Interactive Fiction Experiences are my latest obsession. As a kid, I was enthralled by Ian Jackson’s/Steve Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy books and more recently, their app adaptations. I recall writing my own short one about zombies that fed not on flesh, but on energy, and could not be distinguished from normal human beings. Can’t pretend certain teachers didn’t provide ample inspiration.
When Charlie Brooker’s “Bandersnatch” episode of Black Mirror came along, I began thinking about the process again and saw an opportunity to engage a new audience with my stories, just in a different format.
I’ve been working from 4am every day on the Interactive Fiction adaptations for a week and there are now four in the pipeline:
A Smaller Hell
Tread carefully in the role of an abused employee caught up in the spectacular downfall of their perverted boss. One wrong step in the department store this Christmas could land you in the shoplifters’ padded room. Or worse, your boss’s office after hours.
A vulnerable woman wanders into a lonely, hungry bear’s territory. You must fight your savage instincts to save her life and your soul. As this mysterious and deadly spirit animal, your task is to decode your dreams and fulfil your true destiny.
Diary of a Caveman
There’s not much down for you as a hospice resident abandoned during a nuclear missile strike, but you’ll do anything to survive: take refuge in a fishing boat, an island cult, the mountains, abandoned petrol station, decontamination camps … “World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones.’ – Albert Einstein
You’re a psychiatrist at the end of his rope. A recent bombing campaign by the corrupt government killed your family and you see no other way to change things. The experiment is necessary. You don’t want this to happen to anyone else. Now that you have the man responsible for these war crimes in your makeshift warehouse lab, what will you do with him to convince him never to repeat these horrors? Will you inflict horror of your own and risk losing your soul or will you follow the moral and scientific laws to which you’ve adhered your whole life?
I really can’t wait to share them with you. I’ll be publishing the Interactive Fiction Experiences on the website and making them available for free to all members (just enter your email in the form and you’ll receive a password for access to all stories, poetry and games – I’ve had to do this so that I can still enter my work into competitions that stipulate online publishing as a reason for disqualification).
If you enjoy what you read/see/hear, it’s up to you whether you donate. That’s
A Smaller Hell
I should also mention that the novella of A Smaller Hell is Pay What You Like on Smashwords until Christmas, so download yours ASAP and get yourself in the festive spirit.
Here’s what some reviewers had to say:
“AJ Reid’s novel is a travelogue for all of us. It’s a reminder of what’s available above and below ground, should we have the misfortune to encounter it. The plot weaves its way around the rooms like the acrid smoke of an over active crack pipe. The resulting humour is never forced nor generic, but it evolves and catches you by surprise. Dramatic irony is alive and well and living in A Smaller Hell. “
“A highly enjoyable tale with a bit of everything; love, crime, black humour and magic. Engaging writing with strong characters, all set against the evocative background of a department store in the north west of england. AJ Reid is a superb storyteller and this book had me gripped right up to Christmas. Would certainly recommend in the festive season and all year round for that matter! “
“This book offers everything you might expect from an adult-rated novel, yet the author still manages to convincingly incorporate the most beautiful love story into the mix. This is sophisticated work.”
“A hot-and-cold tale of darkness, light and the tribulations faced by those willing to stand up to cruelty in the name of love, ‘A Smaller Hell’ will leave you feeling like you have been punched in the face with words. I highly recommend it. “
Pleased to announce the launch of A Smaller Hell on Kobo this week. With a fancy new cover and sleek edit, it has been tempting new readers into the spider/fly dynamic of Doyle/Black, which bears ever greater relevance as we uncover yet more sordid conspiracies amongst the powerful. Hierarchy and authority lead people to this madness. Take a chance and find out just how mad Dianne Doyle gets … https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/a-smaller-hell
The craggy face of Rutger Hauer glared back at me from the battered VHS case.
‘Don’t let your mum find it. I want it back when you’re done.’
it. She finds everything.’
‘Hide it under
kill me too if she finds it. She’ll know I gave you it.’
‘Is it that good?’
Simpler times, perhaps. This exhange took place almost 30 years ago between me and another 11-year-old boy, furtively examining VHS contraband in the shade of a giant oak tree. School was out for summer, but for us, it was forever: our last day of primary. Ties loosened, shirts unbuttoned and laces undone, we were finally free and Rob T lived up to his term-long promise that he would bring in this film for me.
‘Watch it when
your parents go out.’
‘I don’t want to get in trouble.’
‘We could go to mine and watch it. My parents don’t get home from work until seven’
Back at Rob’s, we settled down with a plate of barely warmed fish fingers and tomato sauce and pressed play. The scratchy white lines fizzed and flickered across the screen as the tape got going, indicating that it had been watched almost to the point of wearing out.
‘It gets better. Probably just needs tracking.’
This was no X-rated “adult film”, nor splatter/slasher gore horror. This was something different. I could hear a message in the film, something more profound than “Don’t pick up strangers”. The Hitcher was a brutal, cathartic experience that made me value peace and resent violence. After the final credits rolled, I couldn’t wait to see my family to make sure they were all still in one piece and hadn’t picked up any hitchers in the two hours I’d been at Rob’s.
It was probably the first time I had seen an actor convey his message with such startling presence. Rutger Hauer as a mysterious homicidal nomad is a performance I will never forget. His ability to slow down time onscreen was matched only by Reed, De Niro, Nicholson, Day-Lewis etc.
What made Hauer such a great villain was the ever-present slivers of endearing humanity he would weave into the performance, confusing the audience by earning their sympathies and respect one minute, their abject disgust the next.
heroes were often shot through with irritating flaws, sometimes full blown
personality disorders. Still, we loved them. We wanted them to overcome
adversity all the more because they were like us: imperfect.
I can’t wrap up this short tribute without mentioning Rutger Hauer’s greatest unsung work: a little-known sci-fi thriller that brings to mind Bladerunner and Alien. Split Second is far from being a perfect film, but there is much to recommend it. The scene between Hauer and Kim Cattrall is particularly memorable because of the unexpected tenderness therein and reminds us how powerful he could be as an actor, even in the midst of a rather chaotic narrative, so if you’re a comic book/graphic novel fan still unsatisfied by cinema’s adaptations of the form, you could do a lot worse than to check out this highly enjoyable flawed gem.
There are not
many actors or artists out there as memorable as Hauer. I’m grateful, as I am
to all actors with soul, for the inspiration. He altered our collective
consciousness with an ad-lib, ffs (see Blade Runner roof scene). That takes
Delighted to have made the shortlist for this one, being the first poetry competition I’ve entered in a few years. Thanks to Writing Magazine. It will be available to read in a collection called The Crystal Barrel, which I am compiling for 2020. You can read “Feuilles Mortes” for yourself here.
Find more poetry here. Sign-up required to access poetry and stories.
What happens when a disturbed sound engineer snaps?
Patrick McDonagh is a Liverpool sound tech who truly understands the old saying that “silence is golden”. Highly-skilled behind a mixing desk, but undervalued due to his lack of charisma and social graces, he remains forever on the fringes of the music industry, picking up whatever crumbs he can to look after his mother in their terraced house by the docks. What most people don’t know about Patrick is that alongside the guitars, drums, bass and vocals, there has always been the mysterious grey noise and fortunately for everyone in his little black book, he’s always been able to ignore it … Until now.
As he decides whether to exact his vengeance upon the lead singer of Summer Seems So Far, the grey noise builds to a crescendo, inciting deadly violence and macabre scenes at their wildest gig yet. Find out whether Patrick survives his jaunt through the Glaswegian underworld to fulfil his dark agenda in this rock and roll crime novelette, written by the author of A Smaller Hell.
Excellent short story, delves in to the sometimes murky dangerous world of Rock music, drugs and unpredictable self important so called rock stars clutching at their miserable ego boosted existence, AJ writes with believability, a very enjoyable story, hope there’s much more to come.
There was once a wise king who ruled over a vast kingdom. He was feared for his might and loved for his wisdom. In the heart of the city, there was a well with pure and crystalline waters from which the king and all the inhabitants drank. When all were asleep, three witches entered the city and poured seven drops of a strange liquid into the well. They said that henceforth all who drink this water shall become mad.
The next day, all the people drank of the water, but not the king. And the people began to say, “The king is mad and has lost his reason. Look how strangely he behaves. We cannot be ruled by a madman, so he must be dethroned.”
The king grew very fearful, for his subjects were preparing to rise against him. He had a difficult choice: risk being destroyed by his beloved subjects or drink from the poisoned well and become mad like them. So that evening, he ordered a golden goblet to be filled from the well, and he drank deeply. The next day, there was great rejoicing among the people, for their beloved king had finally regained his reason.
Last night aboard the Sarinda, I heard a sound from the cockpit. The wind was easily blowing a force five, so I assumed something had come unstuck and fallen to the deck – no big deal. Usually when that happens, I can feel the vibrations in the wood.
This time I felt nothing.
The sound just happened.
A black cumulonimbus drifted over the sunset and took what remaining light there was, while the wind grew to a force six and began lashing me with rain. I unlocked the cockpit to take shelter in there while the storm passed.
The first thing I came face to face with was the old radio, disconnected and a long time dead.
If it was between that and taxpayer aid for Fred West’s building firm I would genuinely struggle. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/apr/02/philip-green-asks-for-taxpayer-support-to-prop-up-arcadia