So, here comes my latest short story: The Scriptwriter, which is now available in all formats on my website and on the other usual suspects.
This is a case where form rather than content has definitely been the driving force as a cursory glance at the story will confirm. The entire story is in the form of the kind of script that I imagine would be written for a pornographic movie with the additional conceit that this pornographic film is about a scriptwriter of such pornographic movies. So clearly this is a short story that is deliberately self-referential as well as being slyly satirical of the very thing it pretends to be.
Interestingly, this is a story that has got a much more negative vote on Stories OnLine than most of my stories. That’s always something well worth considering because of what it reveals about the readership. I don’t think it’s been punished for reasons of plot, style and characterisation (as a glance at the most popular stories on the site will show: few of them have much in the way of redeeming qualities in those terms). It might be I’m being punished for presuming to be stylistically adventurous, but I wonder why someone confronted by prose that isn’t the normal series of short paragraphs with interminable dialogue should be bothered to even vote it down.
No. I suspect the cause is more like the reason my short story Her Husband’s Ex was voted down and that is because it is perceived as a criticism of the target readership. And in the case of The Scriptwriter I imagine that is because it satirises a form of entertainment that the target readers indulge in rather too frequently and in which they recognise something in themselves that they don’t like.
As I say, I’m don’t think I’m being punished for style, sexual content or even lack of sexual activity: there is considerably more of the latter than in most of my stories even if every half an hour of sex is reduced to a handful of short phrases and a note of its duration.
Freedom of Speech – Norman Rockwell
There are many possible responses I could make regarding the utterly disproportionate and indiscriminate reaction that the Israeli government are meting out on the Palestinians. However, it has to be said that we’ve got so used to it, that it’s difficult to be shocked by it any more.
But what has stood out for me isn’t just the violence. Nor the blatant hypocrisy where the stated excuse was the murder of three Israeli teens that had nothing whatsoever to do with Hamas, but where the real reason was Israel’s fear that the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah had developed so far that there might no longer be any excuses for such behaviour in the future. Nor is it the way in which the United States forever stands by the State of Israel however outrageously it behaves. There are good electoral reasons for this in a nation which is captive to the vociferousness of powerful lobbies and is barely a properly functioning democracy any longer.
What I find most worthy of comment is outlined in this interesting article in the New York Review of Books. This is written by an Israeli professor who I guess could not be described as anti-Israeli and who has faith in his country’s future. He is viewing the conflict from the inside and what I found interesting in his article was just the extent to which anti-Palestinian sentiment has become so entrenched, so every-day and so ugly. Palestinians who are a long way from the West Bank and Gaza and may well be citizens of the Republic of Israel are routinely discriminated against.
He doesn’t draw parallels with other societies that have practiced discrimination of one kind or another against people whose ethnicity and race offends the ruling party, although the list is very long and, historically, includes the United States, South Africa and Tsarist Russia. And, indeed, includes countries more closely neighbouring the Middle East such as Iraq under Nouri Al-Maliki and Bahrain.
But the article makes me understand better the frequent assertions by Western Correspondents of the overwhelming support the Israeli Defence Force enjoys for its actions from the Israeli population and the bizarre footage of weeping and wailing Israelis for the relatively minor crime of kidnap over the much greater crime of murdering hundreds of defenceless children. And the rage against a few impotent missiles lobbed over the border to land nowhere in particular as against targeted drone strikes and aerial bombardment.
And in all this, is there much freedom of speech?
Theoretically, there’s probably a huge amount of license to say and publish as you please, but as we know from the UK and the United States, the power of the press is very much in the hands of the establishment and dissenting voices are soon silenced in an atmosphere of fear and hatred and the need to get on with one’s neighbours.
This is notice that I’ve just posted another short story, this time called The Imposter.
It won’t take long for readers to realise that it shares many features in common with my last short story: Disgust. Both stories are concerned with the detrimental effect of inequality on society and both deal with the peculiar double-standards that the ruling elite use to justify their hegemony: although in the case of my latest short story it’s not so much hypocrisy but an attitude of automatically assumed superiority.
Like many of my short stories (such as The Shoebox, Virgin Gold and Bukkake Business) the story is set in a kind of alternative present which has many elements in common with the world we live in but is jarringly different (but generally for satirical purposes). If anyone is actually interested, the inspiration for this short story came from a book I recently read about the class system in Classical Rome which, to my mind, has a lot of parallels with the 19th Century British Class System which was essentially an odd mixture of the enlightened with the appalling, but, in the case of Classical Rome, had a disconcerting openness about sex with an equally disconcertingly open acceptance of sexual exploitation justified in terms of proprietary ownership and class.
However, it’s still very unlikely to be amongst my favourite stories amongst readers, despite there being rather a lot more sex than in an average Bradley Stoke story. This is not a pleasant rom-com happy-ending kind of story with sympathetic characters and cuddly and loveable animals.
Kate Tempest – Everybody Down
Not many people ask me this, but if they did ask me who I’d most like to be able to write like it would probably be Kate Tempest: performance poet, novelist, rapper and the first winner of the Ted Hughes Award who is under 40 years old.
It would be foolish to say that she doesn’t sound like anyone else: I can’t think of any artist, whether author, musician or anything else that hasn’t had some kind of influence and context. In Kate’s case she has influences in the British rapping scene from Mike Skinner of the Streets to Roots Manuvah to Wiley (the latter two also being on her label Big Dada). To my ears she has most in common with Mike Skinner, Frank Ocean and John Cooper Clarke insofar as she tells a narrative story that invokes a view of the world that is immediately recognisable, contains people with human failings, but also suggests at that side of life where there is danger and moral confusion.
Her latest album, Everybody Down is like an album length novel with each of the twelve tracks like a chapter in a novel, and one with voices that feel real and genuine, with Kate’s South London rap set against a percussive beat that is less abrasive than that of, say, Dizzee Rascal’s early Grime beats and different again to the J Dilla loops of American Hip Hop.
But what I most like is her ability to capture in not very many words and with a rhythm that appeals to my taste in music, the inner landscapes of her characters and the social context in which they operate. The characters aren’t mere ciphers and the landscape isn’t a mere backdrop.
On the other hand, don’t expect me to ever be able to produce poetry or even prose like Kate’s. Her style is not easily emulated and could so easily sound like a pale copy if I should ever try…
The surprise bestseller in the world at the moment is Capital in the Twenty-First Century by the French economist Thomas Piketty. I’ve not actually started reading the book, though it’s the next one that I shall and I’m thoroughly looking forward to it.
Although it’s a fairly forbidding Economics text book it has particular resonance to me as a lot of my fiction deals with its primary theme which is how the growth of and pursuit of capital (which in Piketty’s definition appears to be any accumulation of surplus wealth) has led to increasing inequality which in his eyes (and mine) is not at all a good thing.
In fact, inequality (as Marx also noted in his Das Kapital) leads not only to injustice but an unsustainable disequilibrium which in the end may be resolved in ways that appeal to no one.
But why has his tome become such a best seller?
Well, clearly I’m not the only one who has become increasingly troubled by the widening gap between the rich and the poor which process began after a longish period of narrowing inequality and is now very close to the absolute differences that existed before and may even have precipitated the First World War.
This is a process that left to its own devices can only continue to get more extreme and this is what Piketty explains in his book. Eventually, we get back to a state that most people had thought was consigned to history where there is virtually no opportunity for anyone to escape from the disadvantages of lower estate and where the wealthy continue to accumulate wealth and pass it on (often free of tax) to their descendants, so that wealth becomes further and further divorced from any concept of desert. There is also a slimming-down of what might be called the middle class as the economic activity that sustained it is focused increasingly on smaller numbers of the privileged.
There is a political dimension to this, which is that ever since the change of attitudes brought about by Thatcher and Reagan in the 1980s, no politician dares challenge the new political orthodoxy which is reinforced by the vast sums of money that goes into political donations and unsubtle propaganda (like Fox News and the Daily Mail) from those who can most easily afford it.
However, I don’t intend to make this a political blog (much as I’m often inclined to), but simply point out that the awareness of this disturbing process is something (amongst other dystopian trends)that has informed my novel No Future and is satirised in such short stories as Party Slave, Blessed by Nature and, of course, my latest short story: Disgust.
For the first time since April 2008, I’ve just uploaded a short story onto the internet. It’s called Disgust and is available not only as an HTML page but also as a PDF file and in various e-book formats.
As you can tell from the title, this isn’t a short story designed to appeal to fans of romantic comedy, but I can assure any worried female reader it is misanthropic rather than misogynistic. It also doesn’t spend any time at all describing sexual activities that most people would describe as disgusting.
It’s also unlikely to be a firm favourite of the average reader of stories in Literotica or Stories OnLine, but nevertheless I’ve made it available on both sites, although at the time of writing it’s still waiting to be published.
It’s much more difficult writing short stories than it is longer pieces of work and Disgust is, in any case, more a character study than anything else. But there are plenty other short stories I’ve written that are pretty much like that.
However, why would I ever choose to write a short story if it’s so much more difficult to write? Well, short stories enable you to explore ideas which are just not the material for a longer piece of work and also to cover rather more varied ground than it’s ever possible to do in a novel.
And so it is with Disgust.
I hope you enjoy it.
Coming Home by Michael Kutsche
Well, it’s been a few weeks coming, but here for those who’re interested are the links to the e-books for the novel Into the Unknowable: the final volume of the Anomaly Trilogy
- All e-book formats
- EPUB.(Most widely used format)
- MOBI: (Compatible with Kindles)
- MS Reader:
I’d personally rather read a novel as an e-book instead of as HTML or plain text, but readers do at least have a choice of formats to use.
For those who prefer to read on a Kindle, all of my five most recent novels can be downloaded from Amazon
And for those who are less enamoured of the Jeff Bezos empire, they can also be found on Smashwords (just less easy to upload onto a Kindle).