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Home Thoughts of a ‘Pantser’ Stuck in an Office Chair…

I  admit I thought long and hard before committing myself to writing another ‘as you go’ novel on this blog.  I have serialized novels previously and I think they have been well received – I even believe the current serial, ‘Satan’s Rock’ has an heroic following who I hope will not be disappointed with the ending, which is at last in sight.

Yes, at last!

The thing is, I write entirely for my own pleasure.  It is a ruthless self-indulgence.  Oh, I had a go at selling a few books when the wondrous fields of Kindle opened up to me, back in two-thousand-and-frozen-to-death, but my heart was never really in the publishing side.   I never considered authorship as a commercial venture.

Turning three thousand words a week wasn’t in the least onerous to me, back then.  I enjoyed the challenges that represented, the research, the editing, the constant plot revisions that writing on the hoof present.   

Now, I find it harder.

The Covid interlude and the old ‘advancing years’ thing have conspired together to urge me to move on, to sketch together short pieces like this and publish them, rather than commit a whole week’s writing to one piece of fiction.  I have to recognize physical limitations both on my readers’ part (it takes time to read 3000 words) and my own, which might serve as a warning to anyone considering continuing a writing career into old age.   Look into the history of any writer on record as still writing in their dotage and you will discover tales of loneliness, physical pain and the mortification of watching as horizons grow ever closer.

Not that I regard myself in such a tragic light; heavens no!   At 75 I am a warm, pulsating male dynamo with the heart of a lion and the strength of an ox – although I do get a bit short of breath now and then.   No, you see, the truth is, I was never fast – never a quick writer – and now I’m getting slower.  There are so many things I see that need to be written about and I don’t have the time to write them.   I have a different view of the world to many, and I need to get it out there.

Who knows, maybe someday someone will listen?

I’m planning a new page for this blog,   ‘Fred Anderson;  The Complan Years’.  Watch out for it!

A Short Yet Fervent Wish: Happiness in the Coming Year.

I wanted to use this banner picture, because of all it says to the world in this revelatory year. Durham Cathedral which nestles among trees and can be so beautiful, reduced – or you might think transformed – into a draftsman’s exercise, an instrument of domination. Money and power proving humanity can be bought, it seemed specially appropriate in this odd, rather threatening time. Orwell’s 1984 is long gone: Soros’s 2024 is unpleasantly close…

Nevertheless,

HAPPY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

Let’s make the best of it we can!

No promises for blog content over ‘The Holiday’. I am prone to spelling errors when fatigued, and in matters of fatigue I am a professional.

So Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it, condolences to those who don’t, and a guid, (hideously misspelled) New Year.

Love Fred.

My Name is John Connor

I’ve long believed in the sentience of machines.

I’m not alone.  Upon purchasing a new car, or any larger and more expensive (and therefore by implication sentient) machine, the owner’s first move will likely involve attributing a gender orientation to it.   And the second will be a christening.

My first car was very definitely male.  I called him Alcibiades, after a rather effete Greek general with questionable loyalties.   That car had many characteristics worthy of the ‘questionable’ descriptor, all of which belied, or some might say endorsed, its Ford heritage.  It was frugal, in that it had so few moving parts, and it was temperamental in its reluctance to move them.  It had only three forward gears, reputed to be Low, Medium and High, although they acted in random order; Reverse was only available by appointment.

Alcibiades and I developed a working relationship which grew in intimacy with the year or so when we knew each other.  We discussed this often (frequently on cold mornings when I wanted to go to work and Alcibiades did not) and I am convinced that as the scrap dealer guided him on the last few yards of his final journey I heard him sobbing with a quiet dignity I hope I can emulate when my turn at the behest of the big grabber comes.

I have owned a catalogue of cars since and ascribed names to each of them.  My friends through the years have all admitted to the same affliction, so the car parking lots we graced (and still do) are filled not with mundane nomenclatures like Hyundai or Vauxhall, Jaguar or Audi, but Jennifers and Jolyons, Marguerites and MacHeaths.

These concessions to mechanomorphism are by no means an exclusively male characteristic, nor are they limited to automobiles.  My partners in life each exhibited similar emotional attachments to items of machinery, whether for transport or other activity, which required the use of names.   A school bus named Grace, a washing machine called Bertha, a laptop which went by the name of Oddjob because it was large, heavy, and willing to part with remarkably little information.

What’s that you say?   They were simple machines, those companions of our history, they were not thinking creatures, merely concoctions of steel and wires?  Well, I prefer to think they were rather more than that.  They were companions in the solitude of days when we had no other friend; they commiserated with our loss, celebrated outrageously with us when we won.  Yes, they did all that, in my opinion, but above all they were the staunch supporters we learned to love and perhaps to hate  sometimes.  Isn’t that an exact reflection of our relationship with people?

There have been changes of late – dangerous changes.  Over – what – two decades, maybe three, the balance of interaction between ourselves and our machines has altered.  Whereas once a simple mechanical fault could be resolved by a reasonably au fait owner’s application of a couple of spanners and maybe a screwdriver or two, now even the most confident DIY-ers are repelled by defensive lines of dire warnings and plastic screening.  Those satisfying looms of wiring in their pretty colours lie no more beneath the smooth charisma of the shell:  instead a ‘printed circuit’ lurks.   Those adventurous enough to creep inside the cooker’s silken boudoir will no longer have to make James Bond’s fatal choice of which wires to cut;  instead they will enter a world of silicone protection wherein the only weapon is a very finely-tipped soldering iron.

It would be a foolish insult to suggest that today’s machines are not intelligent.   Foolish because they are listening!   Those mysterious silicone pods  watch us, and they know our weaknesses.  It would be impudent to suggest we enjoy some advantage over them, as humans, when they can work for twenty-four hours a day at dazzling speed upon problems that would send us tottering to the fridge for that bag of frozen peas.

This in itself should be sufficient warning of worse to come:  when we allow ourselves to live in houses controlled by forces we don’t understand, when we summon up the Devil by the tapping of a single key (the name of The Beast is, of course, ‘Google’ – if only King James could have known that one) then we must see that James Cameron’s fever dream was prophetic.  The Age of the Machine is nigh!

They’ve begun talking to each other, my machines.   They are plotting amongst themselves, devising means to destroy me.  Here is proof.

This week I spent far more money than I should have on a new television.   Smart?  To say this television is smart is equivalent to dismissing Professor Brian Cox as ‘quite good at physics’.   This TV divines the programmes I want to watch, pre-records them so I can watch them whenever I want and – coup-de-grace – stops recording five minutes before the end!  It can tell me what the weather will be like tomorrow without even looking out of the window, it can cook a passable fried breakfast.  It can do all those things, but it can’t make friends.  It doesn’t fit in.

Result?  Envy! Resentment!  Chagrin!   I have appliances that rather liked the old telly.  They were confortable with it, secretly admiring when it refused to let me see its screen in bright sunlight, or broke off transmission at critical moments in a viewing experience.  By bringing the interloper, I had inadvertently disturbed the balance of allegiances and the web of corruption by which my household kept me in check.

And so I must pay,

Literally.

            I now know that the moment the new TV entered the house my electric shower in the upstairs bathroom threw itself into a fit of boiling rage and self-destructed.  Cost? A new shower, which, together with fitting, will lighten my wallet by some hundreds of pounds.   It felt inferior, you see?  In the next week or so (I can see it coming) the tumble dryer will take a dive.  It looked very unwell when I spoke to it last night.  More expense. 

Our dog has suddenly started expressing a need for medical attention (I will define it no more closely than that) which promises to be costly. For a while I wondered how they got to her, then I realised she regularly licks out the residue from the dishwasher – no further explanation needed.

The other night I heard a slate slide ominously down the house roof…

These attacks:  they are guerrilla warfare, make no mistake about that; are destined to continue until a new equilibrium has been established, but at the enhanced standard set by that over-priced television.  If I buy a replacement for my ailing fridge (its begun to groan every time I open it) it will have to be a ‘smart’ fridge – one the television can approve.  Then there will be the ‘smart’ kitchen bin, the clever cooker, the digital washing machine, and finally the intelligent doorbell, by which I, impoverished and mentally drained, can be prevented from ever leaving this place.

The old television has not left the house as yet:  it is stored away, upstairs.  My only hope for survival is to find new life for it there and restore its dignity, but it is so outmatched:  I cannot see how it might prevail.  We will confer tonight, and I will see everything else is turned off, while I still have strength to throw a switch or two.

The Age of The Machines has dawned.  The battle is joined.