A finished literary urgency

NEW BOOK

I’m sure there’s significance in my fifth book being published on the fifth of the month, but I can’t find any, other than this being the beginning of my fifth year as a writer. Not bad for an alcoholic ex-tramp (Charles Bukowski obviously taught me something). There’s a certain urgency to The Unfinished Literary Agency, in my visions of the future, some of them post-human…

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The Unfinished Literary Agency is a second collection of short stories (there are 20 in this one), which stand alone, but which tell a longer narrative collected together. Although there are some dark tales in the book, it’s suitable for a wide audience of various types, and has humour in the horror. For the most part, it’s science fiction, mainly set in the near-future, and it vindicates my plaudit of being a writer who can see deep into the human condition (and sentient AI and animals).

These are collected tales from an author variously compared to the surrealists Julio Cortazar and Otrova Gomas, the horror writers Kafka, Lovecraft, King and Poe, and with Douglas Adams, Arthur C. Clarke, Roald Dahl and Paul Auster.

A writer who can hold a black mirror to the soul, and who has a deep insight into the human condition,” these are stories of fairy tale fantasy, plausible and whimsical science fiction, near-future vision and surreal dreams, with drops of dark humour. Tales of post-human landscapes mix with everyday slices of life to tell a longer story with a dark heart.

A weird and thought-provoking journey…”

It was an enjoyable book to write and I’ve had good feedback from test readers. Like most writers (who are honest and want their books to be read), I always feel my latest is my best so far. Of this one, I’d say it’s a measure of me as a writer, and Cyrus Song is the one I hang my novelist’s hat on. Those are statements which can only be put to the test of course, if people read my books.

If someone new to my writing were to ask, I’d say read The Unfinished Literary Agency, to get an idea in bite-size chunks. Anyone with more time on their hands who wants a longer book to hold with them, could do far worse with many other novelists, and there is a plausible answer to the question of life, the universe and everything in Cyrus Song.

Four years ago, I was homeless and drunk. That’s a whole other story, but what I’ve done since is written five books. I feel I’ve earned the modest readership I enjoy, and I hope that following will grow as more people read my words. It’s the perfect way for the socially anxious writer to make friends and meet kindred spirits.

The Unfinished Literary Agency and Cyrus Song are available now.

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Frankie says change future and past perspectives

THE WRITER’S LIFE | FLASH FICTION

I’ve just completed the third character prequel short story for Cyrus Song: That of Doctor Hannah Jones in the book, written by her as a teenager (to be published in a couple of weeks), as were the Simon Fry and Captain Mamba prequels (the latter with an extra human protagonist). The latter two were set in the 1980s, when I myself was a teenager, and Hannah’s story is c.2000. I’ve previously re-published stories here which I wrote around that time, when I was experimenting with writing in my late 20s. But I did also write a couple of stories when I myself was a teenager, back in the 1980s, and this is one such.

Adapted later for my anthology, and included as a story called ‘The Message’, this is the original, with just the names of Presidents changed. In 1985, I imagined a world 40 years ahead, where America had split, ceding one half to Russia. As world politics has changed (although not a great deal), the same threats remain and others have emerged.

My vision when Frankie Goes to Hollywood sang Two Tribes, was of a future world split roughly between two polar mindsets: That of the capitalist right wing, and of the co-operative left. It was a very simplified scenario, and the story was for a flash fiction English Literature homework assignment, for stories of 500 words or fewer. Essentially, this is how I saw the world, ten years from now, thirty years ago…

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FRANKIE SAYS RELAX

The time was 23.59, as it had been for eight years since it was moved one minute further towards Doomsday. After Trump, the former USA was split roughly between the new Pacific United States and the Democratic Republic of America. In 2020, the DRA elected its first president, Clinton. In 2024, she was replaced by Obama, now heading for a certain second term.

The left wing media taunted the right, pointing out how much more evolved they had become, first under Clinton, and latterly Obama, who would have been the former USA’s first female and black female presidents respectively. They accused the right of fake news and subliminal advertising, and mocked them for their conservatism, concentrating resources on military defence, where the DRA had introduced a Universal Basic Income and budgets were concentrated on education, exploration and discovery.

Sebastian Lem stared at the flickering screen in front of him, as the F.R.A.N.K.I.E computer completed its calculations. It was ten years ago that Lem had been sifting through terabytes of data and found the telltale blip that was to signal the outset of a search for his Holy Grail: First contact with an extraterrestrial intelligent race. Two tribes could change.

Further analysis of the signal revealed patterns that almost certainly confirmed it as having an artificial source, and the SETI community grew excited.

Lem travelled Europe and the Americas consulting with mathematicians and astronomers from the Independent Collective, a loosely-formed, resource-sharing group of SETI scientists, operating outside of the corporate constraints of the mainstream scientific community, for the advancement of the sciences for the benefit of all.

The financial rewards were poor compared to the conformist scientific community, and ad-free accommodation scant. But the Indies’ co-operative nature afforded him free berth with his peers whilst he travelled, and his hut looked out onto the real world, only slightly blighted by the McDonald’s logo, occupying its three-month tenure on the surface of the moon as it was beamed from Earth.

Lem’s screen blinked and displayed an image, blurred and indecipherable. He zoomed out and it began to become clearer. As he scrolled upwards and zoomed outwards, a word manifested at the top of the image: ‘Trust’ in large, red letters.

Further and further he zoomed out and eventually the whole image was contained within the screen:

Trust…”

Trust Tiffany”.

Trust Trump again.”

© Steve Laker, 1985 and 2017.

My books are available on Amazon, and can be ordered from most book retailers.