Friday 29 October 2010

The Story Behind: Run For Your Life

For some stupid reason, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine has agreed to publish my story 'To Stand And Stare' in their 48th issue. As a build-up I'm regaling my minuscule audience with incredibly detailed essays about the making of some my previous, immensely obscure, short stories.

This time, I've chosen to write about Run For Your Life, published by the online magazine Pratilipi (who may be running something else by me later this year, by the way).

Sometime in 2003, I left the advertising business for what should have been the last time (I foolishly ventured back in 2008 but luckily it didn't last). At a loose end after 4 months of prison camp conditions I did something I very rarely do, homebound slug that I am - I agreed to go on a roadtrip with a friend. We rode to Sravanabelagola, Belur and Halebid with a stopover at Hasan, where my mother used to live at the time. We stopped at a few wayside bars during this time and I got to wondering about their clientele, especially the ones who came in, gulped down large shots of their favourite booze and quickly exited. Once, I saw a barman chasing a fleeing customer. Apparently the customer, a poor farmer from a nearby village, had downed three large shots of rum before attempting to run away without paying his bill. A while later, the barman returned, winded and without his quarry.
This incident had a lot of resonance for me. In the last year, I'd been out of work more often than not, and underpaid when I was working. It's the poorest I've been yet in my adult life and while I maintained a semblance of middle class solidity, I came much closer to the edge of actual poverty than I'd ever expected was possible. So my thoughts often ran to methods of dealing with low or non-existent finances. While thievery never seemed like a good option to me, I had often cadged loans off friends and family. So I could sympathise with that anonymous farmer's desperation.

Back in Bangalore, I often thought back to this incident and it became a favourite anecdote to regale friends with. At one time I even discussed making a short film based on it with some friends of mine who were experimenting with filmmaking. Then, I got a new job and soon had other things to think about.

But I think the image of that running man continued to haunt me, silently. Then, in 2009, I found myself without a steady job once again. This time around I had enough experience and contacts to make some sort of steady living freelancing, but I felt that old background sense of instability that I'd experienced back in 2003. Naturally this made me think of the running man once again. I knew I had to tell his story, and that I had to figure out not just what he was running from but what he was running to. The last 6 years had shown me that the places we think we want to be in are never quite what we'd expected once we get there. All these thought and ideas found their way into the story as it now is.

One more thing: the first version of the story simply had Ramu collapsing, dead, at the end of his run. It isn't clear whether or not that isn't case in this version as well - at least it shouldn't be. I wanted the ending to be a bit ambiguous, even though I know exactly what happened.

Again, this story could do with some more editing, with more showing and less telling, but, again, I think it isn't a bad little tale as it stands.

Thursday 28 October 2010

hey hey do the zombie stomp

And - thud! - I watched a more or less mindless zombie flick last night, Tombs Of The Blind Dead, a 1971 Spanish film. Some attempt is made at an original backstory involving medieval knights, Egyptian ankhs and blood sacrifices, but basically it's pretty much the zombie film template with fresh meat delivered up to the slow-moving but unstoppable terrors, midnight resurrections and so forth. Much of it is beautifully shot with a great sense of atmosphere, like the scenes of the horse-riding undead knights galloping in slo-mo in a sort of eerie semi-twilight, but the film is undermined by gratuitous bits of sex and nastiness and a mediocre script.

For a film that largely keeps its more brutal moments off-camera there are some serious lapses in taste - an extended scene of the torture of a young woman by the knights in their pre-undead state (I believe it's called 'being alive') and a bloody scene of a mother and child being attacked by a zombie in a train. There's also a lesbian scene and a rape scene which could both have been omitted without losing anything save some cheap titillation - especially the second instance. For all of that, I quite enjoyed this film in parts, although it lacked the verve of, say, Fulci's approach to grue as well as not quite delivering the sheer WTF-inducing unintended charm of something like Lamberto Bava's Demons (although I don't know why I'm comparing a Spanish film to a bunch of Italian ones).

PS: Where the hell did the undead knights get their horses from? They're clearly not undead horses.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

'the magic isn't real'

It would be facile to say that fans of Stephanie Meyer's vampire romance and its cinematic spin-offs need a remedial dose of this unsettling film by George A. Romero. Martin is not simply the anti-Edward/Lestat/Angel, he's the antithesis to the romantic dream that seems to stand at the heart of the killer mythos in popular culture. Not just a deconstruction of the lush, Castlevanian settings of vampire flicks by Universal and Hammer, Martin is also, in my opinion, a riposte to the rising tide of slasher flicks that Romero didn't really participate in, even if his work is sometimes lumped with it as 'mindless 70s gore horror'. Because Martin isn't just an antidote to the legend of the Nosferatu; he's also the truth at the heart of that other great romantic myth of horror cinema: the unstoppable, totally committed, totally crazed killer, a form of untrammeled ego that we are all too often invited, tacitly, to identify with. He's a confused, sick individual whose impulses are misdirected and dangerous, a misfit who craves the same things we all do. And yet this neither excuses him nor, we realise in the shocking last scene of this film, those who would persecute him in the furtherance of their own delusional agenda. Vampires don't burn in the daylight, boys may survive heartbreak but not stakes through the heart, killers aren't gods, god isn't watching, the magic isn't real. That is all.

PS: Is it significant that Martin's first victim reads this book? I don't know.

Monday 25 October 2010

The Dancers At The End Of Time: Michael Moorcock

(Illustration: Aubrey Beardsley, The Scarlet Pastorale)

I'm currently re-reading these novels (in the handy SF Masterworks omnibus edition) and am again discovering just what a fine writer Moorcock at his best is. His swords-and-sorcery, with the exception of Elric, has always been a little hit-and-miss for me, but it's his so-called literary fiction and his non-traditional fantasy that impress me the most. Along with the freaked-out Jerry Cornelius novels, this trilogy stands among his most original, subversive, satirical and flat-out fantastic work.

It's Moorcock's on take on a dying earth milieu, filtered through a Decadent lens. The immortal and nearly omnipotent denizens of the end of time vie with each other in coming out with ever more elaborate fads, crazes and parties, recreating past epochs in various highly anachronistic ways and indulging in every pleasure - and pain - known to living beings. One of them, Jherek Carnelian, decides to try and revive the ancient mysteries of 'virtue' only to be diverted into another archaic spasm, 'love' by the arrival of a time traveller from the 19th century.

The sheer fertility of Moorcock's imagination, the vividness of his descriptions, the variety and sting of his satirical barbs and the sparkling dialogue indulged in by his endtime decadents all make these books an absolute delight. I suspect they'd leave readers expecting some sort of epic fantasy or SF a little nonplussed, but for the reader with no expectations except brilliance, these books may just be the ticket.

Sunday 24 October 2010

men, maids, monsters: Ken Russell's GOTHIC

A 19th-century sojourn at the Villa Diodati in Switzerland remains one of the pivotal events in the history of horror and science fiction. As a fan of both these genres, I was understandably keen on watching this.

It was a strange mix - incredibly well-researched (the shelf from which Byron takes down Fantasmagoriana also bears a copy of Hieroglyphic Tales, a rather obscure but very appropriate work by Horace 'Otranto' Walpole) and also sensationalist in an almost puerile way at times (the orgy scene, some of the enactments of various characters' nightmares/fantasies). The imagery is over the top, but it doesn't quite have the hermetic, dreamlike feel of the imagery in, say, Jodorowsky's Santa Sangre - it's a mix of Hammer and Freud, for the most part. Horror, terror and sex. And yet, it's a gripping film, one that somehow feels true to the famous characters it imagines and that remains gripping all the way through. I also liked it a lot better than Russell's Mahler pic, which felt far less true to its subject.

Friday 22 October 2010

Newpace: Aranya Out-take

In an earlier post, I related how I'd initially planned to write my story Aranya's Last Voyage as a science fiction story. Here's all I could find of that original draft:

Needles of steel, glass and plastic slice through space in every direction, everyday. Many of them wind up lost, broken on the crags of some distant asteroid belt, sucked into the gravity well of a gas giant, or simply absorbed into the furnace of a distant star. Others fetch up on habitable worlds and the seed-crew lands to start a colony; sometimes they die in a few years, felled by unforeseen hazards, sometimes the precious sentient stock takes root and a new world joins the glittering array.

Sometimes, it gets really strange.

There are whispered tales of ships that fall through vortices in space and time into paradoxical rabbit-holes where up is down and left is right. Tales of ships that slip through the trellis to a still place, untouched by entropy where everything blends together in a super-concentrated singularity. Tales of ships that fly far beyond all known stars and galaxies to oldspace, the farthest circle of this bubble cosmos, where the fabric of reality starts to fade and to fray.

My story is stranger still.

It was my first time out as captain. I’d ridden on missions before, to-and-fro trade runs between settled worlds, supply chains to fledging colonies, rescue parties to communities which had run into some unforeseen crisis, recovery crews for the remains of settlements that had failed. I’d worked my way up through the ranks from cabin boy to captain of my own colony-ship, looking for a new world to settle.

We traveled cocooned in stasis, to shelter us from the cold agony of the empty reaches between the stars.From time to time, the computers pulled the umbilici out of my body, injected my bloodstream with quickening agents and pulled me out of suspension to survey the surroundings. I jacked in to the monitoring systems and ran my accelerated sentience through the datastream anomalies that prompted these resurrections.

I was the human agent to make the human decisions to stop and explore. To turn and run or to press forward; decisions which can never be turned over to machines, no matter how sophisticated. I’d already diverted us from a score of dead ends, chosen the more promising branch on a dozen cosmic crossroads, and then subsided back into the ageless dream.

This time, however, everything was different. The data that I was being fed was either anomalously rich or disturbingly empty; I could not make out which. Baffled, I accessed further input streams and found the same paradoxical pattern. At last, I activated the external monitors and gazed, amazed, at a planetary surface where none should have been.

We seemed to have fetched up on some strange new world that was confusing the senses out of my machines. Stirring out of my pod, I drifted through nutrient fluid to the sphincter, which ejected me into the command section. I showered briefly, pulled on overalls (standard grey, with a small seedling-and-stars motif on left chest) and sat down at my console. I pressed buttons, called up surveillance records and guided cameras and samplers through exploratory routines.

Slowly, the flow of data began to subside into intelligible patterns. Gravity: .9. Atmosphere: Present, earth-like with a somewhat higher proportion of nitrogen. Native life forms: single-celled organisms detected. I ran through checks and counterchecks, but the results seemed determined to remain stable after the initial chaos, although much was still unclear. My immediate surroundings seemed to be a hospitable enough terrestrial environment. Beyond a certain point, my instruments failed. I could not discern the overall mass of this world, the star it orbited, the solar system it inhabited, nearby stars, or even the usually omnipresent expanse of space itself.

I sighed, and closed my eyes to distance myself from my confusion and think things through. When I opened them, still confused, the data had increased. They seemed to hint at a planetary mass in the range of a regular M-type planet, some orbital data (tilted axis – there would be the familiar seasons and climatic variations). Still no signs of a star, but the vista outside seemed sunlit. Shaking my head in wonder and dismay, I knew I was about to take a gamble. I slipped on a radiation suit and a breathing kit, and then programmed the ship to take off and retreat if I did not return within a stipulated time. My throat was dry, and there was a fluttering in my stomach as I stepped out of the airlock and down the dozen steps to alien soil.

Thursday 21 October 2010

I liked this even if I would not rate it as highly as Martin Scorsese does (although his list is rather good). An old-fashioned ghost story, well told. I began suspecting the good mother/bad mother switch about halfway through, but it was still a good twist. I thought Gail Russell overdid the wide-eyed naif bit, but mainly I wonder how much better this might have been if the studio hadn't insisted on bringing the ghost onscreen; the reaction shots where someone stares, rapt in terror, at something outside the frame were far more chilling than the actual floaty-gauzy thing. It's the same quandary I face in writing my stories: how much to tell? Is the answer always: less is more?

Tuesday 19 October 2010


The more violent the irruption of the numinous, good or bad, into a narrative is, the more necessary it becomes for the narrative to be rooted in the loam of everyday human aspiration and emotion. Stephen King's hoary horrors sell the way they do because he always takes the time to build his characters and their small-time lives to the extent that we momentarily mistake them for foreground; then the bad shit breaks out.

Another way to anchor a tale of supernatural terror is to hinge it on some human act of horrific proportions; this is the method of many a classic ghost story. So many of M.R. James' apparitions are doomed to remain in their spectral state as the consequence of some horrible act that operated in the purely mundane realm.

The Changeling, a 1980 film directed by Peter Medak deploys both strategies. The story begins with a man stuck in a phone booth, unable to intervene, watching as an out-of-control automobile smashes his wife and child to death. We learn that the grieving widower is John Russell, a composer; that he has taken up an assignment as a lecturer in a Seattle university soon afterward. He leases an historic mansion, a beautiful place with wooden floors, vast, gracious halls and a music room with a grand piano. As he tries to work on the elusive second movement of his latest composition, he finds a melody presenting itself to him; things seem to be working out.

But there are strange disturbances in this house. And this is where this movie, ever so slightly, overstates its case: I could have done without some elements of this build-up. The dripping tap, the door that seems to open or close on its own, the ever-so-spooky sound effects. But these elements stand out as much as they do because of the excellence of everything else - the deliberate pacing, the dignified and empathetic presence of the lead actor, the cleverly played double- or triple-herring where we are made to believe that the haunting - for haunting it surely is and not just an old furnace with odd habits, as the building's caretaker claims - might be by Russell's daughter, or by the daughter of a former resident, a girl who died in a road accident that strikingly parallels the death of Russell's daughter. This confusion is good; we are right to be confused and mistaken when first confronted by the supernatural.

The word 'occult' is often used loosely as a synonym for 'the supernatural'. It's a good word; it means 'secret', and most good tales of terror hinge on the unraveling of some secret that would have been better left alone. It's no accident that Poe, father of the Anglophone detective story was also a master of the tale of terror, or that Arthur Conan Doyle also wrote a mean ghost story and eventually became a believer himself. And the narrative in The Changeling soon follows the course of an investigation. First there is a seance, which feels like a bit too much at first, an overly credulous gesture. Then it takes a truly creepy turn, exposing a secret that was not previously suspected. The weight of this revelation, and the way it is delivered, its impact on Russell is what gives this otherwise rather hokey device substance: once the whole horror of what happened in 1909 in the attic room of this house dawns on Russell, he physically collapses. It's the casualness that so many B-movie protagonists show in the face of terror that deflates those narratives; Medak dodges that bullet, even if he succumbs to a few more creepy-flick cliches than he needed to have.

The rest of the move builds frantically, in the honoured tradition of the best (and worst) films of the genre. Although the supernatural manifestations grow in force and virulence, the impact of the horrible human act that started it all is underscored in a pivotal scene featuring the titular changeling, played marvelously by an aging Melvyn Douglas. It's the bitter, tortured weight of his character's guiltless complicity that serves as a counterpart to the child-spirit's final act of vengeance and destruction. Not a simple drama of good versus evil, in its final act, this story leaves us with no simple moral truths - although I'm willing to concede that some of this ambiguity may stem from my own analysis of the changeling's complicity rather than the writers' intentions.

There are moments along the way where it nearly tips over, this delicately-balanced tale of horror and its terrific consequences. There are, as I've said, a few too many instances of the standard devices and tropisms of this sort of film being trotted out. And yet, the moment Russell moves into his Seattle mansion, I felt a cold, icy breath run down my spine, and a sort of hushed foreboding took hold of me. This movie gripped and even, at times, scared me as few horror films have lately and I heartily recommend it to connoisseurs of the more subtle cinematic chills.

Here is a scene that illustrates both this film's brilliant sense of pacing and how it cannot fully escape standard haunted-house mechanisms:

Sunday 17 October 2010

book haul and a plea for better artificial memory

I went out cruising the bookstores with my wife and mother today, which resulted in a somewhat gargantuan and no doubt rashly timed book haul:

  1. Collected Poems: Tony Harrison
  2. Selected Poems 1908-1969: Ezra Pound
  3. All Shot Up: Chester Himes
  4. Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand: Samuel R. Delany
  5. Maigret Mystified: Georges Simenon
  6. 10,000 Light-Years From Home: James Tiptree Jr
  7. Shards Of Space: Robert Sheckley
  8. The Saint In New York: Leslie Charteris
  9. The Princess And The Goblin: George MacDonald
  10. Fundamental Disch: Thomas M. Disch
  11. Johnny And The Dead: Terry Pratchett
  12. Melmoth The Wanderer: Charles Robert Maturin
  13. Marriages and Infidelities: Joyce Carol Oates
  14. Damned To Fame - The Life Of Samuel Beckett: James Knowlson
  15. Asimov's Guide To The Bible
  16. Raymond Chandler - A Biography: Tom Hiney
  17. The Real Life Of Anthony Burgess: Andrew Biswell
I wonder when I'll get around to reading all of them. My backlog of unread books has reached ridiculous proportions, even though I work diligently at finishing them all. Sometimes I wish they'd work out the brain-computer interface a little faster (if they're working on it at all) so that I can have all these books already in my memory instantly, in such a way that all the correlations and connections you make with the contents of a specific book and everything else in your memory (which is the knowledge and context each individual carries around in their own head) are automatically made. As for the first-hand, sensual pleasure of reading the actual book, that can be done at moments of leisure by remembering their contents in perfect detail. Even though I love collecting physical books I'm no Luddite; if such a technology existed, I would be all for it.

(The image at the head of this post is courtesy jef safi. It's the Sator Square, a mnemonic device that dates back to Roman times and may have been used to remember a religious or magical formula. Another fascinating historical method of extending the human memory was the memory palace.)

Friday 15 October 2010

Dracula's Daughter (1936)

(A weird feeling of...boredom)

After watching a couple of James White's excellent contributions to Universal's classic horror portfolio, this weak effort, directed by Lambert Hillyer, struck a particularly discordant note. Bogged down by cheap attempts at humour and romance, wooden acting and absurd dialogue, this film fails to really get off the ground even in the last 15 minutes, those crucial last 15 minutes of a horror film when a sudden burst of energy, inventiveness and pace can redeem any number of past infelicities. Some critics have praised Gloria Holden's Countess Zaleska and Irving Piche's Sandor, but the only performance that briefly rose above the level of basic dialogue recitation and glassy-eyed staring was Nan Grey's very brief turn as a doomed victim. The camerawork fails to conceal the multiple takes required to coax even this dismal level of performance out of the players and the pace doesn't meander so much as plummet quickly to a nadir from which it never ascends. There's no sense of immediacy, of threat or even of the campy yet sinister evil conveyed in a film like The Old Dark House. This one's only for the completists.

Thursday 14 October 2010

The Story Behind: Aranya's Last Voyage

The next issue of the Australian spec-fic magazine, Andromeda Spaceways, will include my story 'To Stand And Stare'. As a build-up to this, I'm doing a series of posts where I link to previous stories of mine that are available online and share a bit about the creation of each story. First up: Aranya's Last Voyage.

Aranya's Last Voyage won the 2009 Sunday Herald Short Story Contest. You can read it here.

I often suspect I'll never write a novel because it takes me years to write a short story.

This is only half-true.

In actual fact, once I've found the right combination of plot, theme, setting and narrator for a story, it takes a week or two of concentrated effort to get the damn thing down.

Getting all those elements aligned just so is what seems to take years.

I first had the idea for the story that would become Aranya's Last Voyage in a dream, sometime in 2005. I had this vision of people alighting on a world where their imagination could shape reality. I saw them eagerly using their imaginations to reshape the world around them. Only one of them chose to turn away, return to his craft and speed away from this place. I woke up suffused with the wonder of a place where you can reshape reality any way you want, and wondering why that one person turned their back on it.

I first tried to answer this question with a science fiction story entitled Newspace. It began with a series of stylistic flourishes that I am still very proud of, but the problem was that it rapidly fell into the standard strange-planet-visited-by-exploration-team stylistics we've all encountered in so many Star Trek episodes and Golden Age SF stories.

When it comes to hardcore SF, it takes someone with the wide reading and theoretical grounding of Adam Roberts, or the genre credentials and scientific knowledge of Stephen Baxter to be able convincingly deliver a new twist on an old tale. I read a lot of science fiction, but I haven't seriously contemplated writing it ever since I read Ted Chiang's short stories and realised two things: it wasn't worth writing science fiction unless I could write it like this, and that I just didn't have the extrapolative rigour or scientific orientation to write like him.

So Newspace floundered and was never completed, even though I'd even penned the titles for a series of sequel tales in a notebook. I had a vague of idea of turning the whole sequence into a sort of environmental parable, on broadly similar lines to Ursula K. LeGuin's The Word For World Is Forest. I didn't really do anything further with it because I think I knew even then that I didn't have the toolkit to write that sort of science fiction.

Also, I still hadn't figured out my breakaway character's motivation. That came from a re-read of James Blish's A Case Of Conscience, a novel where a priest encounters an alien race that he admires, but which also has no religion at all, precipitating a deep crisis of conscience. Like Blish, I am an atheist, but I liked the idea of a compassionate, questing yet deeply committed believer coming face to face with a situation that is at odds with his beliefs. Faith is basically a conceptual framework and I realised that eventually my story was going to be about how much we should or can impose our own frameworks on the world, and whether it really makes a difference in the long term. Predictably, my conclusions are somewhat pessimistic.

Finally, I realised that instead of trying to write about a space-going priest, and finding a theological conflict that would fit the bill, it would be easier to set the whole tale in a fantasy world where a society ruled by a priestly class is embarking on a phase of exploration and discovery. Once I named my lead character Aranya, the story seemed to begin telling itself.

The first draft had already crossed 5000 words when I heard of the Sunday Herald contest with its 5000-word limit. I did a new draft keeping this word limit in mind, and I think it worked to the story's advantage, and to mine as a writer: it helped me develop a certain compressed but still vivid style that serves as a tool to get a story down before running out of steam while providing enough cues to expand on if needed. In fact, I'd like to rewrite this story a little at some point, expunging infelicities and fleshing out some details. Still, it's not a bad little story as it stands and I hope you enjoy it.

(Original illustrations in this piece were drawn by Yathi Siddakatte for Sunday Herald)

Wednesday 13 October 2010

then again, ginger spice seems to have liked it...

I reviewed One Day by David Nicholls for the Sunday Herald. Here's what I thought of it:

This is a remarkably unimportant novel; which is fair enough, but also a rather shallow, weightless novel, which isn’t. Following the lives of two individuals who first meet in 1988, at the end of their college lives, Nicholls’ novel attempts to track the lives, loves and fates of two people who one assumes serve as a sort of embodiment or microcosm of their era - Thatcherite Britain and its aftermath.

I had the same problems with this book as I did with Audrey Niffeneger’s ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’, perhaps not coincidentally another book that was very succesful and was eventually adapted into a movie. These problems were: lack of empathy and total predictability. One Day is essentially a dual character study, but at no point did I really warm to, or at least conceive some degree of interest in Emma, to whom life seems to happen somewhat by happenstance, even when she achieves some measure of success, or Dexter, a self-absorbed child of privilege, a pale shade of similar characters to be found in the novels of Evelyn Waugh or Nancy Mitford (although one might argue that modern Britain itself is a sort of faded version of the era those writers lived in and wrote about). We are made privy to a great deal minutiae about their inner lives, but ultimately these feel like cues to the reader to identify with elements of the zeitgeist of a certain generation and, by identifying with the characters, or identifying them with people they know, do the hard work of characterisation themselves. A neat trick, but it didn’t really work for me. Ultimately, even a fluffy novel has to make you feel invested in its narrative. At least for the time it takes to read the book in question, we care for Bertie Wooster’s latest lamebrained scheme, or for the fate of the Ringbearer’s quest. Nicholls offers no compelling reason to care for his characters or their futures except that they’re there, living out their lives on page after page of this novel and we’re here, reading those endless pages.

Just as bad, the story was predictable. The various travails and travels of the two characters, down to actual details like pillow talk and dead-end jobs, to say nothing of the eventual foregone conclusion were all strikingly self-evident from the first page. About halfway through the book, at the fourteenth or fifteenth new plot development that I’d seen coming for pages in advance, I decided that this was one of those books that ideally reads itself, with the putative reader simply sitting passively and turning pages at regular intervals while the novel gleefully communes with itself.

To sum up, there’s some humour, some pathos, some bathos - a bit of everything, but not enough of any one thing, like a hastily assembled buffet lunch. And ultimately, haste is this novel’s metier. It zips along nicely in that sort of unexceptionally readable prose that is the hallmark of the middling British writer and it’s perfectly conceivable to finish reading it, appropriately enough, in one day and then pass it on to your significant other. A day later, you could meet up over coffee to compare notes and find, as I have, that there really isn’t that much to say.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

I used to be fascinated by urban decay as a sort of found art with a very distinctive aesthetic. There's a certain satisfaction in the sight of the kitschy artifacts of commerce and publicity falling into bits. A certain decadent grandeur in the sight of a heap of smashed automobiles, a wistful sadness in the discouraged but still elegant aspect of an old bungalow slowly rotting.

The most central attribute needed to appreciate this form of beauty is one of hope, I think. Of being able to see beyond the collapse of the past and the chaos of the present to a hoped-for and worked-towards better state. Without that vision, all one sees are the discarded skins of a serpentine civilization slithering its way down a spiral process of uglification and mindless change whose only byproduct is garbage.

I don't really have that sense of hope. Urban decay no longer seems like a bit of cool window dressing as we ascend to our various singularities. Instead, it reminds me that no matter how vast the future is, it becomes the past in the blink of an eye. Promise turns to failure before you even realise it's happening and that's the only constant truth that I can discern from these piles of twisted machinery that failed to remain new and improved past their sell-by date, these broken husks of dwellings that housed ways of life that we can only dream of in our high-rise middle-class slums, these useless dreams that could not prevent the truth from happening.

it's pretty bleak in Whitefield