AJ Reid

Writer of Speculative Fiction and Masher of Notes for the Broken-Hearted

Tag: A Smaller Hell

Social Distancing: A Smaller Hell?

Covid-19 has already wrought widespread panic. Now, we must acclimatise to the idea that we might all be spending lonely periods of time indoors. We want to protect our vulnerable loved ones and, according to experts, social distancing is one of the most effective methods of achieving that.

As a writer, I spend most of my time alone at a desk, working on nightmarish visions of the United Kingdom such as The Horseman’s Dream – a 20-year-long project about flooding, VIP child abuse, quarantine and most importantly, a sinister government using technology and propaganda in psychological/spiritual warfare against its people. So, for someone like me, social distancing is not such a stretch.

But it will take some serious adjustment for most of us. As a small token of encouragement, I’m offering A Smaller Hell for free (or pay what you want) on Smashwords.

Don’t forget that all the stories and poetry here are also free. Just click on the story/poem you want to read and enter your email in the adjacent box. You will receive a password immediately. Simply type this into the password box and the story/poem will be revealed. Interactive Fiction experiences don’t require any registration, download or password shenanigans, so try them first if you prefer. Same with the music player.

With regard to the current crisis, please make good decisions. Don’t take unnecessary risks. From the bottom of my heart, I wish everyone the best of luck, but that’s only half the battle. Be smart. Make your own luck. Let’s be paranoid now and laugh about it later, rather than glib and dead/unable to laugh about anything ever again.

One of my favourite sayings is that poetry will save us all. If you’ll allow me to expand this to Netflix and e-books, I think I might be on to something.

Bunker down. Read. Learn an instrument or a new language. Play music. Don’t panic or you’ll make bad decisions. Supply good information and clear advice to the elderly and vulnerable. Make sure they can contact you in an emergency.

Lastly, don’t, under any circumstances, trust our so-called leaders to keep you or your loved ones safe. Forget The Horseman’s Dream, this is The Objectivist Eugenicist’s Wet Dream, which is why we currently have the hashtag #BorisTheButcher trending on social media.

Take care, good people. X

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Promo Ends at Midnight: Get your Free Download of Brit-Grit Dark Comedy A Smaller Hell Now

U.S. readers click here
U.K. readers click here
Canada readers click here
Australia reader click here

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Who is Dianne Doyle?

Dianne Doyle is the antagonist of my novella A Smaller Hell: based on a department store manager I worked with.  She used to get kicks out of reprimanding staff and subverting our relationships.  A maestro of negativity, she’d often lure us into making mistakes, just so that she could degrade us.

The longer I worked there, the more intriguing she became.  She used the workplace hierarchy for her own ends, few of which were concerned with profit margins.

This, and certain other experiences led me to study psychology in a bid to demystify cruelty.  When writing A Smaller Hell, I took an example of a philanthropist in Joseph Williamson and summoned him in the founder of the department store: Commander Clarence Tanner.  The idea was to have Dianne Doyle be a personification of corporate psychopathy in contrast to Tanner’s long-standing philanthropist.

I find it creepy when people say something morally dubious is “good for the economy”, as if it were an idol we should worship. Tanner was the antithesis of that and the waning of his philosophy in the world scares me.

Dianne Doyle is the face that I’ve given to those fears: a mischievous authoritarian, whose greatest act of deception unfolds to reveal that:

“The Devil can sometimes do a very gentlemanly thing.” – Robert Louis StevensonFacebooktwitterredditpinterest

A Smaller Hell Free Giveaway

Download your free Kindle ebook between 5th-9th March 2015 here for US readers, and here for UK readers.  It’s a jolly jaunt about sex and violence, hierarchy and corruption, that sort of thing – all set in a department store in northern England.  Here’s what A Smaller Hell’s latest Amazon review said:

“Beautifully written with rich imagery; the atmosphere is surreal but tense. Tony Black is in hiding and will take work wherever he can, even if he’s warned to stay away from Tanner’s Department Store over and over again. Tony soon begins to see how completely Ms Doyle controls her employees, and how cruelly she exploits them. She is the tyrant of Tanner’s, she has four police officers under her thumb, and she always gets what she wants … or else.” – ***** SusannaFacebooktwitterredditpinterest

Working in a Department Store

It wasn’t that bad.  My father often tells me about his father’s job as a steeplejack: that sounds bad.  At least I was indoors and not teetering hundreds of feet above the cold, hard ground.

Steeplejack_on_a_chimney_in_1960_arp

At the interview, I didn’t have a panic attack and smash up a waiting room as Tony Black does in A Smaller Hell.  Instead, I was sneered at by a snotty manager for ten minutes before she found out where I went to school and then it was all la-de-da-do-you-know-so-and-so.  I knew a few people and suddenly I was the perfect candidate.  Never once did she mention the exam grades I had sweated over, or the money I’d raised for charity, or my love of Satie, just the fact that it was lovely to have another Old Birkonian on board.  Jolly good show.

I was being welcomed into the inner sanctum of an institution.  The lethal polished floors and automatic doors; the toy guns; the sparkling jewellery displays; the luxurious waft of the perfume counters; the smell of the posh Rombout’s coffee and Welsh Rarebit in the cafe.  I was usually accompanied by my nan, who would take me there on the bus while my parents were at work.

At 6 years old, the Toy department was sacred ground, scented with erasers, bubblegum and gunpowder from the caps for the toy guns.  With the acquisition of a new toy, adventure inevitably followed.  At 10 years old, I became obsessed with writing equipment, and would often be shooed away from peering into the glowing glass cabinets.  By 16, I was Christmas shopping there with my first girlfriend.  We wore scarves and puffer jackets, and I remember her fingers feeling skinny even through her rainbow-coloured wool gloves.  She had long black hair, pale skin and green eyes.  Her fine cheekbones were always rouged by the cold weather and she shivered a lot in her rusty Nissan Micra with no heater, which made her look fragile and beautiful.

And so at 24, I found myself working in this castle of memories.  And like every good castle, it had a hierarchy within its walls – and like every good hierarchy, it had its tyrants, climbers and victims.  It was very much like returning to school.  Every morning, I would feel the polyester of my tie catch on the callouses of my left hand’s fingertips: a stark reminder that the dizzying heights of yesteryear – with its six-figure record deal offers, hotel rooms in Manhattan, yachts in Marina Del Rey, famous rock lawyers and all the rest of it – were long gone.  Every morning was soundtracked by a lonely drizzle and painted entirely in grey.

Nevertheless, every day, I tightened my polyester noose and bought my bus ticket.  Every day, The George and Dragon’s warm wafts of stale ale would greet me on the way in and out of work.  Every day, I would get told off for being late back in from my lunch break, even though it would be a matter of seconds.  Every day, I would fantasise about windmilling through the China and Crystal departments like someone on day release, just to see the look on my boss’ face.

Every day.Facebooktwitterredditpinterest

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