Where The Ideas Come From
Over the course of creating short stories (my collections usually take three years to accumulate) all sorts of disturbing and unbelievable things happen in the news. These are just a few I noted during the writing of ‘Old Devil Moon’.
In Stockton-On-Tees, a poverty-stricken family succumbed to heroin use, and as her son died, the distraught mother went to bingo to try and win money for his gravestone. Ironically, George Bush chose her neighbourhood for a visit, and his security operation cost the British government a million pounds.
Pat Robertson, the US Christian evangelist, appeared on national television suggesting it would be a good idea for American hit squads to murder the president of Venezuela for his oil.
In London, a Big Brother house member simulated masturbation with a beer bottle on a channel subsidised for its contribution to quality television, and garnered more column inches in the national press than the US governmentâ€™s final refusal to cut CO2 emissions.
In Japan, internet suicide groups were infiltrated by bogus suicidees planning to kill their fellow members for cash, which had the effect of making teenagers think twice about killing themselves in groups.
In Britain, an 11 year-old girl was rushed to hospital suffering from a heroin overdose, while on the same day another 11 year-old announced she was pregnant and looking forward to being a pre-teen mum. It was revealed that half a million UK children belonged to street gangs.
In Plymouth, four mothers filmed goaded their toddlers into fighting each other. They did it, they said, to make their children hard and stop them from turning into â€˜faggotsâ€™.
In America, where an estimated 37 million citizens live below the poverty line, one Christian Right group decided to improve the world by financing trips to locate the remains of Noahâ€™s Ark, while another threatened to kill cinema owners for agreeing to book â€˜Brokeback Mountainâ€™ into theatres.
The suicide business returned to normal in Japan, and the new yearâ€™s death toll tripled.
Endemol, the makers of â€˜Big Brotherâ€™, produced a season casting mentally ill contestants in the hopes that they would humiliate themselves and hurt each other on live television. With racism shown to be endemic on the programme, public opinion finally started mobilising against them, but the producers felt that its export market had been â€˜fantastically improvedâ€™ by the sight of burning effigies in India. It emerged that the show was most popular with schoolchildren.
US presidential advisors announced that they would solve global warming by â€˜inventing somethingâ€™, even though they wouldnâ€™t directly acknowledge it was happening. Belize pressed the United Nations World Heritage Sites Committee to acknowledge that climate change was destroying its famous reef, but the US decided to reject the petition because it would â€˜damage harmonious relations with the committeeâ€™. Meanwhile, the Northern hemisphere posted the highest average temperatures in over 2,000 years.
Taxpayer-subsidised Channel 4 announced its latest adventure into the amelioration of the human spirit; â€˜Wank Weekâ€™.
Our language continued to change. â€˜Creationismâ€™ became â€˜Intelligent Designâ€™, and â€˜Liberalismâ€™ became â€˜Godlessnessâ€™. â€˜Post 9-11â€™ has become shorthand for anything we should be wary of. â€˜Democracyâ€™ was rebranded as â€˜Free Marketâ€™, and came to mean â€˜Something You Choose To Have Or We Will Bomb Youâ€™. Labour turned Tory, Tory turned Green, and caring was something you did before and after your career.
Surveys were published with some interesting data tucked inside them. Only 60 percent of women in the UK are now sexually active. Over a million British schoolchildren are experiencing mental health problems. Over a million elderly people go an entire month without seeing someone they know. Londonâ€™s most rapidly growing demographic group was deemed to be a single person living in an apartment full of gadgets.
Experimental drugs tested on six English volunteers placed them at deathâ€™s door and inflated their heads â€˜like the Elephant Manâ€™.
Chinese cockle pickers returned to Morecambe despite the fact that nineteen employees had drowned in one afternoon while digging for shellfish.
In County Durham, a giant inflatable sculpture designed to create a sense of harmonious calm took off with thirty people trapped inside it, killing two and injuring a dozen others.
A Russian spy died after being poisoned by a radioactive spray applied to his sushi. And the dead journalist Alistair Cooke had his legs sawn off and replaced with drainpipes by New Jersey-based Biomedical Tissue Services, a modern-day Burke & Hare company prosecuted for trafficking in body parts.
With CCTVs adopting face-recognition strategies and electronic tracers of every kind invading British society, Orwellâ€™s concept of a Big Brother state truly became a reality when a contestant on
â€˜Big Brotherâ€™ admitted she had no idea what the title of the show meant.
How can writers compete with real life, which is more fascinating and relevant than weird fiction?