I walked into the living room and switched on the TV. I picked up a newspaper at the same time. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do — watch TV or read the newspaper. The newspaper won, but I didn’t switch off the TV.
I can’t remember what changed the balance of power, how the TV won my attention, whether it was gradual or sudden.. But I remember my jaw dropping as each line the narrator spoke sounded more and more incredible.
The newspaper was discarded. But not before I checked the date. Was it April Fools’ Day?
The TV show was about something called “remote viewing”. Apparently both sides of the Cold War sank millions into developing a technique known more popularly as “psychic spying”. Was this real? Provable? Or just a result of Cold War paranoia?
When I began to think of writing about a futuristic world of spies, this strange TV show came immediately to mind. I wanted to create a world somewhere between John Le Carré and Ray Bradbury. Taking remote viewing a step further would provide the ideal springboard to the world of Edyl.
The documentary "The Real X-files — America's Psychic Spies" is on youtube. Make of it what you will.
“Edyl - The Reading Department” is FREE from online bookstores and as an audiobook on iTunes.
Before 1945, life was lived in black and white. I know that because I’ve seen numerous newsreels. And I know it because of my childhood experiences.
I remember, as a child, leafing through history books.
There was one particular photograph of a street I knew well. I walked down it often. The picture was taken during World War Two. It was of a building on fire, a bomb had hit it during an air raid.
I remember walking down that street after reading the book. I was mesmerised by this building. It was thirty years after World War Two but the building hadn’t been repaired, even though it was quite central.
In other words, it was much the same as it had been. And yet, I couldn’t quite connect the real thing with the photograph. I stood there for quite a while, staring at the building, imagining I was there on the night of the air raid. I heard the bombs fall in my head. They made me flinch.
Today, I came across a film of London in 1927. It also made me flinch. It made me flinch because it was in colour. It should have been in black and white.
The film isn’t a Hollywood epic, there’s no narrative. It’s simply a tour of London. But it affected me more than any film I’ve seen for a long time. The people in the film are doing nothing, just going about their day. Some notice the camera, some don’t.
The night before, I’d seen the new Planet of the Apes movie. In that film, the goodies are very good, the baddies are very bad, the action moves forward in a way that is predictable. It had great effects, vertiginous fight scenes, lots of chases. And I was unmoved.
The film of the simple journey through London moved me. It was 1927. The film was in colour and I felt that I could almost reach out and touch these people who are no longer with us. The child in me was mesmerised. The past was no longer in black and white.
A novel inspired by government spying on emails is released this week. Although set in the future, the underlying problems with power that it portrays feel very current. The novel is "EDYL - Island of Immortality" by Mark Capell.
It's 2117 and the government has stopped reading your emails. It now reads your mind...
Every year, WOCO (the world government) nominates people to compete in the Edyl Olympiad. The prize? Immortality, and the right to live in the only place left in the world where the sun still shines -- Edyl Island. But the competitors are being watched by a secret government division called The Reading Department to see if they're worthy of that prize.
R77K is a thought reader on his first Edyl assignment. He has three targets: a rock singer, an athlete, and a mechanic. But one of them also moonlights as a contract killer. Why would a contract killer be nominated for immortality? All is not well in paradise.
The deeper R77K delves into the minds of his targets, the closer he gets to them... and to the hidden agenda behind the nominations. Edyl is a festering world of lies, corruption and strife, but defying WOCO means fighting off attacks from other thought readers, means giving up any last chance of his own immortality. Will he pay that price to save the nominees? And join the cause to put the world to rights?
EDYL - Island of Immortality is a dystopian view of the future, an intense mix of intrigue and drama in an epic tale.
It's available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.
Here's the radio podcast commercial for the new novel "EDYL - Island of Immortality" which is out in six days. Music is by the incredibly talented Ukrainian musician Rugaroo. Find out more about her music at: https://soundcloud.com/r-roo
The new novel will be out on 2nd July. It's called "EDYL - Island of Immortality". If you want to be notified when it appears, sign up to the mailing list on the "contact" page. Or "like" the Facebook page.
It’s 2117 and the government has stopped reading your emails. It now reads your mind…
Every year, WOCO (the world government) nominates people to compete in the Edyl Olympiad. The prize? Immortality, and the right to live in the only place left in the world where the sun still shines — Edyl Island. But the competitors are being watched by a secret government division called The Reading Department to see if they’re worthy of that prize.
R77K is a thought reader on his first Edyl assignment. He has three targets: a rock singer, an athlete, and a mechanic. But one of them also moonlights as a contract killer. Why would a contract killer be nominated for immortality?
All is not well in paradise.
The deeper R77K delves into the minds of his targets, the closer he gets to them… and to the hidden agenda behind the nominations. Edyl is a festering world of lies, corruption and strife, but defying WOCO means fighting off attacks from other thought readers, means giving up any last chance of his own immortality.
Will he pay that price to save the nominees? And join the cause to put the world to rights?
EDYL - Island of Immortality is an intense mix of intrigue, romantic entanglements and drama in an epic science fiction tale.
“Even if you’re immortal, there has to be something worth dying for.”
EDYL - Island of Immortality will be available on 2nd July from Amazon and other online retailers.
When you hear the word "surreal" these days it's usually as a synonym for the word "weird". Nevertheless, Surrealism's influence can be seen in so many of today's books, films and TV. And when the Surrealist movement began, it wasn't meant to be weird at all. They were just a group of very annoyed people.
Before I went to college, the Surrealists hadn't been a part of my world.
I left home to continue my education thinking I'd consumed quite a broad range of books, films and music. But in truth, I'd had quite a conservative upbringing in the cultural sphere. And I haven't yet forgiven my mother for force-feeding me Murder She Wrote on a Sunday night.
One of the subjects I studied at university was the History of Art. We travelled in time from the Dutch masters to the present day.
One lecture completely changed my views on art.
The previous week we'd finished with the impressionists. They were easy to digest. I was very comfortable with Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas. I'd seen them everywhere: in galleries, on posters, as tablecloths, and on biscuit tins.
But this particular week we were to be introduced to the Surrealists. I knew nothing about them. They hadn't touched my early life in any shape or form.
Without ceremony, without introduction, the lecturer started the film projector. I knew nothing but the title of the film Un Chien Andalou, that was about to appear in front of my eyes, a collaboration between filmmaker Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dali.
I stared in utter amazement. It was crazy. None of it made sense. But I loved it. It shook me from my comfortable world. It woke me up.
Now if you've never seen Un Chien Andalou, a warning. It contains some quite startling images: a couple of dead, and rotting, donkeys being dragged along on the back of pianos by priests, ants emerging from the palm of a hand, somebody's eye being cut. The effects are quite crude because the film was made in 1929, but it can cause people to wince.
But aside from the occasional shocking image, what struck me was that there was no discernible story. Things happened, lots of things happened, but for no apparent reason. I thought I would become restless, annoyed at the lack of what I could perceive as meaning. But it was the opposite, I sat forward in my seat. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. And it was because I was never sure what would happen next.
When I thought about it afterwards, I realised that having read and watched lots of detective stories, thrillers, classics, my mind had become stale. I had become a little immune to classic storytelling.
Most detective stories, for instance, begin with a crime. The detective walks around talking to people, then chases and catches the bad man who did it. The journey may be more or less interesting, but the destination is never in doubt. I'd never realised it before, but I preferred journey in which the destination is not so clear.
For the first time in a long time for me, here was something fresh. I swore to find out all about Surrealism.
Surrealism began in the early twentieth century, but really caught on when a group of artists called the Dadaists took up the creed after World War One. Their art threw off the shackles of rational thought and what they called "bourgeoise values" (which they blamed for the outbreak of the war). It also leaned heavily on Sigmund Freud's analysis of dreams. It was crazy, wild, uninhibited — all very appealing to the young college student.
I devoured Surreal art. Dali, Man Ray, Magritte, Duchamp and Max Ernst all fired my imagination.
Encountering Surrealism for the first time is very liberating. Everything you ever knew seems staid, even boring. Great works of art that once appeared elegant can appear cautious, dull. After discovering the Surrealists I felt like spitting on a Renoir canvas — the effect of light on water lilies, indeed. How quaint, I'd think, sarcastically.
But the problem with enthusiasm for the purest form of Surrealism is that it can soon burn out. You see, the trouble with an artistic movement in which anything goes, is that... anything goes. You can make a piece of art, write a book, or make a film and if people don't understand it, it's too easy to call it Surrealism. One of the techniques Surrealist writers used was automatic writing. It's essentially writing without the interference of the conscious mind. The results can also be interpreted as jumbled nonsense.
In fact, the Surrealist movement itself did soon burn itself out. By the 1950s it was less dominant. And yet it has never really died. It has been diluted, but that has often been its strength. It has spread to the mainstream and nowadays is often merged with a more straightforward narrative.
The most popular practitioner of Surrealism is probably the filmmaker David Lynch. Even in his most logical narratives you can feel the influence of those Dadaists.
When I came to write Café Insomniac, I knew the Surrealists would be an influence, they've been itching to pour out of my bloodstream for a while. But I also wanted the story to be a cohesive narrative.
The story is based on an insomniac. I've suffered from insomnia, on and off, for a good number of years. And when you get almost no sleep at all, life can become like a Surrealist painting. So I gave my hero, Justin, the worst case of insomnia ever recorded. This leads to some crazy psychological stuff happening to him. But I levelled it out with a murder mystery that happened at the same time. To see how a murder can be connected to insomnia, I'm afraid you'll have to read the book.
But my general point is that I think Surrealism will continue to have an influence on artists of all kinds. It's such an enticing idea that anything can happen and that the only limits are the limits of an imagination.
But these days, Surrealism can be at its most potent when mixed with other techniques. In that way, the surprises that Surrealism can produce can still reinvigorate a work of art, without attracting accusations of self-indulgence and gratuitousness.
Surrealism is definitely here to stay.