinary recovery, who now wants this body as an experiment.

Fisher faces away, frozen solid at my bedside as I dress, mind totally blank. It takes but a moment to rearrange neurones, eliminating all ability to recall what is now being seen and heard. I’ve undergone a complete mental transformation since arrival yet crucially nobody had bothered to monitor my brain: all they cared about was resistance to cancer, which would now have been robustly tested with a range of genetically enhanced strains.

I don’t want to play God but know these people already have: control, subjugation and dominance under the flimsiest of pretexts. I’ve seen the worst the military can and have wrought, casualties of war and thoughtless arrogance. I refuse to die as so many others have been sacrificed. A real dream of peace and happiness for all could be possible with what this woman has created, but not here.

Carter has retrieved the box full of my blood samples and vaccines already crafted from a remarkable body. As each mind within the facility becomes aware of the escape in progress I shut them down, quietly calming fear in every one. My strength has always been reassurance, untroubled care: three decades of training serves me well. A hundred staff are finally silenced, happy to just stand inert as I walk out of the facility with Fisher into lengthening twilight.

She’ll return to her Military Base believing without doubt that I died in the fire.


As I instruct her to drive us away there is but brief glance back to the building, flames now consuming upper floors. There will be no fatalities: everyone lies unconscious outside, happily dreaming in the car park. When they wake it will be with no memory of what happened, or that anything was wrong. A sudden embolism ruined the project, utterly unexpected: records electronically returned to the Base Naomi calls home. I’ve been very careful not to leave a fingerprint on anything or a hair out of place. There’s still the chance they’ll come looking, but by then it will be too late.

I wonder briefly at the morality of rearranging people’s memories, controlling as I have. The engine runs as sleep instantly consumes Fisher’s consciousness, car stopped in a clearing as I make an escape. Her mind is hollow: selfish and single-minded – will remain so when she wakes. The guilt I’ve given at my death at her hands is strong enough to consume if there is a refusal to change: it will become a measure of her ability to cope. The key in her dreams has been provided, to unlock redemption in thoughts and actions. A willing mind can set a path away from evil, necessary if and when that revelation is acted upon.

I offer the possibility to be better. Grant everybody one fair chance. That was what was signed up for, and now, that is the future I will ensure takes place.


The unconscious truck driver stirs in blissful sleep as we approach the edge of the Refugee Zone, unaware he’s done a several hundred mile detour, but he’ll thank me soon enough. The undetected cancer in his pancreas is already shrinking, and when I let him go it will be to a future illness-free. He’s become Patient Zero, first recipient of the vaccine, and this isn’t a military operation any more. With me in charge, it is time to find the right people to rearrange nearly a century of civil war into something far better.

I came here, because they have nothing left to lose.

Life on Planet Groove

BIGGER

This week, I have finally been granted the free space and time to do more here than just repost poetry. In part that’s a lot to do with being able to organize myself to a reasonable standard, but it is more about how I’m adjusting to a life where games are no longer a priority. Normally, in a quiet period I would have fired up the UI and caught up: today, I need to write. It is amazing how much time gets sucked up by the desire to play, especially when content is piled on you to the point where it becomes impossible to keep up. Freeing myself from that is having unexpected and brilliant consequences.

In the last month, I’ve produced some of the best work I’ve ever written. I know that might sound like hyperbole, but deep down I know it to be true: aware that by freeing brain from the tyranny of needing to feel a part of something I already belong to, everything just gets easier. There’s another factor at play too: words are doing strange things to the very fabric of my mind. It’s not me getting all sci-fi on your arses, don’t worry. By spending every day thinking about poetry, it becomes easier. Rhymes slip with increasing ease from the fingers, the structure of pieces literally condenses in front of my eyes. I can tell what’s bad and good without the need to stress too much about content.

It is almost as if I am changing into a better writer simply by every word that’s written.

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The problem, of course, is that pretty much everybody else judges what constitutes success by criteria that involve you making money for what you do. It doesn’t matter how good I think I am, the test comes when other people are involved. So far, at least if the Patreon rewards are an indicator, I am at least doing something right. However, that only works to a point: I didn’t want to ask people to sponsor my blogging, because I wasn’t sure where it is all going to go to begin with. However, as of next week, my gaming site becomes the #3 priority behind the personal site and this one. Yesterday, for the first time in seven years, I got more hits on the other two than I did for pixel-related observation, and I won’t lie. I was REALLY happy.

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I used to really enjoy writing about Warcraft, I won’t lie. Now I’ve made a promise only to do so when I have something relevant to say or (as is the case currently) I have a Twitter Poll running. The toxic nature of a section of players won’t be going away any time soon, however many tools are put in place to prevent it. More importantly however the unstoppable juggernaut of esports simply has no appeal at all. If I have a choice to sit down I’d rather watch a film, TV show or read a book. I listen to nearly all conventional sports and don’t watch them, which allows me to write and ‘spectate’ simultaneously. Listening to esports may as well be a foreign language to me. I realise how many people are excited by this future, but as I would rather be exercising than sitting watching other people play computer games?

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I thought today it was worth writing all this down, for no other reason than it forms a bigger picture around why everything is shifting the way it is. I, like many other people in my Social media sphere love games, yet have decreasing amounts of time to spend playing them. Hanging around with people who do is, like it or not, a great way to still feel part of a community albeit vicariously. I’ll need to be careful in future how and what I respond to (leant that lesson now, not doing that again) but I hope I’ll still be welcome to give stuff away and hang about. There are however absolutely no illusions as to my desires. I can post motivational quotes as a way to use my extensive screenshot collection. I can try and make people think. Most importantly, as pretty much all of my friends still play, I can enjoy them doing just that, even if I don’t do so myself.

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One particular critic continues to enjoy calling me a fraud. They will be reading this post right now, and to them I’ll say what I’ve said since the first time they tried to chase me away from their game that I’ve devalued with my work. People like you are the reason I keep going. Those who think that threats, anger and their own narrow mindedness will eventually win and people like me will leave… well, nope, still not happening. My next plan, all things being equal, is to work towards becoming Twitter verified and when that happens, I have no doubt nothing at all will change. The bad people don’t go away, you cannot just click fingers and remove all sources of grief from your existence.

I like what is happening here, and long may it continue.

August’s Book of the Month

This Month's Content

August’s featured text is ‘Consider Her Ways and Others’ by John Wyndham.
You can buy it here.

Each month, the Internet of Words presents a selection of content: fiction, essays, poetry and non-fiction, inspired and directly influenced by our Book of the Month.

To learn more about what you can expect, please read this.



Available Next Month:

2nd August

Understanding Wyndham: Described by Stephen King as ‘perhaps the best writer of science fiction England has ever produced’ we explain who Wyndham was and how his craft was influenced by the two World Wars he lived through…

Click here for the full essay.

9th August

Consider the Future: Consider Her Ways quite literately changed my life when I first read it in my early teens. Over thirty years on, the story of ‘a world without men’ is still relevant, funny and ultimately believable…

Click here for the full essay.

16th August

A Master of Storytelling: The remaining fives stories that make up this anthology are all miniature classics in their own rights. We discuss them all, and how they are indicative of Wyndham’s larger body of work…

Click here for the full essay.

23rd August

Soft Reboot: In a future where men are grown yet women are created, a fledgling AI makes a tentative pact with a disabled girl to advance the human race…

Click here for the short story.


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All the exclusive Patreon content this month will be poetry-based, with subject matter inspired by themes from four of the six short stories in the collection:

Odd

Stitch in Time

Random Quest

A Long Spoon

Pledges for the site begin at only $2, which grants you full access to all exclusive material.

Click here to become a Patreon

Forget You

Origins

This is not the post I intended to write, but is probably the one that ought to be written.

I have a terrible memory: I make no bones about this, and it has always been this way. When bad stuff happens my brain, almost as a defence mechanism, shuts down. This is particularly true when I’m stressed or in confrontational situations: forgetting what I’ve said in the heat of an argument, because it is impossible for instant recall to operate successfully. This means over the years that my chronology of how stuff has played out is less than reliable, and if asked to go back major incidents… well, I can’t. Only recently did I grasp why this was, and that I was the one to blame.

I do know however that, in my fifty years so far on this planet, I rarely covered myself in glory until becoming a Mother. When that happened, everything changed. The selfish part of my personality had no choice than to accept the situation I was in. The decision  was simple: change your ways, or everything will play out as it did, and you do NOT want that for your kids. There are a couple of moments in the last sixteen years therefore that I will not allow myself to ever forget, because I learnt to remember. My brain is now more alert and capable than it was in my teens. I grasped that change was possible.

Those people who know me now would I suspect not recognise the person I was in my twenties. I’m not sure I’m even proud or comfortable going back to that period even mentally more than once a week. It has been tough, when compiling a chronology, to avoid words like selfish, thoughtless and arrogant. So much of other people’s lives these days is revisionist for a reason: you were young, everybody’s allowed to be human… but I don’t like the idea that somehow, this is acceptable as an excuse any more. I was a terrible, horrible person back then. It’s not me being hard on myself. It’s a fact.

I have a hard time with the notion that people can change, even though I know it is possible, as I alter almost daily. However, there’s finally some sound thinking behind the reasoning: knowing exactly how much work is required to make that happen, what has to be sacrificed to get to the stage where you have nothing left to lose… that’s never a journey I’d send anyone else on. I couldn’t, am nowhere near qualified to do so. Only when you’ve decided that living is better than the alternative for yourself comes the realisation that to find redemption is worth the effort.

You can tell someone death isn’t their answer, but to have them believe you? That is out of your hands. I know enough people who have lost part of their heart to suicide to grasp that side of the coin: I flipped it a few times, but I never called the outcome because, in the end, I finally understood that the way out really was my path to define. Once I was able to conquer the fears that had quite literally been beaten into me, the rest seemed… well, easy by comparison. Everything is simple when the emotion and anger is taken away. Yet still, I get haunted by echoes of that past.

I wanted to write for as long as I could remember because those stories were what kept me alive and sane. In a way, that’s still the case: when I need to exercise for an hour and every muscle aches, I’ll vanish into my head and recall a story I’m working on, or a script I’d love to write. My imagination, after all these years, still provides the vital support required to allow me to function as a human being. Without that internal strength, lost in my teens and finally recovered in my early 40’s, I’d not be here today.

As I continue this journey, I don’t want it to be just about the positives. My life is not some hugely redemptive or inspirational journey. There are low points, people I never want to speak to again, parts of my life that can stay exactly where they were left to never be touched again. This is not about making some big deal of that stuff either, but to pretend it never took place is ignoring a vital part of what has become my fuel, means by which I can finally create some measure of peace and stability.

Next week I’ll write about my first experiences with words and the Internet, but for now, I want to make sure the pictures I’m painting are clear. Someone called into question the way I’d presented a part of their chronology in relation to me a while back, took issue at the manner in which I’d presented a situation, as if I’d somehow intentionally removed what they saw as their influence from my life. The truth is, for about forty five years of the last half century, I’ve let no-one really close to me except my husband. If you called me a friend up until a couple of years ago, it was a quite carefully engineered, one sided affair. For that I am very sorry.

Only when I felt confident enough to reach out to someone did that situation change. I’m still pretty much fumbling in the dark, inspired by others on an almost daily basis. I have nobody that remains as a contact from school, college or two decades of fandom. Everybody has been left behind, by my own choice, because I could not find a way to comfortably communicate with anyone as I was. I’m still learning, pretty much every day and even now the people I’d consider close don’t need a full hand to count.

However, the difference between before and now is that I feel I could pick up the phone and talk to any of my friends without a panic attack or not understanding how they felt in return. I feel truly relaxed and myself when in the same room. That has nothing at all to do with them, of course, and everything in the world to do with me. In all of this, I have been the problem. Its why I don’t talk about the past very much because… well, I was a terrible friend. I’m better now, so let me just take responsibility for how badly that all worked out and just move on.

There is an almost certain inevitability that if things go the way I hope, I’m going to have to deal with someone from that past in the future. When that happens, I’ll cope a damn sight better than I ever did before. Until it happens, I’m going to lay it all on the line here, for anyone to read. I’ll never name names, and never have, because nobody else in any of this is to blame. I was the one who caused your issues, with one key exception. It is probably why now the notion of Internet drama makes me laugh, because these are tiny drops in enormous ponds and really, truthfully, nothing matters unless you’ve been  really stupid. Then, you’re on your own.

If you’re going to live your life in public, be ready for every consequence that involves, including the very real possibility your past is not only reading, but waiting for the right moment to return and make existence living hell. I’m ready to do this. Honestly, there’s nothing now I won’t be able to cope with.

Give it your best shot.

 

Adventures in Micropoetry [TWO]

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This is probably the hardest set of poems I’ve produced since I began with the daily workload. It also made me cry, after a week of arguing this household needs to radically reduce its carbon footprint and not make it any larger. I’ve paid cash to Friends of the Earth since my teens, and it will never be enough to save the Planet properly. Ecology matters, and the pictures on which this prompt was based are truly remarkable.

Thank you Brandy, yet again, for making me work hard.



Gorillas in the Wild

Nature’s brilliance:
Gorilla caught in
Photographer’s lens;
Pure simplicity.

We are both the same:
Primates, separate
Branches: dividing
Intertwined wonder.

What is lost to time:
Our innocence stripped,
Yours simply brighter:
Marvel captured whole.

So much to be learnt
Observing wisdom
Taking vital breath
Rethink perception.

Species together,
A planet stronger.
Both evolving, to
Live jointly in peace.


 

Adventures in Haiku [THREE]

 

There was a temptation this week, as was the case last time around, to simply post my produced Haiku and poetry for the week and crawl away into a hole, sucking my thumb. When I began my journey with the Patreon, I singularly failed to grasp the complexity of task presented. This isn’t hard physical work, but takes a significant mental toll. I have nothing but admiration for those who are lucky enough to consider themselves ‘professional’ poets because finding rhymes, or appropriate structures without repetition, hesitation or deviation can often be a really big ask.

This week’s Haiku sequence wasn’t written in one sitting: I was often desperately re-writing or drafting better versions of each part minutes before my 5pm deadline, to see if this ‘seat of the pants’ approach is workable. Some weeks I can, others need me to do it all beforehand (next week’s pairings are a case in point.) Here, and in the case of the Micropoetry I’ll publish tomorrow, I believe you can’t see I was drafting on the fly. If you read this as a whole and can tell I was in five differing places for each segment, please let me know.

Needless to say, this is a brilliant prompt, and I cannot thank Rob enough for his generosity in continuing to provide them.



Two Sides : Five Haiku

 

Two sides of the coin:
Stand straddling this shared space,
Facing each other

Holding all the cards:
High stakes never an issue,
Always food to eat.

I understand why
Taking away these comforts
Will smack of control.

Your privilege, just
that, when detached: unfair when
shifting a fortune.

Look beyond this greed:
Embrace love, help those with less,
True equality.


 

Kill Me

Origins

The past is often a difficult place to return to, especially if you’ve done a good job of removing a lot of the memories from certain periods of time. I have school pictures, sure, and old physical copies of stuff I took in my early years of experimenting with film cameras. These memories have helped create the basis of a novel that I hope to finish soon, but in the main those times are not ones I enjoy returning too, or indeed like to remain within for long.

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Back in my early 20’s, I wrote a Murder Mystery from scratch, to be performed as an ‘event’ at our first Housewarming. It was a significant undertaking, as memory serves: 1930’s themed, people in costume, modelled after the ‘Mystery in a Box’ games that were quite popular at the time. There were pictures of that, but they went in a skip during one of my darker periods of self-reflection followed by a redemptive clearout. Needless to say, I was big hair all over the 1980’s. There’s also perilously few pictures of me that remain, which should come as a relief to just about everybody concerned.

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I surface again as photogenic in the late 1990’s, but between this period a lot of writing work did go on. There’s a separate post next week on my legacy to the early Internet, but I have script ideas and fully-planned novel overviews that have survived from this time, which remain nothing more than hand-written, fanciful affairs. In fact, if you wanted to categorise how it worked back then, the process can be fairly succinctly summarised as follows: get a great idea, work on it, then get told I’m a waste of space at work and trash the whole thing. It was only when I left my job to have my son that the toxic influences finally vanished, and creativity finally surfaced. That’s fifteen years, give or take, of wasted opportunity I still regret even now.

TV was also a significant influence on how my future endeavours would work, in fact without fan fiction, I doubt I would have ever found the confidence to attempt my own long-term narratives. The earliest surviving example of that in my own timeline is dated sometime around 1995, a decade after the first tentative pushes into my own fiction. That’s also part of next week’s Internet legacy, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Needless to say, this is a part of my life I wish never existed in part, and that I’m really very loathed to go back to at any great length. When the autobiography is written, this is four paragraphs in a chapter and nothing more: important as reminder but not significant as celebration.

Time to move on to more important things.

First Steps

Origins

A lot of my earliest memories are garbled affairs: I can remember the Moon Landing in 1969, fallout during Three Day Weeks and making up games based on Rentaghost during break times on the Primary school playground. However, there is clarity when it comes to learning the recorder (playing in front of the whole school once) and in an ability to make up stories on the spot. In fact, so good was I at doing this, I was asked to make up a spontaneous narrative in front of my Year Six class. It turned into a week long event, each ‘episode’ ending with a cliffhanger. I wish there were memory of exactly what it was that was told, but there’s no recollection of detail. What I can remember clearly however is the excitement each time the job was done.

Spinning tales has always made me happy.

Today, I’d like to share a piece that was written for the first ‘serious’ writing course I took part in, which required an autobiographical submission on my early experiences with words. It is as good a start to this feature as I could hope to present, and it covers the three main stages of my literary journey very well.

The book that began it all, by the way, was Arthur C Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama.


 

One Small Step

 


1976
1976


This is the third time I’ve had bronchitis in the last four months.

On what is the hottest day of the year so far, again I am confined to bed. Every time there’s a cough, fear nibbles a little deeper, concern I will be trapped in this bright pink duvet forever. This is where it begins: anxiety that will, in time, become something far more dangerous than a chest infection. For now it is simply an accompaniment to ill health and ineffective medicines: reminder that I am fragile and mortal, perpetually frightened of ending up in hospital.

I am petrified of dying.

This panic pollutes my heart, unmistakable bitter saltiness even now: perpetual paranoia constantly bolstered by over-protective grown ups who believe I need to be sheltered from the World, who take care over everything. At nine I don’t yet grasp it is sadness binding me to these neuroses like thin cotton, digging into my chest, restricting the  breathing… that I am doomed to be a victim of my own over-active imagination and ill health for the next three decades. For now, listening to the radio, singing along to music and trying to fight boredom is all there is.

My father attempts to lift flagging spirits by bringing me a book. He urges me to read it, to lose myself in musty, damp-smelling pages. We talk about the man on the moon, my first real memory: Neil Armstrong on our ancient black and white television in a cramped upstairs flat, which seems a thousand years ago. He reassures me, this too is all about space, that I will enjoy the story. Science fiction is one of the few real connections we have, music is the other: the rest of the time he remains an unknown quantity. Never here, always working, my sense of him hazy and without affection. I sense his presence only in passing, influence far less less potent than my Grandparents or Mother. To be brought this therefore is significant: I must really be ill.

I read the book and am amazed how quickly I am sucked into a virtual world. The story is re-read countless times in the following days, as I latch onto the last sentence and its open-ended coda.

My teacher has already told me that good stories should always have a beginning, middle and end. Great Nanny loved to use the phrase ‘bad luck comes in threes’: she died because it was her time, this is not yet mine. The third bottle of sickly yellow medicine will be the last: I am going to get better and this imprisonment will finally come to an end.

One day, perhaps I could write a story as great as this.

I plant a seed, possibility of something to do well, and unaided.

That day was buried a desire to describe, tell what could be seen in my head so clearly. That hope, placed with a confidence I didn’t yet fully grasp, was quietly hidden away from layers of uncertainty and doubt: you can write like this if you want to. Your body may be faulty but your mind is capable of so much, if you will only allow it the opportunity to rise above the clouds, into space… and the unknown.

The only thing that prevents you from brilliance is your own fear.

Conquer that, and you are capable of anything.


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1988


I have glandular fever, and am without a job.

I have fallen out of college, earnest dreams put on hold: not intentionally, but through circumstances which create their own wholly acceptable justification. I’ve met a boy, and for the first time in my life experience the breathless thrills of sexual passion… but practicalities inevitably intercede. I lack any financial ability to escape the parental home. Fear remains a constant companion, eroding rational decision making. When my recently-redundant mother begins her own business and asks me to join her, I see a way to escape but also a means to remain safe should anxiety threaten to dominate.

With hindsight this is one of the biggest mistakes I will ever make: I am not yet aware of just how caustic the consequences would become, or what might result from such a close extended association first with my mother and then my father, who joins the business shortly afterwards. Anxieties may briefly recede in my twenties but still hover unseen, constant companions increasingly inflamed by proximity to adults whose ideals became progressively more alien to my own. Expression is progressively stifled, silenced by responsibility. My perception slowly warps, slow curve inwards, away from the light of quality and towards parody and unoriginality. The distractions of reality serve only to compound the problem.

The seed inside remained shrouded in self-imposed darkness.

My father and I find a new topic of conversation: ‘Personal Computers’, machines that one day I hope posses the capacity to do things I could only currently experience as fiction. Here was my childhood future made real, breathless possibilities and access to the World itself. When he presented me with the offer to buy myself and my partner a brand new machine I didn’t consider any ulterior motive. Still thinking as a nine year old, I grasped a way to experience a larger Universe outside of personal gravity. It never occurred that he might be trying to buy back some of the time that was lost with me as a child.

Neither did I grasp that I was being slowly pulled away from what it was I’d planned for my life, weighed down by a duvet of both practicality and duty. The technology created an impression of freedom, that I was independent and empowered, but in the end it was simply a distraction from a truth brain remained unwilling to grasp. I may have felt this was growing up, but work and gifts simply acted as distraction, confining the sickly girl to bed a little longer. By the time I understood what had happened, the damage had already been done. Sadness became something far more dark and insidious, and threatened to consume me completely.


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2008


I haven’t had an asthma attack for nearly a year.

My daughter has just turned two. My eldest son is seven, and the nightmares of my twenties are receding. I have a new and utterly glorious set of distractions: work has become my husband’s worry. The irony of him taking control of my parents’ business via a management buyout is never lost on me, that ultimately their need to ensure I was safe has been fulfilled. I have travelled a long road to be here: loathing and self doubt, anger and disbelief, finally compounded with Post Natal Depression. There is finally a name for my sadness, and one man to thank for saving me. My husband’s devotion has been unwavering, his love a constant reminder, if it was needed, that my worth as a person is measured by my actions, and not mistakes.

Finally, with the right conditions, the long-dormant literary seed begins to germinate.

From the radio I learn that Arthur C. Clarke has died. Sitting as my daughter sleeps next to me, staring at a computer screen, I begin to cry uncontrollably. Somehow, between the first time his book was picked up and now, I truly lost my way. What mattered so much in those early days, that talking and telling is far more important than simply standing back and listening, was erroneously put aside. Allowing the demands of others to overtake what granted me the ability to overcome my anxieties was simply wrong. With my parents that resulted in resentment and bitterness, but with the birth of my own children I know the opportunity exists to start again. The impetus is simple: writing makes me happy. Without it, something is missing, has been for far too long.

I finally awaken to my own possibilities.

Twenty five years worth of scattered attempts, fragments on hard drives and archived on CD’s has never been fully realised. When I am able to move past the fear and the uncertainty of my own mortality, that constant fragility, I know what must be done. In this quiet moment without the distractions of work, family or briefly life itself, I make a promise. I will no longer allow the world to distract me from my task. I begin here and now, allowing confidence to find its own direction.

So many other things have evolved in the last thirty-two years, yet this transformation has just begun. I no longer need a publisher to make words appear around the world, all that is required is a computer and a grasp of technology. My father gave me these gifts: a love of words and the means to spread them with so that I can sit and create a web page: it is one small step to combine all that I have learnt.

I may yet forgive my parents for what has gone before.

Publishing my first blog entry, I take my giant leap into a larger Universe.


 

Book of the Month

It is my intention, before the Internet of Words Patreon launches on June 15th, to give potential backers an opportunity to understand exactly what it is they will be throwing their money at. As a result, it is time to start explaining how this whole shebang is going to work.

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Each month, the Internet of Words will be using a work of published fiction or non fiction as the basis of a month’s worth of created and completely original content. This will include essays, humorous asides and at least one original piece of short-form fiction. On the official Twitter feed, all haiku and micro-poetry will be based on the subject matter of the book being ‘studied’, which means for the month of July our theme will be Pictures and Perception. I’ve chosen a seminal tome to kick off our endeavour, a piece of non-fiction that asks a lot of the reader. We’ve already mentioned the BBC TV show from the 1970’s which was based on this (and which will be referenced at certain points during the month.) Our opening inspiration is Ways of Seeing by John Berger.

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Click here to order this book on Amazon

I’ll be announcing the next month’s book in advance to allow Patreons and others to get a copy and read it (if they choose) so they can take a more active part in discussions. This also gives me a chance to plan the meat of the month’s output. Then, when we hit the first of the month, you can expect to see content presented, based around a number of the following umbrella topic headings:

War of the Words

The Internet began life as a text-based medium. Words are what matters more than anything else: for intent, to communicate and as education. Using our novel as a springboard, we’ll attempt to understand not simply the text in context to the subject matter, but its wider significance in the communication-rich world we now inhabit.

Books will be chosen which, in my opinion, straddle the worlds of traditional and modern, that embrace the concepts the Internet excels at and conversely fails to achieve.

Communications Breakdown

It is easy, without understanding extensive context, to make wild assumptions about everything and anything. In the modern world, therefore, understanding is probably more significant that initial knowledge. The IoW will attempt to give context to the novel, its historical significance and the circumstances in which it came to be written.

This will also include, where appropriate, documentary materials appertaining to a specific period of interest to the particular book being ‘studied.’

Alternative Internet

Anyone who has fallen down an Internet rabbit hole will know just how a subject matter can inspire people into amazing and often mind-boggling feats of self-discovery. In this strand, we’ll attempt to show what an understanding of the book’s wider themes can do to illuminate individuals’ own interpretation of the subject matter.

This strand might get a bit weird, I’m warning you now. Be prepared to be shocked, amazed and quite possibly challenged.

The Word is Not Enough

Any novel can be interpreted individually in potentially an infinite number of ways. An author will undoubtedly be amazed at what others see in their words, and often these are not enough when attempting to combine an individual experience with the written words presented to them.

We’ll consider how words are misinterpreted, how changes in societal attitudes can alter the words themselves, and that definition sometimes isn’t everything.

Fictional Narrative

I’ll be using the book as a springboard each month for both micro poetry and haiku via the @InternetofWords Twitter feed, but at the same time it will become the subject of short fiction, including 500 words micro-stories, and a 2000 word short story that covers one of the major themes of our monthly text.

There may be more or less, depending on how my real life goes. This is very much a ‘work in progress’ that will be reconsidered on a monthly basis.


So, there you have it. This is the initial concept going forward, and will be constantly reassessed, month by month, to ensure that all Patreons are getting value for money. By becoming a supporter, you’ll also be asked to help decide future novels for consideration, potential subjects for fiction and to take part in discussions that will happen exclusively for Patreon subscribers.

To say I’m excited is an understatement. I can’t wait to share with you what is in store for July, and I hope I’ll see you bright and early on July 1st as part of the Internet of Words ‘collective’ to begin discussing Berger’s work.

Mission Statement

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I’ve been alive for half a century, which has seen change at a rate which, for some, is frankly staggering. I’ve lived during massive political and social upheaval, watched history play out around me and through all of this have relied on written media to inform and educate where personal experience was lacking. Newspapers, magazines, television providers, radio stations and all forms of educative sources… my entire life has been moulded by the words I’ve read, heard and seen. Since that British bloke ‘invented’ the Internet in 1989 words have begun a transformation: no longer do you have to wait for news to be reported, or hope you can find an objective or relevant viewpoint. Now, more often than not, history happens around you and is immediately available to dissect. The way everybody both perceives and absorbs information is altering, often at a speed that some find confusing and concerning.

This is why the Internet of Words had to happen now.

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Once upon a time, when there were no words, one assumes that communication could be quite fraught. Yet now, with the wealth of information available, so many myriad forms of conveying a message, people still misinterpret what they are given. I watch it happen every day, across all forms of media. The faster your delivery method, as a rule, the more a chance exists for misinterpretation (often followed shortly by some kind of altercation.) Once upon a time it could take weeks for news to reach across the planet: now, it can take seconds. It is no wonder that so many people are confused and often unable to cope with the sheer weight of data presented to them. As delivery systems become increasingly more sophisticated, the average brain is struggling to cope with keeping up. That’s why I’m beginning this journey, and in the months that follow hope to use the Internet of Words as my platform for investigation and (hopefully) enlightenment.

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From http://www.i-scoop.eu

I’ve been inspired for this project by the Internet of Things: the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. On the Web right now, and all across the Globe, I see and sense an emerging Internet of Words: if I had to define what this project is about, it seems like a good idea to use that definition but with the scope of language and communication as its heart:

INTERNET OF WORDS: The interconnection via the Internet of thoughts, ideas and writing styles embedded in social media, blogs, mobile apps and web pages, enabling new forms of communication.

Of course, one could argue this is already restrictive, that there is an Internet of Images
that might be considered more important, but I’m smart enough to know you learn to walk properly before running anywhere. Therefore, we will begin our journey with the tools that form a vital part of my everyday existence, that have saved me from myself on too many opportunities to recall and (most importantly) present the means by which ideas can be communicated and discussed.

I took a University degree back in the 1980’s that many of my peers considered something of a joke: Radio, Film Television Studies and English. It has taken thirty years for me to realise that this was probably the best preparation I’d ever have for living in the Internet Age: words are not just carriers of understanding, but can be weapons and symbols. The power of information is not simply understanding what you are given, but grasping how that shapes the existence around you. Learning how to see, hear and read with an objective eye is a life skill that I am staggered remains lacking in so many people, regardless of age, social status or circumstance. This is not a Millennial failing, or a CIS Male issue, it is everybody’s problem to solve, regardless. Comprehension and understanding matter more now than they have at any point in humanity’s existence as the dominant species.

Every day is a School day, after all.

The Internet of Words is a project that will include my own fictional take on the changing world we live in, essays on the issues I see as being important as we proceed into the 21st Century, plus observations on how words themselves are changing and evolving, often at a speed that some of us can find hard to keep up with. There will be spaces in our Internet for the ‘visual’ words too, and how language is used for vastly differing ends, plus how as individuals we can try and understand the more objective side of discourse and response. Thanks to the unique way the Internet now functions I will be asking people to help self fund this endeavour, via the medium of Patreon.

If you wish to become part of the Internet of Words with me when the project formally launches in June, please

on Twitter or subscribe to this WordPress site, where all future announcements around the project will be made.