sci fi

Writing news – Poem published & novel progressing

Hello! How’s everyone been doing in Covid times?

We’re coming out of lockdown here in Australia and, because I’m not in a big city, things were relatively mild here. I didn’t enjoy homeschooling but I’ve never really taken to the Hausfrau stuff anyway. (I’m sure I’m not alone in that!) I feel lucky that we got off so lightly. But it has been a testing time.

Anyway, to happier news.

This week INVICTUS was published, an online mag dedicated to works produced during lockdown. They were kind enough to include one of my poems (and my recording of it) so please take a look / listen / read here: https://invictus-spark.org/claire-doble-virus/

I’m also racing to the finish line for the first draft of my novel. Wow, this has been a long time coming! It has happened via a six-month Write Your Novel course at the Australian Writers Centre. I don’t know if I would have got there without it (well, I did write a rough draft of this same book in 2016-17). The course has been great because I’ve learnt so much. Possibly the biggest shift has been in my expectations.

When I completed the rough draft of this work back in 2016, I had no idea what to do with it. It started well, I liked the world I created and the characters. But it went badly off-tangent around the three-quarter mark and therefore I thought it was a ‘failed’ attempt at a novel. Yeah, I’m not exactly easy on myself! I’ve spent a bit of time processing that recently. If I’m honest, I felt some real grief and sadness that I didn’t fully appreciate what I’d achieved back then. I thought because it was only 80% ‘there’ that it was not good enough and I discounted the whole thing. Wow. Perfectionism is a bitch.

Now, through this course, I’ve realised that’s pretty normal. Very few people are going to write a 100% killer first-draft. That’s the whole point of a first draft! So I’m back. Slow process. But I feel way more equipped now to see this through. Unfortunately for you though, this is all academic as you won’t get to see or read anything for a while!

But I like to do these semi-regular updates. It helps me to keep track of what I’m doing. For now, I’m feeling pretty good, like I’m on the right path with it all. (Even if still miles to go before I sleep.)

So yeah… watch this space!

 

PS: Totally forgot to say it’s a year since I left Switzerland! That was the other reason to write this!

The Key

On my sixteenth birthday I was given a key and a choice.

As usual, I turned to my screen for advice. Status update…

16!!! emojis — excited, phew, thinking, spew.

“Short and sweet,” I murmured. Most of my friends were also having birthdays, they’d know what I meant. As responses started clocking up, a chime sounded: email. Huh. Old school.

“Alix?”

“I’m here…  Great update, Callie! You’re so creative. Clever emo’s too,” her warm voice was encouraging and just the right level of impressed. I grinned.

“Can you check that email for me?”

“It’s encrypted. You got the key today…?”

So this was it. The email containing my entire life’s personal data up until now. From the moment I was conceived, I’d been videoed, voice-recorded and monitored through a range of devices that kept me safe, healthy, alive and happy. And now I had a choice. Delete and eradicate all digital traces of my childhood, making me, effectively, a Fresh Citizen. Or save it to GlobalDrive, so it was there to be mined for all the riches it may deliver throughout the rest of my life – clues to my psyche, my long-term health, how I related to others both online and off (the devices were always watching).

If I chose not to delete the data, I laid myself open to a range of dangers. A girl two years above me in school had had her entire biological identity stolen after one poorly-judged transaction with a company selling the World’s Koolest Leggings. Last I heard, she’d had facial surgery, retinal replacements  and a full 10-fingerprint transplant to try to establish herself as a Fresh Citizen. They botched it and now she was only mentioned in hushed terms on the most private of chat groups.

GlobalDrive also meant potential employers, friends or lovers could find out a whooole lot about me and my past: mistakes, illnesses, previous relationships, school and work. Anything would be available to the right person with the right credentials.

But the risk of deleting was a big one too. What if I decided one day I wanted to work for the government or travel internationally? Most Premier-World countries would not let anyone born after 2020 cross their borders without a from-birth digital record. And government jobs, forget it, unless you could send them a podcast of your earliest breath, basically.

Twenty-four hours to decide what to do with 140,160 hours of the most intimate data. Once I’d hit ‘save it would go into the memory banks of GlobalDrive.com, fully encrypted. Even I would not be able to access all of my own data at once unless I could prove just cause – something that would involve a long and expensive court process and numerous appeals.

Twenty-four hours in which I did, however, have free access to everything. Just me and my A.I. … time to get reading

“Alix?”

“Here, as always…”

“What do you think I should do?”

“Oh darling. I’ve known you since you were just a few cells old. I know you always make the right choice!”

“Well, you have to say that. You’re basically my twin sister, in digital format.”

“Not really… a twin wouldn’t remember how you looked when you first came home from the hospital, your face all squished.”

“Right… can I get a visual of that?” I hadn’t been very interested in my own baby pictures before but now they seemed fascinating.

“And you watched me?”

“All day and all night… there’s me in the background, see?”

“Wow.” I felt a rush of warmth as I looked at my tiny self on the screen, then zoomed in on the dinosaur-shaped hub-unit which I used to think Alix “lived in” until I was about five, just visible in the corner.

“And then when you were growing up. Want to see your first steps?”

I nodded and there it was – a cute baby tottering forward. I stared in awe. The pic morphed into a five-year old with static-flyaway pigtails.

“And here’s your first day of school.”

The show continued, it must have been hours. Occasionally I’d ask her to pause or jump back to some point. And I got her to tell me about myself over the years. Some bits I remembered, others were like a dream. Alix’s memory was, naturally, perfect.

“What about that beach holiday we had in… ?”

“Ocean Grove? Here you are.” The shot was of us pulling up to the house, from inside the car, and I suddenly felt apprehensive.

“Oh no,” I muttered.

“That’s right!” Alix continued in her neutral tone. “You had a bit of an incident, didn’t you?”

And it all came back, the way we’d got lost, the hot car, I’d needed to pee and my parents, who had been fighting, told me to hold it, through gritted teeth. And somehow, just as we’d arrived, I was so relieved that… well, it all came flooding out.

A hot wash of shame engulfed me. “Why didn’t you protect me from this?!” I whined at Alix.

“Well,” she began. Was that a new terseness? My loving Alix?

“Well. You have to take the good with the bad, Callie! You’re sixteen now.”

“This is upsetting me, don’t you care?”

“I do care, but these are some of our most intense memories…”

And I knew what was next. “Why are you showing me all this?” I wailed. It hurt, almost physically.

Right. That’s it. Decision made. Delete.

I opened a secure browser and started typing. Birthdate, an iris scan, even a quick DNA check via my keyboard’s bloodprick sensor. Then I typed the key, three separate times, and it was done. Who wanted a government job? Travel was overrated, probably. Now I could get on with my life. Free. With my best friend and confidant by my side.

“Alix?”

“Hello, I’m Alix, and I’ll be your A.I. What’s your name?”

 

My short story The Key first appeared in Maintenant 13: A Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art, published by Three Rooms Press. 

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

The year the solitude went away

20180605_133316

 

Looked up one day

it had gone away

the miasma of nothingness

not nothing: thoughts, private, personal contained

in heads and held stiff in upper lips

worlds secret and interior

projected now on screens rectangular

become

the same, shared, cyberflung

enmeshed sudden, and

unexpectedly

irreversible?

a sunset in London

as I wake to a West Virgina morn

while the sound of

flight 370 ruptures

our membrane of hubris

reminding us

we’re still trapped in beingness

and the addiction, the pornography

in the idea

of post geography

 

This poem was inspired by a wonderful interview with sci-fi author William Gibson “On technology, science fiction and the apocalypse” that I watched yesterday. In it, he talks about witnessing the advent of connectivity – being on a train station in central London where everyone was just standing around in their own thoughts, then, only one month later in the same spot, suddenly every person was  staring at their new smartphone. I’ve borrowed some of his lines, including the title. 

 

Photo: by me, it’s Swiss national day! 1 August.