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

Tag: psychology

Short Story Do Not Disturb Wins Second Place in Writing Magazine Competition

Thrilled to announce that my short story about a suicide in a hotel room has won second place in Writing Magazine’s competition. The judges gave it a lovely review, which you can read alongside the story itself here.

Or you can read about a dystopian near-future in which celebrities are cloned for prostitution here.

Or a splinter story from The Horseman’s Dream, which you can read 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

Wirral: The Paradise Peninsula

Over The water. The Dark Side. The One-Eyed City.

The Wirral is a strange place: a peninsula onto which you venture, rather than into. Argue this one with the natives at your peril. Beautiful landscapes and Viking history make up as large a part of its identity as shipbuilding, promenades, pop music and now, (2020 edit) Coronavirus.

Curiously polarised by time, towns which appear sleepy and civilised by day become havens of hedonism by night. Despite (or maybe because of) living on three-quarters of an island within an island, escapism is a priority.  Some natives insist that they most certainly are keeping up with the Jones and everything is fine.  The good ones (of which there are many) just don’t care, but a conspicuous few, drunk on our narcissistic mainstream culture, act out their reality TV fantasies in public to terrifying effect. Sometimes, life on the Paradise Peninsula is downright surreal, almost as if its geography intensifies the drawbacks and benefits of small-town life. Like a magnifying glass to the merits and madness.

At 18, I was working in a local restaurant and fell in love with a waitress.  We started a relationship and suddenly, the princely local rugby players became a problem.  Every time they would leer at her or make a comment, I would have to keep my mouth shut and continue working.  Many was the wine glass cracked by rage polishing.

A few snotty rugger buggers is one thing, but a national/premier league footballer is quite another.  My girlfriend told me that he got her number from the management and phoned her up to offer private “football lessons”. I asked him if he’d like a private boxing lesson, which he declined. I lost my job, kept some dignity and never forgot that people will often choose to side with money/fame/power over doing what’s right.

This is just a small vignette of the sociopathy acted out by the self-appointed royalty of the Wirral.  The footballer’s entitled behaviour echoes archaic rights for the privileged, as per jus primae noctis.  More currently, it brings to mind austerity, the clampdown on our civil liberties, the hourly infringements on our privacy and many more bigger-picture problems that exist in Britain right now, courtesy of the elite classes who are terrified of the word meritocracy, but swear up and down that they believe in social mobility.

So, I wrote A Smaller Hell, examining small-town hierarchies through a department store in Birkenhead, representing the split-personality of the Wirral, and Dianne Doyle, the kind of person who would seek to exploit and perpetuate it for her own amusement.  I wanted my first novella to reflect my fear of how low people are willing to go when they’re rich and bored.  Dianne Doyle is an enigma: she’s something far worse than what she appears to be, but as Robert Louis Stevenson said, The Devil can sometimes do a very gentlemanly thing,

Having said all this, you can see why many call this the Paradise Peninsula. Most of the photographs below were taken on the southern coastline, but there are myriad beauty spots all over the Wirral.

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attractions-g1420760-Activities-c57-Wirral_Merseyside_England.html

Come and visit us soon, but don’t feed the footballers.

The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n. – John Milton

 

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Grey Noise: Rock and Roll can be Murder

Now available on Amazon:

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 well-deserved 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 Glasgow underworld to fulfil his dark agenda in this rock and roll horror story, written by the author of A Smaller Hell.

Only $0.99.

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The Horseman’s Dream Update

It’s taken me years of drafts, scraps and rewrites to get to this point.  Since I was (and still am) no scientist, I read psychology books and articles daily during those years for the sole purpose of writing The Horseman’s Dream.  I studied other fields of science, met with psychologists, military veterans and brushed up on my theology, or divinity, as we used to call it when I were a lad.  I’ve even visited abandoned Victorian lunatic asylums in the dead of night on the Welsh moors and consulted with staff at the notorious Ashworth Hospital.  Over the years, researching this book has led me to a cup of coffee with the local vicar; chicken, greens and cornbread with a preacher from Mississippi; beer with a Zionist and lasagne with an evangelist from Birkenhead, amongst others.  It’s been an obsession by most psychological standards.  I remember how it started: sitting in a garage, waiting for my car to be MOT’d and the only reading material provided was Heat magazine and the Holy Bible.  The juxtaposition of the two texts right there on the coffee table set a few wheels in motion concerning doctrine, escapism, existence and control.  I scribbled as much down as I could while I was waiting, paid my bill, then drove home to resume scribbling.  The idea was so absurdly complicated that it’s taken me this long to unravel it into a story, rather than a rant.

Writing Third Person Multiple POV makes it obvious why many successful actors also write: it’s an extension of what they have already practised and honed for years.  Imagining how a completely different personality would respond in any given situation whilst retaining authenticity is a dark art indeed, but what fun.  Apart from the needs of the story, the Third Person Multiple ties in with the psychological/sociological subject matter of the book: the broadcasting of the contents of peoples’ minds for entertainment and propaganda purposes.  Alternate reality entertainment, if you like.  At least, that’s the kind of pretentious tagline that Grosvenor Media favour when advertising Totem.

The TV was an amazing invention, as was the internet.  You may have noticed my use of past tense there.  I used it because they have been hijacked, restricted, censored and controlled to suit the demands of very wealthy corporations and individuals even now in 2015.  It begs the question of who provides our reality and just how far our illusions go.  What would you do if faced with the truth behind the veil?  Would you beg for the illusion to resume or would you revel in your freedom from it?

Horseman's Dream Logo-Recovered

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