Thursday, November 08, 2007





Saturday, April 21, 2007


Can you give me some kind of biography - about yourself and also about your writing – how long have you been writing? What did you read when you were growing up, where there any events that impacted heavily on your work when you were starting etc?

I was born in Stoke-On-Trent in the early 1980s and put into a foster very early on. I was adopted and moved to (just outside) Wolverhampton when I was a few months old, which is where I grew up. I’ve pretty much been writing since I remember, every since I started school. The first stories I wrote when I was a child, were stories about monsters. I pretty much read anything that was given to me at first, but it wasn’t till high school that I started finding my own tastes. The first writer I completely fell in love with was probably Oscar Wilde, because he wrote about all these decadent characters that I’d never had any experience of before. From there I got into Ginsberg’s poems, JD Sallinger, Sylvia Plath – probably a lot of the stuff that people connect to when they’re teenagers – because they all dealt with really romantic themes that were kinda dramatic and desperate. From there I just crossed referenced – Ginsberg talked a lot about Walt Whitman, so I checked his stuff out. A lot of my introductions to writers came from music as well – Sonic Youth mentioned William Burroughs, so I had a look at his work and ended up getting into it in a major way (out of the people I read in my teenage years, he’s one of the only ones whose work I go back to on a regular basis) – William Burroughs talked about Tristan Tzara (which led me to Antonin Artaud and Dada etc), and Jean Genet and so on… Burroughs’ writing also led me to find Arthur Rimbaud who is possibly my favourite poet. Cross referencing is the way to go. I studied Creative Writing and Cultural Studies at university, although to be honest only the cultural studies modules have really helped me. The writing half of the course was strange – sure, I can analyze other texts a little better than before, but I can’t say that it helped my own work to much, apart from giving me a little bit of space and time to get stuff done. I don’t think you can really teach creative subjects. All my best stuff started to come quite a while after I finished my degree. You have to teach yourself.

I’m always interested in how other writers work. Are you quite regimented with yourself, and stick to some kind of routine, or do you write in fits and spurts. Do you set aside specific writing time, or do you just dash to a computer/notepad suddenly when an idea hits you?

I used to only write in fits and spurts, and come up with a new story every few months and then forget about it, but that didn’t really work. I ended up with very little progression in my work because I just wasn’t writing very much. Since the start of this year though I’ve really been trying to stretch myself with the stuff I do. I’ve got into the routine of trying to write something (even if it’s really short) every day. By doing that I’m able to constantly reassess and edit my work and move on much quicker. I’ve also stopped worrying about the notion of me being ‘A Writer’ and started to focus on nothing but the writing itself. Starting my Blog has definitely helped as well, because if I don’t write something for a few weeks I can see my work stalled and hanging in cyberspace for all to see – it helps motivate me to keep working.

Who do you read? Are there any contemporary or new writers that have caught your attention? What sort of fiction are you attracted to?

I like stuff – literature, music, art – that deals with grey areas; I’m a big believer in the irrational. I like things that attempt to peel away layers, even if they don’t quite reveal what’s underneath, or if the thing that they do reveal isn’t actually that clear. I’m a big fan of Will Self, Dennis Cooper’s books have had a massive impact on me, I’ve really enjoyed your work (sycophancy aside – your short stories have kept me hooked), JW Veldhoen’s Withburn was pretty great, and I’m really excited about the book of poetry that Jason/aka Insidetheroar is working on, as he has such a brilliant style. I’m hoping the rumours are true about Bret Easton Ellis writing a sequel to Less Than Zero, as well.

What would be your desert island book?

No idea – there are too many. The Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille, The Picture of Dorian Grey, The Sluts by Dennis Cooper, Queer by William Burroughs, My Idea of Fun by Will Self. No doubt I’m forgetting tons.

Have you been working on anything recently? Any details you can give?

Everything I’ve done has gone on my blog really, quite a few new short stories, some interviews, and other miscellaneous bits of text. Music-wise, I’ve got a collaboration with Kenji Siratori coming out in Japan in July; my band – What The Moon Is Like – have booked some studio time to record our second album, which I’m excited about. We’re playing London the first weekend in June as well. Also, it looks like End of Level Boss – the improv/noise trio I play in will have a little bit of our music featured in the new Bruce LaBruce film, which I’m super-excited about, fingers crossed. I’m writing regularly for Feral Debris zine, doing interviews and reviews, and I’ve also been doing some writing for Gay As Fuck magazine. I’m finding more and more that I’m at my happiest when I’m busy with stuff.

What instrument do you play in the band and do you feel that's more or less important than writing?

I do a few things: in What The Moon Is Like I'm the guitarist, in End of Level Boss, we all take it in turns so I have a go at guitar/keyboards/vocals/effects etc, and when I do music on my own a lot of it tends to be electronic based, so it's just me sitting in front of a computer. I guess it just depends what each role calls for at any given time. Like I say, I've stopped thinking about the idea of me being a writer, and have started to just concentrate on the actual writing. It's the same with the music - I don't think of myself as a musician, I just think about the music that I make. There are very different processes involved when I do writing or music, but I don't value one over the other, I tend to just see them both as creative things that I do.

Do you work at the moment to keep the Creative stuff afloat?

Yeah, I have to work. I'd been working as a supply teacher, teaching English in some rough high schools/secondary schools for the last year, but recently I got a new job working in a school doing one-on-one special needs stuff, which is far more enjoyable. The money isn't great, but the fact that I get paid school holidays now is a very exciting prospect, as it gives me lots more time to write. It's nice to have a job that you learn stuff from too.


Friday, April 20, 2007


Joseph Mills is a Glasgow based writer, whose work is filled with deeply romantic, yet bittersweet melancholy that stays with the you well after you’ve finished reading it. He has published a novel (Towards the End), a beautiful collection of his short stories titled Obsessions, and a screenplay – Eddie’s POV – about a transsexual struggling to come to terms with her life and reality, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival last year and has been released on DVD by the BBC. He has also edited a collection of work from Gay Scottish writers. As a big fan of Obsessions, I was eager to ask Joseph some questions about his work.

Can you give me some kind of biography - about yourself and also about your writing – how long have you been writing? What did you read when you were growing up, where there any events that impacted heavily on your work when you were starting etc?

Born in Glasgow 1958. Worked in a bank/local government/as computer operator. Then university as a mature student. 2:1 Honours in English Lit. Worked in a hotel in Surrey - cleaning rooms and Night Porter. Cinema cleaner. Then the library for the past 11 years.Lived mostly in bedsits after leaving home at 21.Then a high rise (not the worst in Glasgow but close) now a council house.I suppose the pattern is that I never went for high flying jobs even though I was qualified. I never wanted to settle for a 'career' or anything that would carry over after working hours.I've been writing since I was a teenager - firstly poems, a lot of them based on Marc Bolan lyrics - wizards and elves and stuff and just words for the sake of words. I think he did that, just used words together because they sounded nice and gave images rather than meant anything – e.g. titles like 'Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow or A Creamed Cage in August.' 'Spaceball Ricochet' 'Ballrooms of Mars'.I started off being into science fiction and fantasy - Lord of the Rings, Arthur C. Clarke, loads of SF anthologies, Vonnegut. Then, through links from music - Bowie Velvets etc - got into Genet, Isherwood, Gore Vidal, Kerouac, Warhol - gayish stuff I suppose. Also a lot of existential stuff - Kafka, Sartre etc. I was the typical depressed introverted teenager, reading the darkest stuff, watching 'difficult' foreign films on BBC2. And only David and Lou understood. If only we had Morrissey then!Don't think there were any 'events' that impacted on my writing. I just liked reading a lot and thought it would be good to do that. I read loads of comics - Marvels and DCs - before books and originally wanted to be a comic book writer or artist – I used to draw a lot too.So basically I was just in this little fantasy land all the time and loved it. There wasn't so much distraction then from TV/internet etc. I'm glad I got to read so much before that happened.

For me, your writing seems to have a deeply romantic side to it, but also a sense of disappointment at the outside world. Would you care to discuss this? What ideas or themes do you feel are central to your work? How would you describe the stuff that you write?

I would describe it as gay Mills and Boon. Well for the most part it is romantic in the wistful yearning way. I've definitely always been A Romantic in that sense. Certainly when I was younger I thought there was this perfect person and we'd be the perfect couple. But like most people find out – the one's you want don't want you to the same degree and vice versa. And you tend to want the ones who are walking away from rather than towards you when you're younger. But I think – I know – I'm different now and don't bother with 'The difficult ones' anymore. It is ultimately so stupid. But everybody goes through it at least once – my time is written about in Towards the End.I see a lot of that in your stuff – and can only say ‘you'll learn’! It's nicer later on when it's not All or Nothing.

I’m always interested in how other writers work. Are you quite regimented with yourself, and stick to some kind of routine, or do you write in fits and spurts. Do you set aside specific writing time, or do you just dash to a computer/notepad suddenly when an idea hits you?

I've never been regimented, more chaotic. I do loads for ages then nothing for ages. I've never liked schedules not just because you have to write when you don't want to but equally because you have to stop when you don't want to. Having said that – I am now trying to get into a routine for the first time.

You’ve put out a novel, a collection of short stories, and you’ve also written a screenplay. Which form do you prefer and why?

Definitely prose over screenplay - with prose you get the last word. With screenplay it's just a framework. If I could direct or co-direct I would like screenwriting more. I also just like playing with words in a way you can't writing for the screen - though there are many benefits of being able to write and imagine an image on screen. If I had a trustworthy producer/director team I'd love to do more screen stuff.

You edited Borderline: The Mainstream Book of Scottish Gay Writing. How did this come about? Was it a project you conceived or where you approached to do it by someone else? What were the aims of the book, and how was it received?

I came up with the idea. It just occurred to me that there were loads of Scot gay writers and even more non-gay Scot writers who had touched on the theme - we could have done two books. Loads of publishers didn't want it then one did. It was nice communicating with so many other authors, and most were really nice, with the odd exception. That's how I met Jax 6 years ago. One of the authors wasn't Scottish - Jimmy McGovern - but I so liked his film Priest that I reasoned that well, it has a Scottish actor (Robert Carlyle) playing a gay so that was enough - plus McGovern looks and sounds Scottish so maybe no-one will notice. When I got Irvine Welsh's nice note OK-ing the use of his stuff he said "Why is Jimmy McGovern in this?" Busted! Thing is he (McGovern) was one of the most helpful - sending a copy of his entire script for Priest (after I'd sat pausing a video and painstakingly copying down a whole scene).I also struck up a great correspondence with Peter Jewell, the long-time companion of Bill Douglas. Jewell had some tales to tell of the film world of days past – a sort of British David Ehrenstein!So that was all great - if only somebody actually bought the book. It got one review in the Scot press that I know of - and that was by a friend of mine, in The List magazine.And it sank without trace.

In the past I’ve read you talk about a writing collective you used to belong to, when you part of various anthologies etc. Can you tell me a little about this time?

Well my first story in a book was 'Long To Go' in an anthology called 'Oranges and Lemons' published by Third House , a small gay publishing house run by David Rees and Peter Robbins,2 English gay writers. It wasn't a collective but, rather like Userlands, most of the contributors met and some kept in touch and then we were published together, also by Gay Men's Press and Millivres (run by Peter Burton who edited Gay Times). And there was a time in the 80s and 90s when it did feel like a sort of collective and there were lots of anthologies and it was quite easy to get into them etc. There were even two early Scot gay anthologies, edited by Toni Davidson. And for me starting out it was exciting going to London and just being in London and meeting other writers - even famous ones like Edmund White etc. They even paid for me to go to Rotterdam and there was a big gay Europe writing thing going on then too. Sadly David Rees and many others from then died of AIDS.But it's always made me feel that it would be great if we could create a space where people could write what they wanted without thinking of a mainstream audience and just earn enough to get by without starving or having to do a nine to five. Rather than the way it is now where it's a few blockbusters a years for a few and nothing for anyone else.

Who do you read? Are there any contemporary or new writers that have caught your attention? What sort of fiction are you attracted to?

I read all sorts. I was very into Edmund White for a while and that lush style - like Collette, lots of metaphors etc, and tried to copy that. Alasdair Grey, the Scottish writer, is another who is a favourite – just the most incredible imagination. Everybody should read Lanark. Andrew Holleran - the ultimate in gay romantic melancholy. Now of course I recently read all of Dennis Cooper's books in a row and don't know WHAT to make of them. I'm dying now to sit down and re-read them very slowly and see if I get all the stuff the deconstructionists get. But I find I remember them very visually because I have to make up the visuals in my head at the time. Also I love short compact books with no wasted words so you just have to read carefully and take it all in. So he's the latest!

What would be your desert island book?

Probably Dancer From the Dance by Andrew Holleran. There's nothing like melancholy mooning and a doomed romance. It's like Somewhere Over the Rainbow: The novel.

Have you been working on anything recently? Any details you can give?

I've got so many ideas but I don't know whether to put them all into one book or split them. There's an idea of fleshing out of a 30 page story, Aristotle McNab, about a necrophiliac serial killer who wants to be a Media star killer, an idea of the perfect murder mystery (I just hope nobody's thought of this before), superheroes as real people - though Heroes on US TV may have stolen that thunder, a sort of supernatural what is there after death idea. The only thing I'm fairly sure of is that it will be set in a haunted hotel with lots of people trapped inside and rain and snow outside etc - I just love that sort of thing. I'll probably do it as a 90 page screenplay first so I then have something to show the BBC to get me hack work for TV so I can get out of working in the library. Then 'novelise' it. Then it becomes a huge novel and a huge film and I retire to Woody Allen's old house in Manhattan overlooking Central Park and write anything I want forever. The end.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

The In Between

"No kidding!"
"It wasn't even like it was a desert or anything: I got locked in an old coal bunker in a
derelict house. Nobody even knew it existed until weeks later when they pulled the place down and found me. 'He would never have wandered off,' my dad kept telling them. He didn't tell them that I'd run off - or why. That's why they never really looked hard enough: they thought I'd been abducted or murdered."
"Well I was," said the surly fourteen-year-old sitting next to Billy.
"And believe me, I'd rather have been in that bunker."
"Oh yeah? let me tell you this, Seymour - right next to the bunker was an old generator,still chugging along, pumping heat into the house and the life out of me. They said I could have survived without food for that long if it hadn't have been for the heat."
"Don't talk to me about heat!" Seymour was indignant. "I was roasted alive by White
Supremacists. Any idea what it's like to smell your own body burning?"
"OK, Joan of Arc," Mohammed lisped. "We get the picture. How about being raped by homophobes then buried alive because they said you wanted it - your own people!"
Rebecca had only let this go on because the three boys were still relatively new. And the young were always the most bitter about their deaths. True, everybody in the InBetween endlessly replayed their final moments - especially those who'd had life taken from them - but the young ones felt it more, watching their contemporaries grow up, always focusing on those that were doing the best, imagining that would have been them.
"Let's just concentrate on why we're here today," Rebecca said, trying not to glance down at the water beneath the Suspension Bridge.
Where she had drowned. "I died of a broken heart and that beats you whining babies hands down."

Besides which this was her day. They would get to America soon enough.

"Right, the bastard's coming. Concentrate."

Brian Devlin stepped onto the bridge cautiously. He paused, held onto the railing. Young and old were striding past him casting curious glances. This was getting ridiculous. Every time he crossed the bridge it got worse. He was convinced it was Multiple Sclerosis. Or a brain tumour. Or epilepsy, diabetes, the mercury they put in his fillings. The truth was he hadn't a clue what it was. All he knew was that every time he crossed over this bridge his legs felt like jelly and the concrete like sponge.
Slowly he began to walk, got exactly halfway over, then suddenly felt as though he were walking on mud. His feet seemed to be sinking further into the concrete with every step. And when he passed the spot where Rebecca had jumped, marked out so thoughtfully with fresh flowers and cards, a new thing happened; what felt like a thousand volts shot through him from feet to fontanel. Then it was as though the bridge had disappeared and he was failing down into the river, down to the bottom of the Clyde. His legs buckled beneath him and he slid down to the concrete.

"Result," Rebecca shouted. "I knew 1 could bring that bastard to his knees." Billy and
Mohammed hi-fived with Seymour. Seymour, black, and Mohammed, gay and Muslim, had teamed up with Rebecca and Billy because The Majority - hetero dead white males - were generally more interested in helping their own kind with their haunting. Rebecca was especially grateful for their help because, as a suicide, most felt she was her own murderer.

"If you kill someone's will to live with adultery and cruelty then you're just as much a
murderer as someone who does it with an axe," Rebecca argued, but only other minorities listened.

She watched Brian desperately trying to coax his hair back into place and almost felt pity.
Her one remaining bitter-sweet memory was of their last date: Brian insecure, swaggering along the street with all the vanity and vulnerability that goes with a new haircut.

He was helped to his feet and struggled off the bridge past an STV presenter doing a piece to camera. Rebecca hoped Brian's humiliation would be broadcast to the nation that night, then wondered, as she and the others passed in front of the camera, whether some image of them would be recorded, as sometimes happened.

Billy and Mohammed were walking on, Seymour trailing. The first two had bonded more because they had implications of guilt in their own deaths in common. There were homophobes on the InBetween Council as there were in life; enough anyway to suggest Billy and Mohammed had 'led on' their abusers. Seymour had a rock-solid status but he knew that the backlog of murdered blacks was so extensive it would be a long wait before his case was dealt with.

"We've got brothers killed in the '60s riots still waiting," he was told. "And don't talk to me about South Africa!" Seymour, like Billy, Mohammed and Rebecca was way down the Council waiting list. So, like many other frustrated spirits, they had formed their own breakaway group.

To their delight, Brian was so spooked he did not go to work that day. He turned left and walked along the edge of the Clyde, paused at Glasgow Bridge, then walked up to St Enoch's to get a tube back down south to the latest in a series of bedsits he'd rented then abandoned when strange and terrifying things happened there. The spirits had found that haunting wasn't half as easy as they made it look in the films. People deserted homes they'd spent half their lives in when scary things happened more than once. The benevolent spirits got away with a lot, though: nobody cared much about a half-remembered vision of a loved one at the bottom of the bed. They passed a bunch of benevolents chatting at a bus stop. Rebecca recognised old Mrs Malone who'd passed away in her sleep at ninety-two. She was playfully blowing her granddaughter's hair over her eyes.
Mrs Malone gave Rebecca and the others a disdainful look. The benevolents had carried their beliefs in Heaven and Hell beyond the grave. They were convinced that revenge was a sin, however justified, a sin that would confine you to the InBetween - or worse - for eternity.

Easy for them to say, Rebecca thought. Anyway, spirits just faded away willy nilly with no rhyme or reason. To God knows where. Some benevolents were there for years, some revengers faded with the death or despair of their murderers.

Nobody had any more answers now than when they were alive.

Only the questions were different.

Rebecca had not been there a long time: there was still a lot to learn about the afterlife.
At the moment though she was more interested in strengthening her power over the living.

They did a bit of mirror stuff with Brian in his flat, distorting the face every time he looked, at it - 'make him look like a witch' - until he smashed the glass in the sink. But Rebecca sensed the boys were getting bored with her obsession for now.

"There's the funeral of a guy who was queer-bashed to death in the States," Mohammed said.
"We could do that then come back to Brian." "Yes," Rebecca smiled. "Let him think
everything's gone back to normal."

Here, you travelled through experience, mental development.Although, when you arrived at where you were going, when you were ready to be there, you had also seemingly journeyed in space and time.

At the funeral the young man who had been pistol-whipped and crucified by homophobes was listening to one of his murderer's girlfriends explain: "He only wanted to teach him a lesson." Whether the phobia was external or internal was not known.
Same result.
There was quite a crowd of spirits there. Some well-fed, exuberanti old-timers, bursting out of their concentration-camp clothes (must remember to ask them how you get fat here, Rebecca thought, relishing the thought of joining the Jews in mockery of their Earthly bodies), were summoning up wind and rain to ruin the 'God Hates Fags' placards the religious right had brought to dignify the murder victim's burial with.

Mohammed was talking to the young victim. Dead for only a few days, his spirit face had not been cleaned up and sanitized as his corpse's had. It remained the way it was when he died:
a mask of blood, save for the line of a tear from his right eye.
Mohammed was trying to cheer him up, pointing out happy spirits in the crowd - the young English mother who had been raped and murdered next to her son, a son she'd replaced for the time being with the toddler murdered by two boys, who was playing with the children whose mother had strapped them into a car then pushed it into the river.
"And there's Stephen," Seymour said, "with that guy they dragged along the road until his head came off." They gathered round the murder victim.
"You've no idea how many ways you can spook someone with a severed head," Mohammed told him, laughing.
"The fun we're going to have with that crucifix!" Billy roared.

Rebecca wiped the blood and tears from the young man's face and he smiled,the first of many smiles.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


’What colour is the snow outside?’
He looked over the young interviewer’s shoulder, through the window.
’What colour do you want it to be?’
’This is not a word-association game John.’
Bastard. I’ll rape him tonight, he thought.
’The lesson is ended. You’ve lost it for today.’
The interviewer stood up.
’How long will this take?’
John stood up.
’Patience is the very first thing you have to learn.’
The interviewer sat down, swivelled round in his chair and stared out at the late afternoon snow.
And he would murder him too.

As soon as he was out of the interview room John pressed Memory on The Machine and told it to remind him of the rape and murder when he got home. He wondered yet again whether it was worthwhile going back to The Clinic. All that time without The Machine.
Before he left the building he pressed Date and Time (already set) on The Machine, then Temperature, and asked for: ‘Some sunshine warmth, but basically cool.’
Flowing Roman togas and a cool Autumn sunset was just the right atmosphere to indulge in after a session at The Clinic. It would have been even more soothing if the toga-wearers were slowly ambling or loitering rather than careering up and down the busy streets. But it was too risky to filter out that much reality.
He would just have to use his imagination.
Scott was wrong. There was still room for imagination.
For a laugh, just before he reached home he pressed Time.
1977/X-RAY SPEX CONCERT. Just clothing. Everybody.’. What a scream: middle-aged men dressed in torn tee-shirts and safety pins, with rainbow coloured hair.
Bobby and Ann were passing in front of the house.
‘What are we?’ Bobby asked, seeing John’s amusement.
‘You’re a punk with a shocking pink Mohican,’
He turned to Ann.
‘Ann’s wearing a lime-green day-glo bin liner.’
’Fab!’ Ann said.’ Are you coming over tonight ?
John noticed she didn’t respond to the invisible bin-liner like Scott would have done, pantomiming a cat-walk model or some such. He switched off The Machine.
‘ Tomorrow. I’m going to murder that creep from the Clinic tonight’.
’The Clinic!’ Bobby and Ann said together. ‘You’re not still going there are you ?’
’Just as a matter of interest.’
They began to walk away. He wished he hadn’t mentioned The Clinic.
‘Tomorrow I’ll show you my DaVinci watercolours inspired by Shakespeare’s 94th sonnet.’ John said trying to get back in favour.
’You’ve shown us that already’
‘What about Oscar Wilde’s film of Death In Venice ?’
’We’ve seen so many versions of that.’.
’With a fourteen year old James Dean as the boy ?’
’Never thought of that. OK.’
’ See you tomorrow.’

They were so easily impressed. And so uninventive with The Machine. All they could do was type up numbers and hope for a decent match: nineteenth century novelist, twentieth century film director,1960s pop star, mix it all together and more often than not get a load of boring tripe. Sandie Shaw starring in the Carry On version of Pride and Prejudice was not what the machine’s inventors had foreseen when they came up with The Ultimate in Virtual Reality.
Virtual Reality, when it first appeared at the end of the twentieth century
was a cumbersome affair. You needed to be strapped into a large device that took up a whole room, your eyes and ears covered, and all you got was a simulated plane ride or something equally banal. Now all you needed was The Machine. And anything was possible.
Of course everyone was at the mercy of the pioneer programmers who created the initial software. It was they who decided what ‘Shakesperian’ meant, or Carry On Version. But all the experts were consulted and every book, play, film, analysis, every detail fed in and most folk were content with the results.
John prided himself on the combinations he came up with, and the fact that his results were achieved not simply with random plotting of digits, but through judicious choice. And those results were extremely popular. He could have made a fortune had money value any more.
Once they discovered how to link the electrical energies of the computers to the matter-machines you got a print-out with a difference: Virtual Physical Reality. Except that it didn’t last. Which was just as well, given the chaos even temporary fake money, bodies, and so on created, until it was all well regulated and sorted out.

When John got in the house he contacted Scott on the Video Net.
‘What’s new ? I’m going to Bobby’s tomorrow.’
’That moron! You must be joking!’
’He’s not that bad’.
Scott was dyeing his hair.
’I can get The Machine to do that,’ John said. Scott was dyeing it honey blond. The colour wasn’t as convincing as the machine would have made it. Still, it was all right.
‘Have you been to the Clinic today ?’
’Nothing so far’.
’You’re not trying hard enough’.
’Why should I have to try? If they’ve got a genuine point it’ll come across.’
’Trying is the point’.
‘You don’t think I should go to Bobby’s then?’
’I don’t think you should ever go to Bobby’s.’
He broke the contact.
Stupid bastard!
John remembered the rape. Scott had that effect on him. He turned on The Machine.

Scenario: The Interviewer from the clinic today. We’re both American pilots, World War Two. Get the uniforms right. He’s decided to go straight and get married but I won’t take no for an answer.’
’Not that one again,’ The Machine said wearily.
’Just do it!’ He slammed a window shut.
Then shouted ‘Machine Response off!’
He’d programmed ‘Cheeky’ into Response, but was thinking of changing it to ‘Supportive’ any day now.

The rape went well. Twice. Very satisfying. At first the big leather bomber jacket with the furry collar was too romantic and cuddly to be sexy, so he changed it to Mafia boy in black shirt and white tie. Ripped the shirt open across the chest.
’Think you’re Superman pal eh? Think you know it all?’
He squeezed both nipples until they were purple.
‘ More dick!’
The Interviewer’s trousers swelled up until it looked like he’d got a rugby ball behind his zip. John pulled the trousers down, grabbed the snake-size dick .
’Pliable Gravity’ had already been programmed into Rape He lifted the weightless legs up over his shoulders and pummelled in. So much easier than all that awkwardness with Scott.
The second time he got carried away.
‘A dick coming out of his mouth. And Giovanni from sixth year, up my arse at the same time He’s secretly wanted me for years. Verbals. Biting my neck. Hands all over. The usual’.
John had V-raped and been V-raped by every guy at school he’d ever been frustrated by before his parents gave him the key to the machine scrambler.
And V-loved by Giovanni. And Scott (exactly the way he wanted it - he and Scott in the Manhattan film poster world: on the bench beside the bridge forever.

After, he ordered the machine to get rid of all the schoolboy’s, media stars and guys he’d seen in the street who’d participated in the orgy. He stared at The Virtual Interviewer, which lay on the bed, covered in spunk, from hair to feet.
’Where did all that come from?’ John thought, coming down, vaguely remembering Giovanni dick-hosing sperm all over the place. But shouldn’t the contents of Giovanni’s virtual balls have gone with him ? He’d have to access The Manual again. He didn’t know anybody who could work The Machine exactly right, nor anyone who would admit to that. Sometimes those programs seemed to take on a life of their own. And yet, surely nothing could happen that didn’t originate in his own brain.
’Gun.’ he ordered.
A gun materialised on the bed. He picked it up, aimed at The Interviewer. But couldn’t go through with the murder. He told The Machine to get rid of The Interviewer, then shouted ‘Machine response on.’
Quieter: ’Why couldn’t I kill him?
’Getting soft darling.’
That wasn’t much help. He considered summoning up Plato or Sartre, But that lot always took too long. Philosophers never said anything direct, all they could do was answer one question with another. He pressed Respondent: Psychiatrist – USA –1970s. They were much more likely to give satisfying answers.
‘Why couldn’t I kill him?’
’You were thinking too much of the referent - the real interviewer; you didn’t want to see his brains blown out, even though you knew it wasn’t for real.’
John winced at the Americanism. Those programmers thought of everything.
But that’s never bothered me before. How many times have I humiliated Brando’s Kowalski as Blanche with a dildo before cutting his nob off? I’ve never been squeamish before.’
’Perhaps you’re ill’.
’Nobody gets ill anymore. We have new things to prevent it’.
’Perhaps it’s a new illness.’
John shouted at The Machine:’ Why am I paying you $500 a week to hear this crap ?’
That usually provoked the most thoughtful responses from this one.
’You have too much imagination.’
’But Scott says I have too little! He says we’re all addicted to The Machine and have lost the ability to invent and evolve now that The Machine can ‘indulge every perverted whim.’
’And what do you think John ?’
’I can’t see it’.
’You have every right to the pursuit of happiness. Don’t let anyone lay that sort of guilt trip on you.’
Perhaps, John thought, I should be getting in touch with less sympathetic Respondents. Sometimes he wanted to be argued with.
Maybe he was ill.

At Bobby’s the next day he showed off the Dean Death In Venice but paid for it by having to watch one of Bobby’s bland scenarios. Which ended with the torture and murder of a teenage Brad Pitt. When Bobby ordered The Machine to get rid of the corpses, the Pitt wouldn’t go away. John went over to it, cradled head in arms.
’Machine, What’s going on?’
The Machine replied: It’s real. It’s human.’
Suddenly the body felt cold. Really cold.
’Oh no not another one.’ Bobby said. Thought as much.’
’I’ll have it incinerated tomorrow.’ Ann said.
’This has happened before?’ John stood up slowly, letting the blonde head slide gently to the floor.
‘Is it machine error?’
’Of course not’ Bobby said.’ When have you ever heard of The Machine going wrong?’
He rolled the body against the wall with his feet.
’Actually, I’ve been having some trouble with mine.’.
Bobby ignored him. ’No. Apparently some idiots are using The Machine to bug into other people’s programs and sneak into whatever fantasy suits them.’
’- disguised by The Machine.’ Ann added.
’You mean he’s been hiding here just waiting for you to come up with something suitable ?’
’Well no....I think there’s a network....they know in advance who’ll be doing what.’
’But why do they choose the dangerous ones?’
‘Because they want to die. Isn’t that obvious?
’Some say it’s because they’re fed up with living in a world with no more challenges. Others say they can’t get off only on scenarios they know can’t really touch them, they need the real thing.’
’So who was that ?’
Bobby ordered The Machine to de-cloak.
The blonde teenage Pitt corpse became a middle-aged black man corpse.
’What are we going to eat ?’ Ann said.
Doesn’t it bother you that you’ve just killed another human being?
You really are ill aren’t you ?

’What colour is the snow outside?’
’What colour do you want it to be?’
’ Blue.’
’ Why?’
’It’s nice the way the snow seems to turn blue when the sun goes down. It’s not like that for long, so its rarity makes it even more of a delight’.
The Interviewer smiled.

Through the window John could see Scott waiting, shivering in the snow. His almost honey-blonde hair had been glittering with snow diamonds, but they had melted away now. John reached for The Machine to order the diamonds back, then remembered for the umpteenth time that he had destroyed his portable after that last night at Bobby’s.

The Machine didn’t work on the Other Side anyway.

It started to rain on Scott. He didn’t seem to mind. John thought he probably wouldn’t mind either when he joined him through the window, outside.

(from Obsessions)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

In two years this crooner in a sweater would be Norman bates in Psycho.

When I first came across this album cover I thought him almost unrecognizable.

But look at the eyes.

Look at the detreminedly unsmiling mouth.

No wonder he never became Ricky Nelson.

Lucky him.

And us.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Big Game by Joseph Mills

We’re in the private jet. I’m wondering how such a big jet can still be called private. I always used to think of private jets as these cosy compact things like caravans in the sky, albeit super luxurious ones. But there’s really no reason why a private jet can’t be any size. No reason why, like this one, it also can’t have a Jacuzzi , state of the art sound system, state of the art art (The Mona Lisa), and the biggest TV screen I’ve ever seen in my life.

This is going to be the Biggest Game ever. And this TV will have a lot to do with it. First of all it’s got all the plasma schmasma high definition quadraphonic stuff you could ever want. It gets every channel on the planet and more. Colin and I just watched this – well, thing, this thing that I just know wasn’t from any channel on planet Earth. It had colours and sounds and shapes neither Colin nor I had ever seen before. And get this – it’s 3D. You heard it right. Oh by the way I’ll tell you about Colin in a minute. You won’t believe who he is either.
We’ve got all the stuff in: the finest wines from every grape, every flavour of liqueur invented, delicacies from every country in the planet. As well as the good old standbys: cheap cold beer, white label crisps and broken biscuits for the tea in the morning.

So we’re lying on the huge white mink or god knows what kind of fur rug; just laying there in front of the real coal fire. That’s right, real coal. I don’t know either. How can that be done ? In mid air. But it is real - you can tell, none of that two bars 50 kilowatt Real Coal Effect orange muck. You can tell because it spits and glows and the heat is amazing if you get up close and you can hear the top coals falling when the ones below burn away. And we sometimes just stare at that – the little molten avalanche and the technicolour flames that shoot up – you know that shade of turquoise you never get anywhere else.
And we’re listening to the most beautiful sound of a rainstorm outside.

It’s like being in a car with the one you love in the middle of nowhere and you just turn off the engine and listen to that lovely womb-like throb. It’s as though it’s crashing down on the roof of the jet. It’s not real of course. It’s this state of the art sound system and I suppose if you order rain on the roof of a jet and you’re Colin Farrell you get it.

So I turn to Colin. We’re both nearly naked - he’s got on these beautiful silky red football shorts. He’s almost sleeping, the little Irish darling, like a baby. I turn and stroke his chest and say:
‘So, aren’t you glad you told your girlfriend then – about us.’
Colin turns and his little dog tag jangles over his neck – he’s got the buzz cut, body and tattoos from Tigerland. Just for me.
‘Aren’t you glad it’s all out in the open. At last. If only she could have taken it better.’

So I’m just about to say, “And then Colin’s guests, Michael Owen and Jamie Redknap walk in from the Jacuuzi, towels round their waist,” when my best mate Gaz interrupts with ‘Colin Farrell? Colin Farrell? - like bloody Peter Kaye saying ‘Garlic Bread?’
‘You mean that big poncey long blonde-haired geek from Alexander ? Do me a favour!’

I was going to bitch back but the blood started dribbling over my eyes again and I had to adjust the bandage.
‘A private jet, Jacuzzi – That’s so 70s!’
‘OK then - your turn.You do better.’
‘Right!’ Gaz says. ‘Me and the Baldwin brothers – Daniel, Alec and Billy – forget the other one – and it’s like all of them in their prime right? Me and them and that guy off channel 4 on know the Welsh one, no the other one, the gay one.’
I was just about to positively snort with indignation at the faux pas of bringing an actual gay into these fantasies when Big Rab scored a goal. I ran onto the pitch, planted a smacker on his lips, smacked his bum, ruffled his hair, hoisted him onto my shoulders so that his muddy shorts rubbed against the nape of my neck.
As I returned to the injury bench I gave the thumbs up sign to Gaz’s wife, who was sitting with mine in the crowd. Then I winced when my forehead began to bleed again.
‘Well? Gaz said.’Good first half isn’t it ?’
‘Three Baldwins!’ I sneered. ‘Hardly World Cup standard is it? Like that lot over there.’ I indicated our side, dribbling away, one lousy goal against six for the other side.
‘Our boys over in Germany and us sat here.’

‘In their prime!’ he says.

‘And an afternoon TV presenter!’ I sneer.

‘OK’, sighed Gaz. ‘You win’.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Vagrant (unpublished novel)

Home is not where you come from but where you choose to go

I knew I was Right

Julie Burchill


He looked like a Kennedy.John Kennedy Junior to be precise.John-John.He had dark chocolate brown hair.Black Magic to be precise.And eyes like black holes,which stared at me with darker hatred.
I screwed my eyes up right back at him.Now that I got a better look I decided:not a Kennedy, more a Baldwin. One of those Hollywood dynasties anyway.
Dean Cain.That's who he looked like:Superman's representative on Earth (well,television).I'd been thinking about him while reading a mud-caked old comic;I'd been thinking of how Kevin and I,trying to remember all the effects different colours of kryptonite had on Superman,wished,sighing over his red and blue muscles,they would come up with pink kryptonite - turns Superman gay.
(It was while having that discussion with Kevin - to be precise,it was the moment he turned to tongue-kiss Robert for the fifteenth time - that I knew I was going to destroy him.And how.)
As the black holes peered on,I imagined every bit of dull grey granite in the street I was sat on turning into green Earthite and torturing Dean to death.
He was wearing a perfectly faded light blue denim jacket over brilliant white cotton t-shirt,both garments hugged by black leather - what Kevin would have called a three course meal.Maybe later I would conjure him up more vulnerable in thin white shirt and bow tie in my sex with the dumb waiter fantasy.Maybe I wouldn't. I was being slowly weakened by fantasy.
My anger surprised me.I thought,after what I did to Kevin,that the boil had been lanced, rage had all seeped away.
On any other day I would have shrugged this hostile gaze off as the male heterosexual recognition of male homosexual,with all that went with that,privately and publicly.But then I realised,as I sat in the gutter,feeling the concrete and mud gingerly for the contact lens my drunkeness had caused me to lose,that I was actually staring into the eyes of a rich man glaring at a tramp.
'Everything's not always gay versus straight,' friends used to tell me.And sometimes they were right.They also used to say 'Everything's not always rich versus poor.'
A university friend of JFK JR. said he was so handsome then (as dazzling as the sun) that it hurt to look at him.But this John turned his gaze away first,couldn't bear to look at me.He marched on with his designer friends,no doubt to some pretentious party in Merchant City:a crowd of slim necks and thick wrists,silver and gold glinting in the moonlight,jangling in a silence.
I stopped being angry when a remarkable solution to my problem - to all my problems - appeared in my head.I regained full vision and sat back on cold concrete steps,trying to perfect a look of humble and couldn't-care-less loser all at once: I was rehearsing at being a tramp.

It would be such an awesome move that its very momentousness excited me,especially after the mediocrity of the past few years making do,pretending that standing still was OK because at least you weren't falling over.I knew that after the latest bland crisis (landlord type this time:love or sex crises had been overtaken some time ago by economic emergencies) I would find it impossible to move sideways again to another shade of grey.
After a few more minutes of being taken for a tramp and liking it (giggling teenage girls showering me with half-empties and innuendo) I moved on towards the only place I wanted to be then,to Dawn's,the oldest lesbian in Glasgow,my godmother.
As usual,after the pubs shut on a Friday night,the street was full of archetypes:couples (happy and sad),singles (sad and happy),cops.And Hard Boys: no brolly or coat in the rain,pop star sweat shirt sleeves hanging over shivering hands,like excess foreskin.There were also archetypal faces bagatelling about.There goes another John-John dark quiff,though this one was more Luke Perry - or was it Matt Dillon? And there goes Belmondo's salatious thick lips - or was it that guy in Airplane ? I wondered if hair,eye, lip characteristics all went back to one common ancestral gene pool,perhaps even back to only one ancestor.And if the same was true of cops or singles.Maybe,like the right wing nuts were praying for, there really was a single gay gene which surfaced every few generations,like genius,though more frequently,more normally,arithmetically speaking.Maybe there was even a Tramp Gene.
It stopped raining,which made it seem colder.Rain always seemed like a blanket to me:heavy rain,heavy blanket.I began to realise it would be a bad idea to run to Dawn's red and orange hearth again when I was in trouble.I kept meaning to go round when I hadn't something to moan about but hated going empty-handed and never had enough for the Gin.She'd have conked out by now anyway;Bet, the cat, would have slid,moaning to the rug.
The tramp idea wouldn't go away no matter how much I tried to avoid it.Like the real thing,the persistent alky type,it hovered in the distance as you planned your escape route.Sometimes the idea seemed like an innocent invitation,sometimes accusation,then, more and more,confronting it became the only option.Becoming a tramp would be as life-changing a move as murder,without the irreversibility of the latter,which made it all the more appealing.
Tramp.The word just wouldn't go away until I gave it something.It flattered,frightened,insulted,saddened me.
'OK,' I said to the word.'You want some recognition.You want me to think of you as real,as real as I am,not just some abstract notion drying out in the void.OK.Take this.I could keep warm in the Mitchell library until nine,sleep in that toilet that no-one ever uses,in that big cubicle with the good inside lock.I could shoplift until I'm caught,alternating that with the food and shelter and - who knows - sex and romance of prison life,until I'm on my feet.'
The word nodded.'Oh yer a pal boss,a real genius,' and went on its way.I would get some peace until it or another like it crossed my path again.

I turned to go home and met another type: homophobe.The old man recognized something about the way my dark brown wet quiff - yes,I shared that brotherhood with Mathew Luke and John - was flicked and fussed over.
'Seeyoufuckinqueerzyoumakemesick,' he slurred,looking as though he was just about to prove it.'Wan a' youze interfered wae ma wee nephew - ' as he prattled on I wondered if I should go up to the next het I met and complain about how one of his kind had just interfered with me.Then the word came back and reminded me I was already a sexual vagrant, and I wanted to run to Dawn's and scream again 'tell me about the old days - about how it was much worse than now.'

'Fuck aff ya self-pitying fucking wean there's two year olds dying like flies in - '
'Aye a bet you said that when you were ma age an' - '
'It was totally different then - you've got pubs and discos and TV programs and magazines and - '
'Exactly.Tell me about it.'

'And there's anither wan,' the loving uncle shouted to an audience in his head,all as self-righteous as he.'Christ they're everyfuckinwhere.'
But his next outburst was halted as the young tramp,the Other Wan,approached.One he could abuse,two could disabuse him,in a variety of ways.He turned and gave a face-saving Yernoworthbotherinaboot shrug.Then walked away.Very quickly.
'Awright ?' the guy said.
'Sure.Look - he's run away.'
'Nae danger in the streets pal.'
Either that old fucker was well away with it or I was more out of touch than I thought:what made him think the tramp was gay? Was it the earing? But it was in the left ear - supposedly the 'straight' side;then again,most gays did the same - to complete that authentic macho look.
And what made me think he was a tramp ?
When he offered me a Mayfair I remembered:the fingerless gloves.The Sally Army must hand them out with the watery soup.
I couldn't make out what colour of hair he had it was so wet and dingy.It could have been anything from grey to blonde,straggling over eyes ears and neck.It was also impossible to place the physique,wrapped in layers of rags.He was short though.And had the type of features labelled Strong:low-browed,long thick mouth,chiselled jaw (what I understand by the term anyway - hard,solid and angular),layered with stubble designed by God (perfect length).With all the rags,long hair low brows and dark jaw,the only uncovered part of his body was the startling blue eyes - and even they were not light and piercing but misty,almost grainy,like cigarette smoke in a cinema.As we spoke they lightened.The chameleon eyes conspired with the rest of his colours to blend with the night when necessary.Then again it may just have been the effect of the city's winking neon.
He had the usual ambigious Glasweigan thug Don't fuck with me/Save me stare which I had just set about deciphering when he suddenly looked over my shoulder,then ran off down an alleyway I used to urinate in on the way home from discos.Or snog in if I had someone with me.Just because it was illegal.
Two cops ran into the alley after him.I just stood there watching,like it was a TV program,still in love with the way his head cocked up to cope with the five inches I had over him.I wondered how young he was.As he ran he trailed oranges and banananas,at first by accident,then on purpose.I smiled.

'Clockwork Orange:I hate that film,'I'd said to Dawn one night as she reeled off a list of banned videos she could get for me.
'Aye you prefer electric bananas ya bastard !'
We watched The Exorcist together instead.

The rain came on again and I walked slowly along the direction the young tramp had gone,head down,knowing I'd probably never see him again,until I realized I was right back where I started,where I'd lost half my vision.I sat down in a four foot wide shop doorway and dozed off to the comforting throb of what was becoming a torrent.
When I awoke it was nearly light.
The alcohol's main effect had worn off now and sense was deserting the mind for the body.As damp trousers rubbed crotch against thigh,I remembered I hadn't come in ages.I thought more of the corporeal young man now,rather than any spiritual message he had to pass on.Dirt was sexy:the muddy footballer's shorts,the cowboy's dusty rugged face,the labourer's sweaty t-shirt.I imagined peeling off the tramp's designer dirt layer by layer:the silky scarf,the fur-hooded duffle coat,the mud-heavy jeans,the jumpers and t-shirts and underwear;the stubble,the excess hair,the grease dirt and dust.Always this ridiculous lurch for the future.
But the future was unpredictable:it all depended on others.Unless I became a tramp.Which I wouldn't,I realised as I walked home.Probably.Because last night's dark self-contained universe was now expanded by people and daylight and everything seemed to be drifting back to dreary normal.Still,something had changed.It wasn't the first time I'd left a pub or a disco drunk in the dark and stayed out until daylight sobriety - Kevin and I often had long talky walks in barmy summer dawns - but it seemed like it.It wasn't the first time I'd dropped a contact lens and searched the pavement for it trying not to look pathetic.It probably wasn't even the first time I'd been taken for a tramp.But something had happened for the first time.
I had lived then,what now seemed like a million years ago,for the shortest moment,in the present.That was impossible now,as was predicting the future,so I thought of the past.How the latest crisis warmed and came to the boil.

It was such a trivial thing,something that had happened time and time again without this hyper reaction:an argument with the landlord,dissatisfaction with a bedsit.But I was thirty three and a third now and not taking much of anything anymore:mediocre films,books,TV,pop,sex,love:the grey things you put up with when you're young because compromise seems like a stepping stone.
True,this not putting up with things didn't mean you automatically got better things.It meant seven years of celibacy,solitude and whittling down whatever spheres were imperfect so that life became a series of repetitions of the Tried and the True,a black canvass,illuminated here and there by a few white splashes.But black and white is better than grey.Anything's better than grey.If I thought of the black of abstinence,poverty,I remembered the grey of mediocre sex,relationships,jobs.

I'd left all that.Now all I had to do was leave mediocre spaces.