Old ways, new world

For the dverse prompt. I haven’t taken a particular political standpoint, but Utopia isn’t going to drop out of nowhere without some kind of philosophy to guide it.


We can’t say we love those we never have to meet,

and we never have to live with those who are not like us.


(It’s easy to love those who are just like us, who keep their

cars clean like we do, have good dental work and don’t raise hell).


We can’t say we care if we take more than we need, because

the treadmills keep turning to give us what we throw away.


We can’t say we respect life when we sanction poverty

to keep us rich, misery to keep us overfed and sleek.


Learn how to love, care, respect, and do, be, act, give not take,

find joy in sunsets and sunrises and the singing of birds,


turn off the reality show, dig the earth, plant, create, not sit

open-mouthed before the pap that falls in sugary drifts from heaven.


Golden age or comfort zone?


In my mailbox this morning was a reading suggestion. I obediently followed the link to Amazon to read the blurb, and if I liked the sound of it, the first few pages of the story. I managed the blurb—yet another princely youngest son, hounded from the family castle, finds refuge with happy, peaceful poor folk living a secretive existence in a forest, becomes their saviour (the blurb doesn’t mention why they need a saviour), and they help him regain his rightful inheritance.

Specifically what made me bristle was the pseudo-Medieval society that bears no relation to any real Medieval society that ever was. Medieval is more than just period costumes. But more generally, what is this obsession with royalty and a specific historical period with such alterations and embellishments that it may as well be science fiction? Why are writers still producing this kind of apology for absolute monarchy and privilege, and keeping alive the assumption that ordinary folk need to be led by some kid whose only claim to the job is that he was born of the ruling caste? Not only are the royals the only ones capable of leadership, it’s their divine right.

Admittedly, the other cliché of the humble woodcutter (they are often woodcutters, possibly because it sounds like a suitably Medieval and manly occupation) who defies the wicked king and becomes king in his place, is even more absurd.

What I find disturbing more than irritating, is that both scenarios, the divine right of privilege and the king who rose from the ranks of the commons by dint of hard work and impeccable moral hygiene, seem to me to comfort the myths we have constructed around our privileged lifestyles. We accept as right that the rich shall grow richer and the poor shall be content in their lowly place, and as incontestable that the leaders of society have reached the pinnacle of power through merit.

Call me a left-wing idealist if you like, but I hate this escapist world-building, which after all is supposed to make us dream, of a historical golden age which is no more than the enshrinement of the most conservative of our ideas about society. And no, the answer isn’t to have the same scenarios but with women in the key privileged roles, a sort of Medieval Evita. Isn’t it surely to create a world where the dreams of the generous and the humane come true rather than those of the power-hungry and privileged?


I have a dream

The Daily Inkling prompt is to imagine a future with a tech device that we think of as impossible. I can’t get my head around technology, so here’s a future without it.


I have a dream (don’t we all?),

they call an impossible dream,

of a future cleansed of obscurantism,

when we will believe in ourselves,

and ourselves alone,

when we shoulder our responsibilities

to the here and now,

and scrape away the putrid sacred vestments

that have befouled our humanity.

Ni dieu, ni maître,

ourselves alone.

The stars wheeling above my head,

the sands of a long white strand beneath my feet,

I take my place in the universe.

I have a dream,

only a dream.

Un bel dì vedremo

I was brought up on Victoria de los Angeles. Since being a young teenager her voice and this song in particular has made me cry. We were listening to her this evening, then I saw the dverse prompt and thought that I knew the answer.

There’s a bit of Madama Butterfly at the end, because opera and operatic singing is Puccini.


There is a place,

there must be,

where people listen to this song,

or one not too dissimilar,

and they weep.

That is the place

where I would live,

where the beauty of the deer

is in its graceful leap,

the bird glory in the trees, the air,

the smile of an old lady

with no money in the bank.

Tell that to those who seek paradise,


and weep.


Microfiction #writephoto: Starting over

This is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt


Fifty years after the end of the conflict, the wasteland showed only the barest trace of green. The bodies were gone, bleached bones covered in dry, shifting earth. No vegetation anchored it, and winds blew the earth from drift to drift. Here and there, desert animals were returning: rodents and in their wake, small predators and raptors.

The earth licked its wounds, letting the toxins leach away and the scars close over. On the hillock, a gun carriage rotted into the earth, the only evidence of man in the landscape that stretched from horizon to horizon, a dried-up lake, a range of hills, and a dense mist where the ocean lay. Or had done once.

The two emissaries took a last look at the emptiness before turning back to their shuttle. They had arrived too late to make contact.

“Perhaps it is just as well,” one said.

“Now it can all start again. But this time, we will take charge.”

They walked carefully around the vessel, sweeping the earth clear. One of them bent, and with long, slender fingers, scooped up a nest of mice and placed it clear of the blast from the reactors. Satisfied that all was well, the two took up their places in the capsule and returned to their mother ship.

The sun sank to the horizon. A mouse carried her babies into the tunnel-dark safety of a new nest. A fox slunk out from beneath the gun carriage and sniffed the air. Puzzled, she raised her muzzle and tasted the strange scent of well-being. She trotted without fear in the direction of a small watercourse. Something said the cubs would eat well tonight.

Microfiction challenge Utopia Ark: the entries

The strange and lovely painting inspired strange and lovely stories, even a few humorous ones! Thanks to all of you for playing along and look in tomorrow for another prompt.

Adding a late entry from Neel


Lady Lee

Hallelujah! – ladyleemanila


Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge #22, Utopian Ark: Spawn – My Frilly Freudian Slip

Second entry

JD’s Microfiction Challenge: dis/Utopian Ark–blood oranges and olive groves – My Frilly Freudian Slip




Microfiction challenge #22: Utopia Ark | Morpethroad


Gaia II – microfiction for Jane Dougherty | fmme writes poems


Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction challenge : #floatingcityandme – Word Shamble


Flying Islands – Stuff Happens #microfiction | TanGental


In Which a Wizard Floats a Plan | Tales from Eneana


We Will Talk Amidst the Clouds: Microfiction | Yesterday and today: Merril’s historical musings





Microfiction challenge #22: Utopia Ark

Thank you, Michael for the wake up call 🙂 This strange and mysterious painting is by German artist Makis Warlamis. You can think of it as an antidote to the Isle of the Dead of a couple of weeks ago. It represents Utopia, but where did it come from and where is it going? Is that our Earth beneath it, and if it is, where are all the people? It certainly doesn’t look like my idea of devastation. Is it even a human utopia? I’d like to read your thoughts, so post the link to your story in the comments before next Thursday (sorry about the late posting, but you can do it).



Cover reveal: Devastation

You probably already know that writing poetry and pieces of short fiction is not the be all and end all of my existence as a writer. I write novels too. They are unashamedly escapist, with elements of magic, fantasy and mythology, romance and humour, probably because that is how I would like life to be. The characters are young, full of energy, not little plaster saints, opinionated and courageous. I’ve come to like them as if they were not just my spiritual children, but flesh and blood.

The first series, The Green Woman, starts in a miserable, grey dystopia, violent and oppressive. You’d hardly expect it to be like Disney World, would you? It’s the story of Deborah’s journey to find herself, her mother and save the bit of the world that actually wants to be saved from itself. It ends in…well, you have to read the story to find out where it ends. Or if it even does.

The second series, The Pathfinders, is very different. Carla and Tully are caught in the Apocalypse. The story isn’t post-apocalyptic—the world is teetering on the brink waiting for the final act. Wormholes that loop through time and space run through the story like garlands on a Christmas tree but without the joyful connotations. Things travel through the wormholes, and most of them you wouldn’t want to meet, not even if you had a few anti-tank missiles handy.

The first volume, Abomination, was published in March by Finch Books. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. You’ll see why you should be preparing your plan B for the apocalypse right now.


I have just received the cover art for the second volume, so I’ll post it here. If you thought things couldn’t get any worse than the Abomination, I’m afraid you’re in for a shock. Or maybe just a pleasant surprise. There are people like you, I know.


Devastation will be available on early download from June 22. That gives you plenty of time to read Abomination first. If you like having the bejaysus scared out of you, of course. I’ve been told I write good horror stories. If you can stand the pace, you should look into this series.

You can find links, blurbs and extracts from all the novels here, or sign up for news about further publications here.

200 word story: Lutecia

I love writing utopias, I just have problems stopping the human characters messing them up. Sacha Black’s challenge this week is to write a story about a utopia in less than 200 words. Mine usually run for a trilogy of novels, but this is a teaser for the sequel to Abomination. It’s set in a utopia, but obviously, it’s not going to stay utopic for long.

Painting ©:Alexander Samokhvalov


They stepped outside into the sunshine that fell through the vines of the pergola. Yvain and Jack were deep in argument about pigs, the others trooping behind. Carla and Tully stood in the doorway of the auberge, listening to the murmur of voices, the birds fluting among the leaves, the chink of glasses, and letting the sunlight fall on their faces. Carla was on the point of saying something about how idyllic Lutecia seemed, when the spell was broken. A couple of men shifted in their chairs, catching her eye. Even beneath the bright sunlight their skin looked grey and unhealthy, and the expression in their eyes was pure hatred.

She squeezed Tully’s hand and dragged him after the others into the lane.

“Did you see?”

“Those grey-faced characters?”

“What did we do?”

Tully shrugged. “Maybe they didn’t like Dad’s jokes.”

“Seriously. It’s followed us, hasn’t it? Whatever it was back at the mall that…”

Tully kissed her forehead. “Yvain will know what’s going on. I hope.”

Carla glanced over her shoulder. The grey men had gone. The familiar cold terror settled back into the pit of her stomach.

Haiku challenge: Free & Think

Getting my haiku done in good time this week. Ronovan’s prompt is the two words Free and Think. I’ve taken a slight liberty this week.
The painting is by Frits Thaulow. The river is the Dordogne where I’m off for the day on Friday.


I’m calling them both:


The free thinker dreams

beyond obscurantist bounds

an equal world blooms.


Free as the wind blows

thought flows a river of hope

building tomorrow.