*** Special Feature - May 2016 ***
Stephen, I hear you’ve been collaborating on a story recently.
Yes, I was on holiday with my (very) young god daughter and her family a few weeks ago and she was telling me about some of her inventions. We got talking and decided that one of them would make a great near-future story. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve co-written something via email.
Do you often co-write with others?
I have on a few occasions. Recently, I wrote an article with another author about speaking at events and as one of the Clockhouse London Writers, I’ve collaborated on a few pieces. One of these - I Sing the Body Acrostic - is in the current edition of Sein und Werden.
Do you find it an easy thing to do?
Not really, I think it’s quite difficult. If you’re trying to write something so it seems as if it’s been written by one person, that’s not easy. I find that my stories develop as I write them and the original idea takes a different shape as the work is refined. When you’re collaborating that’s much harder to do.
Was it much different co-writing with a much younger writer?
Not particularly. I think the two main issues I mentioned above are the same whoever you’re writing with. In some ways it was easier because the original idea was all hers so the collaboration was mainly based around turning it into a story.
Can we read the story?
Of course, here it is for the first time in public…
Co-written by Ash Creedon and Stephen Oram
from an original idea by Ash Creedon
The lunch bell rang and all the children closed their eyes.
Mrs Quander, their teacher, waited for them to be quiet. ‘Good,’ she said.
Robyn pushed her long black hair behind her ears and fiddled with her earing.
‘It’s time to think about your lunch,’ said Mrs Quander.
Robyn squeezed her eyes tight and imagined her favourite food – fish fingers, chips and beans. The bioengineering in her stomach made her feel as if she’d eaten a proper meal. It produced a balance of energy, vitamins and nutrients and, as if by magic, she could also smell the fish and taste the hot chips.
She opened her eyes and looked around at her classmates who’d also been given the stomach biotech implants when they’d started school at the beginning of the month.
It had taken a while to get used to; one funny moment had been when she’d been planning her eleventh birthday in her head and kept getting fuller and fuller each time she thought about crisps or sausages. Her mum had really told her off about that.
She closed her eyes again and conjured up ice-cream and doughnuts. Lovely.
On the other side of the room, Isaac was on the floor writhing in agony.
Mrs Quander ran across to him. ‘Isaac, stop thinking about food,’ she shouted.
He clutched his throat and his face turned bright purple.
The children started to whisper. Isaac curled up and squeezed his belly. Mrs Quander then realised he hadn't been over-eating. She ran out of the room and grabbed a telephone.
‘Emergency services,’ she said breathlessly. ‘We have a very sick child.’
Isaac’s friends got out of their seats and crowded round him. ‘What's going on?’ said a small girl with long pigtails tied in her hair.
‘Is he ok?’ questioned a tall boy in pointy shoes.
When Mrs Quander came back in the room, she had the paramedics following her. One muscly man scooped up Isaac in his arms and carried him out of the classroom door.
Robyn's dad worked in one of the factories where they made the implants, he would know about this, wouldn't he? So after school that day (school ended early because of the incident with Isaac) she went straight to her dad’s house to ask about any problems with the implants.
When she arrived her dad was at home – he’d been working on the night shift. ‘Hello,’ he said. ‘What brings you home so early?’
She tried to speak but started crying instead.
‘Hey, what‘s wrong?’
She sniffed back the tears. ‘Isaac’s really ill. It was at lunchtime. He got sick.’
Her dad stopped scratching his beard and held her shoulders.
‘What sort of ill?’ he asked.
‘Proper ill. All purple and holding his belly. It was horrible.’
‘Oh no,’ said her dad under his breath. He paced around the room, stopping to look in the mirror each time he passed it.
He sat down.
He stood up.
‘Not a child. Please, not a child.’
‘Dad, you’re scaring me,’ she said as she ran towards him.
‘What was he doing?’
‘We were thinking about food. It was lunchtime.’
‘Stupid. Stupid idea.’
He sat down again.
‘Would Isaac know what Tiger tasted like?’
She laughed. ‘Don’t be silly. Of course not.’
Her dad was breathing heavily and seemed to have forgotten she was there. He whispered to himself. ‘Enough poison for a fully grown adult. A child. We had to stop them somehow.’
She pulled his arm. ‘Dad? What?’
He held her hand. ‘Someone found out how to imagine eating endangered species. If people get a taste for it, who knows what might happen. They might even go and hunt the real thing. We had to stop them.’
‘No! Isaac would never do that,’ she said, as she pulled away.
He cuddled her tightly. ‘We never imagined a child would be able to copy them. He must have been taught by a grown-up.’
He looked straight at her and then stared at the floor.
She nudged his elbow.
‘We poisoned Isaac,’ he said, and began to cry.
It’s the week before the annual Pay Day when strata positions are decided by the controlling corporations. The social media feed is frenetic with people trying to boost their influence rating while those above the strata and those who’ve opted out pursue their own manipulative goals.
Amber is ambitious. Martin is burnt out by years of struggling. She cheats to get what she wants while he barely clings on to what he has.
Set in a speculative near-future London, Fluence is a satirical story of aspiration and desperation and of power seen and unseen. It’s a story of control and consequence. It’s the story of the extremes to which Amber and Martin are prepared to go in these last ten thousand minutes before Pay Day.
Goodreads I Amazon
Hippie-punk, religious-squatter, bureaucrat-anarchist; I thrive on contradictions. The tension they create fuels my slightly skewed fictional worlds and the complex characters that inhabit them. It’s hard to describe the sheer delight I get from taking reality, nudging it out of kilter and seeing what happens.
I was a teenager in a small market town in the UK when punk hit the scene and its ethos and energy rushed through me and my generation. It felt as if we could stick two fingers up to the establishment and do whatever we wanted, however we wanted to do it. I’m sure that’s a familiar feeling for every generation of teenagers, but there’s no denying that punk provoked a reaction. It was also the era of free festivals and the peace convoy; to a teenager at a time when nuclear war threatened to end the world at any moment the free festivals like Stonehenge seemed truly post-apocalyptic. I loved them. The mix of hippies, hells angels and punks all co-existing (fairly) peacefully without the police was an incredibly formative experience. I’ve been to festivals every year since and still find them a great way to re-calibrate normal.
Being a squatter and being in a cult were both out there experiences but not as dissimilar as they might seem at first glance; they both had a strong ideological desire for non-conformity and strong, albeit different, moral codes. That’s the sort of realisation that makes me want to wobble the world to see what falls out.
I’ve had some fun on the journey from that punk inspired teenager to this anarchy inspired bureaucrat and more often than not I’ve had a foot in more than one camp at a time: as an unwelcome hippie at punk gigs; a religious cult member in the hedonistic squatter scene; or a would-be anarchist working as a bureaucrat. Even where I live in Fitzrovia we see ourselves as a village in the heart of London, as an enclave of difference standing out against the corporate onslaught of blandness (but close enough in case we need it).
That’s only a small insight into the inspirations and experiences that helped form me, Stephen Oram the author. And, if I’m asked why I write I have more than one answer; it’s a mixture of wanting to create something entertaining, thinking I’ve got something to say and needing something to keep me out of mischief. One thing is for sure though, I’d love to set off some small firecrackers of thought to light the world slightly differently inside your head!
Website I Facebook I Twitter I Goodreads
2 digital Copies of Fluence by Stephen Oram