Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Surviving Michael Moorcock

The Panel (l-r): Norman Spinrad, John Clute, Roz Kaveney (chair), Michael Moorcock and Brian Aldiss
(Image © Jonathan Pinnock)

I've decided that world-renowned SF author Michael Moorcock is either my guardian angel or a serious threat to my existence. I’m convinced because of something that occurred last night, just like all those other times more than fifty years ago when we first met.

To be clear, I'm talking space-time problems here. Weird life-threatening things that keep happening to me soon after I’ve entered space adjacent to Mike Moorcock at the same time.

Don’t get me wrong, Mike is a nice guy – indeed, he's one of the very best – but, for me, he’s also dangerous to know.

It was in the early 1950s in Thornton Heath, South London, that I first met Mike. In truth I don’t remember much from that time other than his name. He is two years older than me, which is nothing at our present ages, but represented a vast difference when we were kids. But we did share common ground in a wild garden – with a lot of other wild kids – near where we lived. And we had at least two mutual friends.

It was in that same wild garden that someone (I forget who) shot me in the mouth… with my own airgun. In my own garden, next door but one, a guy called Billy Lowe split my head open with a Dutch hoe. In the garden next to that a kid called Jimmy Cooney threw an African spear at my chest. You’ve spotted a trend here haven’t you? I was a popular child – as a target. I’m not blaming Mike for these events in any way, although undeniably they did occur in our shared space-time. In fact this is where the guardian angel possibility comes in.

Were it not for some equally bizarre counter-circumstances, any one of the above events could have killed me. The gun with which I was shot was my Diana pistol, a notoriously inaccurate gun with a very weak mechanism. The pellet passed between my lips and stopped against my teeth. Had it been my powerful Webley pistol… When Jimmy threw that leaf-bladed spear he was not kidding. He had a wicked temper. But by chance I happened to be holding a piece of wood a couple of feet long, about 2” thick and circular in section. In blind panic I closed my eyes and held the wood in front of me. The spear hit the wood dead centre and penetrated. I swear had it been a millimetre to either side of centre, because of the curvature, it must have hit me in the chest. The Dutch hoe? It was plain lucky that the blade stopped against my skull without penetrating the bone. I’d bent into Billy’s swing – my own fault. I still bear the scar of that one.

However, more than half a century has passed since our paths last crossed during which time I’ve lived a safe and cosseted life as a sparky, working on high voltages, in dangerous environments and at scary heights. I’ve even parachuted, all with hardly any a threat to my continued existence. Until last night.

Last night I attended a talk by Brian Aldiss, John Clute, Michael Moorcock and Norman Spinrad at the British Library, accompanied by my old mate Jonathan Pinnock. I was driving home after dropping Jon off at St Albans when a front tyre blew out. Not simply a puncture, but an instantaneous deflation. The tyre proved to have a hole the size of a 50p coin in the sidewall. Thanks, Mike.

Seriously folks, the blowout was entirely down to my own stupidity. Had I not been reaching into the foot-well to retrieve a fallen mascot the incident would not have happened. I clipped a kerb. But here I am: alive, well and writing it up. So, thanks again, Mike.

Despite that slight accident it was a terrific evening. The only other downside being that I would have liked to spend more time blathering with Mike about the past – so much catching up to do. But that would have been unfair on the scores of his fans queuing for book signings.

Maybe one day, Mike, we’ll meet again and chew the fat for longer? On second thoughts, perhaps an exchange of emails would be safer.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Srebrenica Beyond Tears - A Story

Some time ago, I wrote this flash fiction piece for a competition. A picture prompt of a female face lined with suffering initiated the idea. The picture triggered in my mind - a misinterpretation of the image on my behalf as it turned out - events I could clearly remember reported in the world's press. I read the piece at Verulam Writers' Circle and received their excellent critique, as ever. It clearly required attention and other things took precedence, so on the back burner it went. I do recall thinking at the time that some of VWC's younger members may not have known much if anything about the events I was trying to capture.

In the past week the wheels of history have turned again and one of the 'swaggering beasts' is caged at last.

With thanks to my friends in VWC, in hope that I have done justice to their critical assistance, here is the latest version:

Srebrenica Beyond Tears

When clouds blush the shelling will stop, Anna knows this. Dusk in the valley spoils the gunners' aim. Yet wild beasts still swagger the commanding hills with murder in their hearts, some toting rifles with starlight scopes.

Again the market place contains fresh meat, stuff that once was fathers, husbands and sons. Nothing moves. No sane being would retrieve the dead 'til dark. A loud report says desperation willed one try.

Dry-eyed, alone in a shelter built of faded dreams, Anna surveys her sometime garden in debris that once was home.

Hers is the timeless face of war, a young face aged by fear and a world's indifference to a clash of ideology insignificant in the arc of time.

Of cherished evening primroses a single stem survives. Daylight fades. Her frail blooms open one by one, the colour of sunlight, the hue of hope.

Anna ventures out to wait once more for Fate's next tumble of the dice.

© Oscar Windsor-Smith 2011