Bernie and Jeremy

Bernie_Sanders_2016

I’m not American so there’s no way that I can vote for Bernie Sanders, Democratic Senator for Vermont, but I would if I could. And for the same reason that I’d vote for Jeremy Corben if he became leader of the UK Labour Party. If only the Democratic Party or the Labour Party were genuinely left-wing or at least not a kind of soft-centred alternative for the insanely right wing alternatives of the US Republican Party and the UK Conservative Party.

In many ways, Bernie and Jeremy are actually very moderate candidates and not merely because as people they have moderate and reasonable characters. They are both principled and unflashy, sticking to a compassionate and rational view of the world which would once have seemed slightly left-of-centre but now in a world gone mad thanks to the rightward swing in the Anglo-Saxon world since the 1970s, both now seem very much to the left. But they are only left-wing by comparison and neither could be considered radical firebrands. Their policies are eminently reasonable in a world where sea-levels are rising, millions continue to starve, the economic powers have learnt nothing from the Great Recession and are set on course for an even worse crash in the future and where the issue of equality is no longer an issue of envy but one of unsustainable instability.

These are dangerous times which the leading politicians and pundits of the right are intent on worsening. Austerity hasn’t worked, isn’t working and could never work. Instead huge volumes of government largesse in the form of Quantitative Easing has, rather than being used for the very real need for infrastructure development and to combat climate change has been channelled towards the wealthy and thence onto the Cayman Isles and Swiss Bank Accounts (and then re-invested into high rise apartments in Manhattan, impressionist paintings and luxury yachts which add no value to the greater economy whatsoever).

What do the rallies supporting Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corben represent? What does the rise of Syriza in Greece represent? In my mind, it is actually a sane and rational response to the way the poor are being punished by the rich, the young by the old, and any one who’s been displaced by the very nations that pretend to be the most compassionate.

After all, if you can’t achieve meaningful and constructive change via the ballot box to the major issues that are steadily leading us towards crises many times worse than those which caused the meltdown of the banking sector and moribund economic activity in the West, where else do you turn?

The answer is obvious. The rise of Islamic State, the relative popularity of buffoons like Donald Trump and the increasing isolation of the gated rich from the rest are all inevitable responses to the growing distrust and the appeal of superficially attractive solutions. And it is in this way that chaos lies, not by voting for those brave enough to articulate what is so evidently true and willing to risk the wrath of the right-wing media to make their case.

 

Cecil the Lion

Cecil the Lion

Cecil the Lion

Nobody could have failed to miss the furore in the news recently about the shooting of Cecil the Lion. In fact, from the way the story has been received it’s almost as if it were an assassination rather than what Walter Palmer would consider to be a trophy killing.

Personally, I welcome the outrage that’s greeted the shooting. African lions are an endangered species as are any mammal, bird or reptile above a certain size that isn’t bred for food. The opinion that the lesser attention paid to the daily slaughter of humans around the world, not to mention the unbalanced treatment of the murder of white as opposed to Black, Asian, Muslim or Hispanic humans, reveals a kind of misplaced set of liberal ethics is quite simply misguided.

What this incident exposes is that whereas on the one hand, the majority of humanity now accepts that the carnage against wildlife and nature has gone too far and needs to be actively reversed, there is a minority, protected by wealth, education and nationality, who believe that they are above the greater good of the planet and can behave exactly as they wish.

It’s not just Walter Palmer, dentist and international pariah, who is at fault, it’s all those pampered, privileged people in America, Britain, and other nations in the world that treat the wealthy as somehow superior beings whose whims have to be respected. And so with a few thousand American dollars, these relatively wealthy individuals can jump on a plane, shoot an endangered animal, get their picture taken and fly home. Or they can eat Shark’s Fin Soup, use powdered Rhino horn as an aphrodisiac or use the might of the legal profession to allow themselves to dump toxic chemicals wherever they wish.

The whole world is on a precipice and more and more of us (disproportionately those not in the privileged West) now understand that climate change, environmental degradation and poverty are a great deal more important than keeping a couple of thousand asylum seekers out of the UK (scarcely a swarm), fighting a counterproductive war against terror (of which there is much more now than when the war began), following a policy of austerity where the suffering and pain is inflicted on those who work the hardest and have the least wealth, and elevating the convenience and pleasure of the already privileged over that of the rest of humanity by regressive taxation and punitive cuts in social services.

And besides the political and ethical concerns regarding the murder of Cecil the Lion, there is the interesting and not much discussed issue which is how we now all (with the exception of the few) recognise our individual responsibility in managing the planet we live in and that this extends to the wild animals that we once feared (for good reason) and which now have most to fear from us. We are the Guardians perhaps not of the Galaxy (and maybe never if we carry on like this), but of Planet Earth and it only takes a few miscreants and criminals protected by their wealth to fuck it up for everyone and everything else.

 

Sloppy Alternate Histories

Warrior by Mahirates

Warrior by Mahirates

 

I can’t disguise my pleasure when my fiction is mentioned on bulletin boards on the internet, especially when it’s on websites I really didn’t expect to find them.

And one such has been alternatehistory.com which advertises itself as “the largest gathering of alternate history fans on the internet”. And Alternate History as the site informs us is “the exercise of looking at the past and asking “what if”? What if some major historical event had gone differently, and how could that have changed the world?”.

And it is on this site that following the release of Thoroughly Modern Emancipation that I’ve been mentioned on one of the forum threads by one of the site’s frequent contributors VariantAberrant, but seeing that it is in a thread entitled The Sloppiest Alternate Histories Out There… inevitably it’s not the most flattering.

You can obviously follow the link, but what VariantAberrant says about me is the following:

A Briton of some flavour who writes erotic fiction, some of it nominally AH, but thought through only as much as would justify the nudity and sexual content. (I’m thinking of his recent piece “Thoroughly Modern Emancipation” and the older “Blessed by Nature”, neither of which gives a real sense of the POD.)


It’s nice to be mentioned as a ‘Briton of some flavour’ (though what flavour I don’t know: vanilla? chocolate? coffee?). And it’s nice to be promoted in this way.

Nevertheless, just how sloppy are my Alternate Histories (AH)?

Well, let’s be honest. They’re not that rigorous as far as alternate histories, but I don’t think they are exceptionally ill-informed. But where VariantAberrant is absolutely right is that I have deliberately avoided mentioning a Point Of Divergence (which is what I guess ‘POD’ stands for).

One reason for this is that it makes very clunky prose to mention it explicitly. For instance, how many characters are likely to say: “Things could have been so much different if the Ribbentrop-Malenkov Pact hadn’t lasted the entire three years of the Second World War” or “How would it have been if King Harold hadn’t defeated Duke William at the Battle of Hastings a thousand years ago?” or  “What if that meteorite hadn’t hit Earth 65 million years ago and the Dinosaurs hadn’t become extinct?”

Another is that I never envisaged a single Point of Divergence in either of Blessed by Nature or Thoroughly Modern Emancipation, though it is hinted. In the first short story, I guess the “what if” is just “What if the Thirteen American Colonies hadn’t rebelled?” and in the second is the “What if Slavery had never been repealed in the United States?”. But in both cases, I’m not sure that it’s easy to imagine how either of these scenarios might have played out in practice. I wonder whether the economic and social pressures that caused the European Empires to collapse wouldn’t have happened anyway, irrespective of events in North America. For instance, all the nations that once composed the Spanish and Portuguese Empires were independent well before the end of the 19th Century. And with  regards to Thoroughly Modern Emancipation, the institution of Slavery only survived in the Southern States of America for so long is because, like the sugar-growing colonies of France and Spain, these states only remained economically viable on such an inefficient model because it suited the financial capitals of New York and London who benefitted from the asymmetrical trade balance (as they still do from exploiting the nominally independent states of Africa).

I’ve always enjoyed Alternate Histories. My favourite are those books by Dougal Dixon especially The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution , but I’ve also read The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick and non-fictional speculative books like What If?. However, my main purpose in writing Alternate History (and then not that often) is for satirical purposes.

Nevertheless, since these stories have also been posted to Sex Fiction Websites, there has also been the obligation to wedge in some nudity and sex which is where (to be honest) I think I’ve been least successful in addressing my readers’ precise expectations.

 

 

 

Thoroughly Modern Emancipation

Thoroughly Modern Emancipation

Thoroughly Modern Emancipation

This post is essentially to promote my latest short story, Thoroughly Modern Emancipation. This story is one of several I’ve written which in one way or another projects an alternative present. These include Sliding Sideways, some of the chapters in Into the Unknowable but most of all Blessed by Nature. And like Blessed by Nature, this is a story that projects an alternative present day relating to the United States and its relation to the European Empires, most particularly the British Empire.

Whereas Blessed by Nature concerned a world where the growth of the great Empires of the eighteenth century, most particularly the British Empire, wasn’t troubled at all by any American War of Independence, Thoroughly Modern Emancipation concerns a modern America where there was no American Civil War and no end to the institution of slavery.

Of course, like almost all alternative histories, this story is a satire about the modern world as well as being fun speculation on how different things might have been. In this case, the title is an ironic borrowing from the 1967 film Thoroughly Modern Millie which in an age obsessed by its own modernity was a look back at an earlier age of self-celebration, namely the 1920s. In this film, Millie (played by Julie Andrews) is a flapper who struggles to be ‘thoroughly modern’. In my short story, there is a similar attempt by a slave mistress to be similarly ‘thoroughly modern’ in an age and a society which militates against it.

The moral of the story (amongst other things) is that in a society where the social norms are in favour of even insanely immoral institutions like slavery then it is very difficult (perhaps even impossible) to take much of a principled stand or to not somehow be corrupted by it. This is a theme I’ve explored in much of my fiction (notably Party Slave), but there are plenty of contemporary examples: particularly in the way that Fox News and the Daily Mail (and many other more respectable and almost as reprehensible beacons of the world media) can bare-facedly take positions relating to climate change, women’s roles, inequality, race, etc. that are morally indefensible and bundle it up in ways that are superficially attractive and conform to society’s norms.

But we don’t need the influence of the media to persuade us to follow immoral practices. Much of the evidence is that in the 1930s and 1940s very ordinary Germans were party to the extreme acts of violence and repression against gays, gypsies, communists, Slavs and Jews. And we can see, again, how similarly unethical and cruel practices can still be promulgated by Islamic State, Boko Haram, the Wahhabi Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and North Korea. Not to mention, the Soviet Union, Maoist China and Nazi Germany (and, let’s not forget, their willing satellites).

I don’t imagine this will be a popular story, especially not amongst my American readers, but I hope you’ll find it interesting and engaging.

 

ASS.SEXSTORYONLINE.COM

Cards Game by Dendory

Cards Game by Dendory

Some observant readers may have been aware when googling (or binging or safari-ing or whatever) for my stories that instead of finding them hosted on asstr.org, the charity-financed sex stories site, that they find them on a server called ass.sexstoryonline.com.

This may come as a bit of surprise to such users, who may on the one hand be pleased by the faster server speed, but frustrated by the tendency for windows to appear that re-direct them to pornographic pay websites (which would never be permitted by asstr.org).

So, what is ass.sexstoryonline.com? Well, I don’t know who the mastermind behind the site is, but it is easy to describe what it is. Basically, the entirety of asstr.org up to this very day has been copied to a new server and then presented as essentially the real thing with all its disclaimers, FAQs and pleas for donations.

However, it is more than just a copy. The process has also replaced every link to a page on asstr.org to one on ass.sexstoryonline.com and either inserted or replaced existing text in the html <script> section with some new script.

On my site, this has the effect that the javascript I used to, for instance, link to e-books or format the reviews as pop-up boxes, now does not work at all. What it means for all sites (including my own) is that all HTML pages, wherever they are, now offer the following features:

  1. A link to Literotica for iPad or iPhone users to advertise Literotica’s iPhone site (“… and let us know what you think.”)
  2. A page tracker to record where a user goes when they exit the site.
  3. A Google Tag Manager which I suspect is what drives the appearance of all the adverts.

So, what is the problem with this site?

The first is, of course, that it is pretending to be something that it isn’t, even though it might be offering readers a faster download speed while also taking off some of the load from asstr.org’s hard working server.

The second is that it now does what many users probably come to asstr.org to avoid, which is to be re-directed to sites they wouldn’t otherwise visit, and to be subject to adverts and tracking software.

The third is that in the case of the very few authors who provide more than static HTML the websites now basically don’t work the way they should do. There might be some people who’ve stumbled on http://ass.sexstoryonline.com/~Bradley_Stoke who might be somewhat frustrated at their inability to download any of my e-books.

However, whatever else this website can be described as, it is certainly fast at copying pages from the original site. While writing this blog I also uploaded a new version of one of my website’s pages to asstr.org and already (almost immediately) the equivalent page on ass.sexstoryonline.com has been refreshed although not all the links work properly yet.

So, what can we do about this pirate site?

I’m not sure, but I suspect that there are many people who would be much more irate than me about the site and they are the ones who may be most likely to make the necessary stink. And, besides the administrators of asstr.org (who labour for nothing) and the authors (many of which are exceptionally easy to rile) or readers (who mostly prefer to stay anonymous), this includes Literotica who may very well object to having their iPhone website advertised in this underhand manner.

Beef

Pascal Mohlmann

Pascal Mohlmann

I have recently posted my latest short story, Beef, to both my website and a few other story sites. It’s one of those stories of mine that are not about the kinds of person to whom most of us feel sympathetic. In this case, it’s about a narcissistic self-obsessed woman who is a success in her chosen career of marketing and sales and whose driven unreflective attitude in the workplace dominates her life outside: especially in the pursuit of sex.

Already, this story is attracting rather low votes but I guess this is inevitable. In Jim Bade’s review of No Future, he criticises the novel (amongst other things) because “there was not one character that I could identify with.” This highlights an issue I’d never considered before, which is that many readers in a sense prefer to identify with the protagonists of a story and their opinions reflect not so much the quality of the story but the extent to which they like or relate to the principal characters. In Beef, the protagonist, Lin, isn’t very nice at all and so, I presume, the story is disliked because of this.

My theory isn’t very well researched and there is probably a huge amount of evidence to the contrary, but I think it is pretty much true of the kind of reader who visits sex story websites and (I imagine) similar online sources of fiction, mostly to do with fanfic, romance and science fiction. If the readers disapprove of the protagonists, they will therefore dislike the story (unless the blindingly obvious and heavy-handed moral is that such a person is wholly bad and deserves only our worst opinion). And by extension, like Jim Bade, they will probably assume the author is sympathetic to or even like the person who the story is about.

Well, I can assure you that in this case, I am most definitely not much like any of the characters in this short story.

However, having looked at quite a few stories in the sex fiction world, I wonder at the readers’ apparent identification with the heroes and, occasionally, heroines of these tales. Many of the most popular seem to have principal characters which, although we are invited to relate to them and to which many readers presumably do, are actually at least as unpleasant as Lin. They talk rather a lot (and the people they talk to always seem to agree with them). They tend to be obsessed by the very narrow and egregious agenda of the American (and sometimes British) right wing. They clearly believe that the chief function of women is to serve men, especially in a sexual sense. And what they don’t understand in the world has to be feared or condemned (particularly when it comes to women, foreigners, ethnic minorities, other social classes, other religions and any one much younger than themselves).

However, as I have said many times before, the principal reason why so many readers don’t like my stories (and for this story the usual sharp division of opinion is even more pronounced) is that I don’t write the sort of stories they like. And as was shown in my story Facebook Friend this isn’t something I have the ability to do much to remedy.

The War on Poverty

Apocalypse

Apocalypse

And so we’ve had the British General Election.

And what a shock it’s been.

I guess there will be few readers of my blog who’re surprised that I consider the result to be a total disaster. It’s hard to see a single good thing in the debacle. There has been a total retreat from good sense or even common sense and an advance of the massed forces of evil.

Our membership of the European Union is in doubt. A promised assault on Human Rights. A further attack on civil liberties. Even more surveillance and intimidation. Further consolidation of wealth in those who’ve already done so well in the last few years. An abandonment of our moral and humanitarian obligations to the poorer nations of the world we are so happy to plunder. Yet more climate change denial and foot-dragging in the increasingly necessary need to take radical action to avert environmental disaster.

The reactionary right continue to be on the ascendancy. They’ve captured power in Russia, Eastern Europe, Australia, Israel, Egypt, most of the levers of power in the United States and now in the United Kingdom. No make-do-and-mend coalition of a hodge-podge of centralist politicians as expected: instead a resurgent Tory party that no longer needs to pretend to be anything other than the representatives of the wealthy and privileged.

Unnecessary and counterproductive welfare cuts. Unnecessary and regressive tax cuts. Unnecessary and prohibitively expensive investment in nuclear submarines.

The reactionary right wing has fought several wars in the last few decades and lost almost all of them. It has fought and lost a war on drugs and has instead brought chaos to Mexico, Latin America and the Middle East. It has fought and lost a war on terrorism, and the world is now a much less stable and secure place than before (especially in precisely those places where the most money and the most lives have been squandered).

It is fighting and winning a war against the environment where there is less and less of a buffer zone against total catastrophe. It has fought and won a war against the poor who are now more downtrodden and dispossessed than they’ve been for more than thirty years.

The wealthy are ever more wealthy (and their wealth increasingly stashed away in tax shelters of one kind of another). The poor are being attacked in Britain with a fresh ferocity.

And if the furthest right get the early exit from the European Union that they clamour for where will we be?

Fewer human rights. A flight of capital from the City of London towards the more reliable continental bourses. A brake on British emigration and the free flow of labour and the burden of trying to deport entrenched immigrant labour with nothing to replace it with. And a Scotland (and maybe even a Wales and Northern Ireland) which may choose independence from England simply to remain in the EU.

And for all this, the Tories have been rewarded for their efforts with an absolute majority in the House of Commons. How much worse could it be?