Fiction Friday!

So, after what seems seconds, we suddenly shift into the cold/rainy season of Autumn/Fall. Another term of Uni starts and the reality starts to sink in like the elusive quagmire that is time/truth – that I have to submit a thesis.

However, I’d like to let you have a smidgeon of an inside scoop as to what I’ve been up to – it seems fair to let you know as I haven’t been as active as I was once on the blog!

As some of you know, I’m now a blogger at Amazing Stories http://www.amazingstories.mag (you can see my profile here http://amazingstoriesmag.com/authors/susan-grey/). My latest post investigates the nature of Science Theatre, and how its immense profile has left SF Theatre backstage. You can find it here – http://amazingstoriesmag.com/2013/10/science-stage-vs-science-fiction-theatre/.

I’m also going to be performing one of my monologues/one person show Object Meet Subject at the Creative Centre of Collaboration as part of a… collaboration with Lucy Harrison, a PhD student in Music Composition on the 1st November.

I’m also scratching one of my short plays, NewsHound, which deals with the pitfalls and upsides of social media at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre. I will give you more details on that when I can.

I recently had my first ever full length play read by KDC Theatre, Opening Pandora’s Box. It was great to revisit it and immerse myself in the context of when I wrote it, and how different I feel now. It’s only been 3 odd years since I started it but I feel like so much has happened since then! Thank you to the team; I look forward to revising it and experimenting with it! Plus, it’s nice to return to my comedy writing. A member of the group called it Pygmalion meets Blade Runner, which I must use for the strap line!

I also had my play Fishbowl read by the Otherworld Theatre Company in Chicago. Tiffany Keane, the artistic director, has given me some fantastic notes and I’ve been very eager to redraft this one (it’s been my favourite to write by far, actually!).

I’m also planning to have Terra Firma read by the end of the year, which I’m very excited about!

I will also be writing some reviews – I saw There has possibly been an Incident at the Soho, which was a stripped back, bare, brutal and thrilling performance – the monologues were so powerful and emotional. I also saw as part of the Ideal World Season Override, which was very interesting in the way the boundaries of identity, human augmentation and how consciousnesses are projected. Another one to review.

That’s it in a nutshell. I’m still waiting back for news from plays and am preparing for the Stage the Future conference with Christos Callow Jr. Will let you know more as soon as I can!

 

Rambles on SF and Sense of Self

NB: This is a condensed version of what I scribbled at 6am this morning – I had these thoughts in my head and wouldn’t leave me alone. It’s like the mental version I’d imagine of having a small child when they classically jump up and down on the bed because they can’t sleep.

What arguably defines SF and Fantasy from other genres can be made on many levels – but one I will deal with here is the sense of self and the way in which the concept is presented. Arguably many genres are about human agency, characters that are shaped by what they do to others. Of course, this is a symbiotic relationship – reactions and actions are cycled in the background of many well known plots. Romance is often battling against obstacles to find “true love”, placing the power in the protagonist’s hands – often they don’t realise this at first, or most novels would indeed be flash fiction instead. Puzzles are pieced together internally and externally, but with the spotlight on the (usually) two characters. Crime and Thrillers thrive on us working out the puzzle – obstacles are placed in our way – an epistemological mode of fiction. SF, I argue, is an ontological form – one that deals with world view specifically in a way that other genres generally do not deal with (of course, genres are often blended, such as Romance and SF, Crime and SF, etc. and it’s fascinating to see how these modes can work with and against each other).

In other words, what is evident in a lot of SF texts is the distancing from the sense of self that other genres emphasise and highlight. Space is not just about outside of the Earth’s atmosphere – it’s about the sense of space inside us, between individuals, between groups, societies, singular and collective identities (as well as the ones our virtual spaces have increasingly encroached on our daily lives). It can often be seen as a metaphor of remoteness – those who close themselves up and ones who grasp for others. The sense of the alien can be a metaphor for the self/other, and how we can define ourselves in a species that for some time now has enjoyed the top seat of the food chain. To have species that rival us – often the Fermi Paradox is lifted and we become the magnet for extra-terrestrial life for artistic license, allows us to view humanity at a distance (I’m at once reminded of the convex/concave mirror that the narrator views the people with in HG Wells’ In the Days of the Comet – he is really fond of ants, isn’t he?). Of course, we have the infamous Solaris with the frustrations that humanity has to be unable to view things outside of our sphere without anthropomorphising everything – our filters of perception blocks out the fully realised idea of the world, let alone the ones outside of ours. The famous Moorcock quote – the only true alien planet is Earth – is an effective way of summing this up. The trope of Robots is similar but a little different – they are our timesaving devices, in effect our slaves, but by that reason alone our dependence on them makes them our eventual masters. Very often do you get a text with robots as the main trope as a warning!

For this reason and more, Childhood’s End by Arthur C Clarke is one of my favourite texts of all time. The introduction of the overlords and their eventual plans for humanity – the ending can really give you future shock – not only on the literal level, but of a metaphor of the next generation, our children, outliving us. They are our genetic saviours, a token of our own humanity and by extention, frailties. I’ve also been thinking, how The Tempest by Shakespeare is seen as an SF play – and that could be evident of the way humans are at the mercy of the supernatural (but then again, I thought, isn’t that the case with A Midsummer’s Night Dream?). It could be why SF and comedy are so compatible – seeing humanity from our distance and seeing our foibles from far away.

I’m reading Metzinger’s Being No-One and it’s really enlightening to me in the way representata are built collectively and experienced by us in such a heavily coded way – that the constructivist world view exposes the human self as an illusion in itself. It’s mind-blowing and well worth a read (I’m hardly finished, mind). I also love the fact that it comes with equations – I tried to formulate Possible World Equations earlier on this year to great amusement. I might leave it up to him.

Saturday Salon du Livre

I got it right this time (I hope!)

To update on the play – I seriously can’t believe it’s been a week since the LAST performance of it – it went very well! I’m so proud of the actresses who worked so fast and so well to get the lines and movement on point – and they were wonderful to work with. I certainly enjoyed directing, and it’s helped me to inform my own writing as well, so the process has worked both ways symbiotically. I can now see why the writer/director is such a compelling choice. I’ll blog more about this when I have time.

So what’s next, I hear you ask? 

I’m doing a collaboration (that I’ve mentioned before, I think) and it’s going along the lines of the performed monologue I’ve written called Object, Meet Subject – which sound composition would definitely bring it to life. I will write up about it as it’s in my Writing Section of completed plays at the moment.

I am now also a blogger at Amazing Stories – which, as you know, has a thoroughly impressive heritage in the Science Fiction and Fantasy realm. It’s wonderful to be a part of it! My first post is up here.

I’m also doing some academic writing too – the talk I gave at Lincoln for the conference on Adam Roberts is being written up for a chapter of the collected papers. It’s being edited by the great team of Christos Callow Jr. and Anna McFarlane.

I’m also doing some other academic-y bits here and there, and will be getting back on those monologues when I have time (I do have a PhD to complete, you know!)

I also have plans to write an SF Libretto (I’m utterly excited about this one)!

I’m also taking part in a Horror/SF writing challenge, but I can’t say any more than that, I’m afraid!

So that’s it in a nutshell! I will be writing more reviews and so on (which is a shame that I haven’t so far – I’ve seen some great plays since but haven’t had the time to review them. I will get round to it, pronto!)

It’s Showtime!

Showtime!Today is the opening show of the Writers Bloc Triple Special, putting on 10 minute plays and extracts from tonight (29th August) to the Saturday 31st. How exciting!

I have been directing my extract from Cuckoos and Chrysalids, which will be on two nights – Thursday and Friday. The cast has been superb and I’m really looking forward to getting the show on the road!

If you’re around Angel, why not come down to the Old Red Lion Theatre? It starts at 7:30pm. Excited! I might even get you a drink afterwards 🙂

I’ll be doing a write up of the process and everything after the weekend, along with rehearsal pictures. Also, as part of my blogging position at Amazing Stories, I will also be writing a series on my experiences of writing SF Theatre.

Fiction Friday!

Last week, I started writing commentaries on my plays and so forth, which you can see here. It’s very hard to show plays in the same way you would novel chapters or short story samples, but I will endeavour to do my best!

Last week was Cuckoos and Chrysalids, and this week is A Christmas Gift (that was staged last year in December). I will be doing a piece each week (ish).

In other news, I also did a video proposal for Object, Meet Subject which is also a short play that I hope to be taking up to Manchester. Those of you who are on Twitter may have seen this – I will link it here. It’s a one person show that will be cheap and cheerful to run and I hope people will enjoy it.

I’m also doing a collaboration with Lucy Harrison, a composer who is also studying for her PhD at Royal Holloway. I will give you news on that later – music and writing projects are always something that excite me! The performance should be at the end of September in London – I’m really looking forward to it!

Plays wise – Cuckoos and Chrysalids has been postponed for a later date (I will let you know of all the details). I’m also waiting on quite a few more. NewsHound has also been selected for a future show from one of the companies at the Camden Fringe this year, so very excited about that!

I also may have some exciting news about October and November, but I can’t yet say!

More details will materialise over the month. Here’s hoping!

Fiction Friday- Monologues

For the majority who don’t know – my research has been focused recently on the monologue. It’s known for having a loose definition and as such, not much has been written on it academically. There’s the aside, the apostrophe, the solliquoy, the dramatic monologue, the dialectic monologue, the dialogic monologue, monologue to absent other and so on, with its multiplicity of function being just as varied.

However, there is a common thread – that the monologue places the self at the centre stage of the show, no matter how the “self” is portrayed. In this vein, I have written SF monologues to focus on character and how they see externally the results of certain tropes. I have performed 2 recently – one with the Purpureus Writers at the Centre for Creative Collaboration (3 Degrees) and at a reading with Ben Markovits at Gower Street in London (Mercurial Harbour). If anyone wants to hear some and are around, I’ll let you know via Twitter or will post in here. Without further ado, have a look here for the intro to my collection – I’ve planned about 12 monologues so far!

The Future from all angles

Science Fiction has always been about exploring mind bending concepts, big ideas, extrapolations into the future that makes us think about our present and so on. That’s not new. However, there is this tendency to think towards the nostalgic – torn between the hopes of furthering our progeny star-ward between the evils and privacy invasion that technology will provide here on Earth. It’s like a very odd tennis match going on as eyes ping-pong between what could be and what shouldn’t be. What used to be a constantly forward looking genre has been criticised for being a self-sustained system.

Articles like “The Widening Gyre” and “Science Fiction without the Future” have picked up on this, as well as many other sources. The Guardian article on SF titles for SF haters has racked up an impressive number of those advocating the Golden Age favourites – the Heinlein, the Clarke, the Asimov etc. and whilst these undoubtedly have their merits – what can we say about the case of Science Fiction today?

I tutor 11+ and have taught Science Fiction writing to GCSE age students this year. It’s interesting to see what they think of the genre – I brainstormed with each group in different schools about what they thought the genre was about and what it had to say. You can see the post that I wrote about the experience here.

The important message here is that they’re not scared of the information age. Why should they? They’ve grown up with it. What scares them is being disconnected from the link, an absence rather than presence of what we may see as the looming grid. It’s their confidante, their sounding board, their teacher – however dangerous it may seem to us.

From what I’ve seen from tutoring and researching digital natives for my copywriting job, this fear is only in our minds. Take the average 10/11 year old of today. She/he watches ads – company videos that the internet has told them specifically to watch in order to collect points or some form of imaginary currency. These help them to unlock something in a game or purchase something online that they normally would have to beg their parents to buy for them. In other words, it gives them a false sense of “agency”. When I heard this, I was rather shocked, but they seem to do this without batting an eyelid. They are absorbing this information and being “paid” for it. Even if they don’t remember what they’ve watched, it’ll be stored somewhere in their memory. I asked a girl if she was worried by what she was doing. She told me that it was just normal. Something everyone does.

Does anyone remember Neopets? I was a little too old when this came out, but I remember knowing that there were “job offices”. You would apply to watch ads or collect certain items for their Neopoints. It’s not a new concept as such but to think it’s seen as normal nowadays to do this – children waiting for ads to appear just so they can buy a hat for their character worries me a little. That’s just a drop in the ocean, of course, as to what the internet can really do.

Therefore, if we need to write scenarios that will appeal to the up and coming generation, we have to embrace the technology ourselves. See what it is that magnetically draws them to something we may see as horrific and invasive.

Cuckoos and Chrysalids, a play that I’m currently redrafting, is about a woman who has stored her children indefinitely in cyberspace, waiting for the “right time” to activate them. She feels that this space is safe enough to even go as far as preserving her bloodline and only falters when she tears herself away from the grid as she is criticised for exceeding her data limit. In a space where the rules are constantly being redrawn, it’s a debate between the older and newer generations – even though many of the characters use the technology themselves for other reasons. It all boils down to whether you can trust humanity to do the right thing.

I’m writing a short play about someone who, in a future riot, decides to forego the internet entirely, hiding in a looted house. Because of the false information fed to the public via these feeds, she decides to rely on her instincts entirely – ignoring the consequences.

Of course, writing about the fears of technology is something we can do quite readily. But what we may have to do, as writers, is to imagine ourselves in the mindset of our children or our younger generation if we wish to reach out to them.

Writing Thoughts – What’s your Novum?

So I thought I’d break up the blog with more miscellaneous material – how people interpret writing at large. Knowing an author personally makes you think sometimes about the stories they write with an extra added dimension – not all the time, but it makes you think – no matter how Barthes warns us against it sometimes.

Now, I don’t know how many people have read my work – but I sometimes wonder when writing what the author will think. Art is a very personal thing and even if you create degrees of separation (which of course is fiction), there is an underlying personal message, whether you try and disguise it or not.

When I write SF, for example, I often mention the presence (or absence) of children and the act of raising a family. Fishbowl is about a system where children are neatly categorised and raised to a strict routine, Cuckoos and Chrysalides depicts a woman’s battle to keep her children uploaded until she is ready to care for them, Terra Firma has a female character who has now given up on the idea of raising a family as she and her husband flail in a post-apocalyptic world.

Now you may say I write about children as I often work in coffee shops and hear kids crying constantly, but I think there’s something else there. And that is that the very idea of having my own human kids is an SF conceit for me. It’s my own personal novum (Marriage and relationships are vastly becoming SF conceits too to me, but that’s another kettle of fish). It’s something believable but at the moment unfathomable to me – the world would inherently be the same, but I would see it differently. Dangers would be more apparent to me, my mentality would change as regards to time and space and purpose. The act of raising children does fascinate me, and I think this is the reason why I explore these many angles in my written work.

Maybe we all have personal novums, which is why we cling to certain concepts in our written fiction. I’d be very interested in hearing some from other people.

Special Fiction Friday!

After going into stand-by yet again, here is some actual fiction writing by me that I’ve written this afternoon. I tend to get the most ideas when stressed about critical writing – and as procrastination methods go, I can think of worse ones. I have logged down some ideas for later, pending and after the upgrade. Having looked through my list, I have a total of 15 play ideas, having completed 8 (or 9, I guess, as I’ve finished writing this one). I invite you to look but not steal. It’s a little one-off about artists and identification.

Here it is:

Switchboard

In other news, Fiction Friday related, I have a story published here in the Exegesis Journal. It’s called Mobius Strips of Yarn, and published amongst great writers of creative, critical and reviews. Check out the main journal here!

Just a little placeholder…

It’s almost been two weeks since I’ve updated, I realise!

Last week, I was at a conference where I delivered my first ever paper – Whose topia is it anyway? at the conference of Adam Roberts’ works at Lincoln. It was a great experience and a lovely opportunity for me to see the city and university – unfortunately I couldn’t stay longer – and as I’ve said before, first times are often where benchmarks are set. I’m glad I’ve emerged from it raring to go, especially as I have another conference coming up on Saturday! When I have more time, I’ll do a longer review on this.

Writing wise – I’ve been doing some more monologue work. I’m trying to do something with mixed media and am hoping to get some filmed eventually. There’s a nice space between SciFi short story and the monologue that I hope to navigate. The House AI play that I’m doing has been on a little hiatus – but I’ve gotten the conversation down. I do need some guinea pigs to see how effective it is. The thing is, that quantum realities are going to be carried out in the house as the AI is hacked (yes, I do realise how hard this is going to be to stage – I’ve been racking my brains out like MAD over this). Suggestions and answers are welcome!

But what I’m focusing on mostly is this paper coming up, then I’m getting back on with the work for my upgrade!

I also have an announcement, one that I will elaborate on when I have more time, but at the conference, the amazing Christos Callow from Lincoln announced that he and I have been planning to hold a convention on Science Fiction Theatre –  the first of its kind next year! All very exciting!