Monthly archives: September 2023

Books for the weekend

Night & Fog 1 cover image

Night & Fog 1: The March is available on Amazon today. An action sci-fi novelette, it’s more space pop song than space opera.

In the dying days of planetary occupation, the invaders have marched prisoners into the barely explored interior of the main continent.

Tren, an Aurzi, has escaped the march, only to be left in arid wasteland with little chance of survival. Until human mercenaries offer a way out, and to rescue the rest of the marchers.

Kettled cover image

The Tories are in Manchester for their conference, so it’s a good time to remind you of Kettled (also available at Smashwords and elsewhere).

The Tories are in Manchester, and thousands have turned out to protest their presence.

In the midst of the peaceful protest, a small group of hired troublemakers are planning to cause trouble. They want to start a riot, to distract from the demo’s message, and usher in new laws.

Irwin has been working with an MI5 agent to track them down before they can do any damage. But now, she has been stabbed, and he is trapped in a big crowd being held on a square by Police. Just the right place to start a fight.

With the reluctant help of Kay Wood, Irwin must track down the troublemakers before it’s too late, and find out who stabbed the MI5 agent.

Prepare the Grand Panjandrum!

I had another old ashtray that made a perfect diorama base, so I built a companion to the Smith Gun diorama.

The Grand Panjandrum is an even more obscure Allied weapon from WW2- only making it to prototype stage and possibly being a bluff. I found a 3D printable Panjandrum on Booth and once I sat down and started the diorama, it went together over a weekend.

Another Summer of Hate 8

Gary gave the motor a little blast of electricity, and used the torque to help pull up the front wheel. He pushed his torso up and forwards, and managed to get the back wheel into the air. It still tapped the edge of the curb, but he was getting better at these high speed bunny hops. Swinging back off the pavement, he caught some air and threaded between bollards.

The next delivery was by the chippy. There wasn’t a deadline, this wasn’t a video game, but he liked to push himself and get a bit better every time out. Like with the bunny hops. A right turn, then angle left, and he had another to do. It was a taller curb, and he whacked the wheel harder this time. Not enough to buckle the wheel, but he didn’t want to do it too often.

His customers were obvious, standing by the chip shop’s side door, hoods up and shoulders hunched against the drizzle. He angled across the car park, pulling a ragged stoppie as he drew up to them. It was only as he reached into his jacket for the bag that it began to feel wrong. They weren’t looking at him, eager to get the deal done, but scanning the surroundings.

The taller one reached out, real quick, and pushed Gary back. He kept pushing until Gary’s legs tangled in the bike frame, and he went over. His shoulders hit the concrete. He had tensed for it, but still his head cracked against the ground as well. Everything went unpleasantly bright.

The tall one was over him now, pinning him to the ground while the small one went through his pockets. “Tell that cunt Lee not to take the piss. He steals our business, we’ll steal his shit.” he hissed as he pulled out bags and cash. When he’d pocketed it all, he stood. The kick he swung at Gary’s chest was almost an afterthought. “Next time I bring a knife, yeah?”

The Online safety bill will probably make things worse

Exactly how the new rules will be implemented remains to be settled, but they likely won’t work.

I see the vague definitions of what harmful material is will lead platforms to censor perfectly legitimate content. And you can bet that the people most often hit by this will be primarily from already under represented or vulnerable groups.

Another Summer of Hate 7

Peter had provided copies of paperwork from the Family Court. His ex-wife’s transphobia, projected in the ways she treated their son, had been so bad that Peter had won primary custody, with her only seeing her son under supervision.

It had been bearable for a while. Then she had tried to drag Miles out of a fire exit, with a car waiting outside. Her accomplices had sped away, never identified, as a care centre employee intervened, and she had avoided being charged. But that was when father and son had moved halfway up the country. Whether they could truly start anew was a big question. Irwin was going to do what he could to help.

He had done some research before meeting Peter and Miles, getting an overview of the state of the ‘trans debate’. One side effect of diving in was that he had seen the word groomer more times in the last few days than in the rest of his life combined. Shorthand for child groomer, the baseless accusation was thrown out by Gender Critical activists- and a lot of sock puppet accounts- all over social media. Trans people were groomers. Drag queens were groomers. Parents of trans children were groomers. Anyone who supported trans people was a groomer. You were a groomer if you expressed no opinion on transgender issues or didn’t wholeheartedly agree with the bigotry aimed at trans people.

It was ludicrous, and would be comical if it weren’t simultaneously so dangeous. Irwin had tracked extremism whilst with MI6 and studied historical examples of a deadly idea taking hold of a population, hatred building until it boiled over into violence. Genocides didn’t start with mass murder. They began with whispered hatred, insinuations about a particular minority. With increasing volume, and decreasing subtlety, the out group became the focus of more and stronger vitriol. They were blamed for ever more of the problems they had nothing to do with. Politicians used them as a distraction from their failings, promising harsh treatment and punitive laws.

Somewhere along the slide to fascism, people started to die. Irwin hadn’t realised they were already at that stage until he started researching. There had been homophobic attacks in London and elsewhere. People in the United States had been shot because they dared to fly a Pride flag. Politicians in multiple countries were running on culture wars narratives, and putting in place bathroom bans and trans sporting restrictions when they could get away with it.

It was no wonder that Peter was worried what might happen to Miles if his mother tracked him down.

The new information from Peter gave some more specific people and groups to look into. It was unlikely to be any more pleasant than wading through the sea of hate, but it would help narrow the focus to more immediate threats. Peter’s ex had made most of her social media private after the court case, only popping up occasionally to make saccharine posts about missing her little girl and how sad it was when relationships broke down. The mask slipped occasionally, letting some transphobic meme through, but she was clever enough not to use some of the more extreme versions Irwin had seen.

This limited public engagement still gave Irwin a way in, though. Each of these people had their own presence and links, and Irwin started to build a network map from those. A number of tools helped, crawling through post histories to make the connections and creating heat map diagrams of the most prolific users of chosen phrases. This sifted out the merely obnoxious and focused on the obsessed. Some of them were present across multiple platforms, giving him even more to work with. Two, maybe three, he was sure he could match to names in the information Peter had given him.

Luckily, most of them hadn’t heard of VPNs, or knew anything about security basics. When they weren’t openly yelling about where they were, their phones and laptops tagged posts and pictures. There was a cluster in Surrey, which correlated with Peter’s old home and his ex-wife’s presumed location. An even larger grouping near Brighton looked like one human and a lot of sockpuppets on investigation. The spread of the rest roughly matched population density. Which meant there were some in Manchester. He could track their location over time, and one of them had only recently arrived in the city. The current location wasn’t precise, but it matched part of Peter’s background information too closely to be ignored.

Irwin dialled the number he had been given for Peter’s brother.

Nazi Germany had admirers among American religious leaders – and white supremacy fueled their support

Not a surprising conclusion, really. And Britain has no room to be smug, either, given the Daily Mail fawned over Hitler and our dear departed Queen was taught the Nazi salute by her uncle.

Night & Fog 1: The March

Book One of the Night & Fog series.

In the dying days of planetary occupation, the invaders have marched prisoners into the barely explored interior of the main continent.

Tren, an Aurzi, has escaped the march, only to be left in arid wasteland with little chance of survival. Until human mercenaries offer a way out, and to rescue the rest of the marchers.

Available from Amazon.

Another Summer of Hate 6

Another Summer of Hate, other projects, and exclusive posts, are available early for supporters of my Patreon for as little as £1 a month.

I’m cheating a little here. The Mouse Organ gang were created for one of those projects I got distracted and walked away from. When I realised I needed at least one more thread for Another Summer of Hate, I remembered them and dug out the file. In the final chronology, this bit is going to slot in earlier, whilst I’m establishing all the characters. But that’s for future drafts.

All the crockery behind the coffee bar rattled as the train passed overhead. Jon scanned the four clocks behind the bar, then poked his phone until it woke up and told him the time. The train had been late, but the clock for New York was running slow as well.

It was almost time for the last, small, rush of customers. The Mouse Organ lived in a tall and deep railway arch under the viaduct between Salford Central and Manchester Victoria stations. Down the hill and across the river from Manchester’s Crown and Civil courts, they had regulars from all the solicitors’ offices who dropped in on their way home from work, to grab a coffee and unwind. Most of them were single, and home was a one bed flat and whatever Netflix suggested today. Romances had started because of the early evening mingles, including his own.

Will was on coffee duty, and had just returned with last minute milk. As he busied himself with lining up mugs for the regulars, Jon went back to his job. Sat at the work bench opposite the coffee bar, he was using loops of wire to hang 35mm film slides off a metal ring to make a light shade.

The last slide of the fourth row clipped into place. Jon held the lamp shade out and waved it over the far edge of the tool shelves that the table butted against. “What do you think?”

“Pretty.” a little voice from the other side said.

“Cool. I’ve only got to make another six. If I can find enough slides.”

The regulars started to roll in. Sally was the fifth of the usual crowd to appear. Jon still loved to see her in her business suit, the sharp lines and dark wool contrasted with her pretty heart shaped face. She waved at Will and he picked a particular mug from the ones he had lined up.

Jon spun on his stool and stood to kiss Sally. He didn’t lay his hands on her waist, just in case he had picked up any grease or oil that would do terrible things to Sally’s suit. “Hey there.” said Sally when they parted lips. “Where have you hidden my daughter?”

Jon turned and knocked on the top of the tool shelves, and a moment later the top of a small head- curly black hair pulled back as tidily as its energy would allow- appeared from behind it. “Hello Mum.” the little voice said.

“Hey Nat. What are you doing behind there?”

“I’m putting the tools away. But not the sharp ones.”

“The girl whose room is such a mess is tidying up?”

“This is a job. I’ve been helping make things, so I gotta help put tools away.”

“Are you all oily again?”

“A little.”

“That’s why we got you work clothes, isn’t it.” Jon prompted. “Why don’t you go and get changed while me and your Mum smooch a little?”

“Eeeew! Okay.” Nat walked around the end of the bench. A trip to a charity shop had provided her with work clothes- jeans and a top that was too big for her, the ends of the sleeves rolled up into fat cotton bracelets so that she could stick her hands out. She had the same heart shaped face as her mother, but her skin was a warm mid brown. The front of her top was streaked with oily swatches, some of them the exact size and shape of her hands.

“Good grief, what have you been doing?” Sally asked.

“I’ve been building a bike. Danny says I can have it when it’s done.”

“Really. Don’t you already have a bike?”

“Yes. And I ride it whenever I can. But the one I’m making is super cool.”

“I can’t wait to see it.”

“Here you go darling. Go and get changed.” Jon handed Nat a plastic bag and she skipped off to the toilets to get changed. “Don’t forget to scrub your hands well to get the oil off.” he called after her.

Will waved at Sally and she went to collect her coffee. “You don’t have to get her a bike.” she said when she returned.

“Oh I’m not. She really is building it. Danny got a couple of kid’s bikes thrown in for free by his tame scrappy. He’s been giving her lessons and helping her and she’s been keeping his work space organised so he doesn’t waste half an hour trying to find the right size Allen key. They make a good team.”

Sally smiled, then blew on her coffee before taking a sip. “Thanks for looking after her this week. You’ve been a lifesaver. When Mum had to go look after Uncle Brian I didn’t know what I was going to do. And she’s loved it here. She’s tried to explain everything she’s done, but it just sounds like she’s been under your feet the whole time. I hope she hasn’t caused too much trouble.”

“Not at all. We’ve loved having her here. I think she’s closed a couple of sales just by being cute at customers. And she did a bit of waitressing as well. We’re going to miss her tomorrow.”

“She never mentioned that you made her work. I hope she’s been adequately reimbursed.”

“Well, she is getting a bike.”

Nat came bouncing back from the toilet dressed in a very girly red dress and white stockings with white and red pumps. She’d let her hair loose and it was a crazy spray of tight curls. She didn’t look like she had been wielding hammers and spanners all day. Jon tore a big square of blue paper towelling from the roll and said, “Hold on, come here, you missed a bit.” He carefully wiped a smudge of oil off her cheek.

“Give Jon a hug goodbye. We have to get you to your Nana’s house.” Sally instructed.

Nat reached up to wrap her arms around Jon’s neck and pressed her cheek against his as she closed them tight. He lifted her up off her feet. “You have fun at your Grandma’s. Grandmas always have the best sweets.”

“And you look after Mummy tomorrow when I’m away.”

Sally had an odd expression. When she realised Jon was trying to read it, she flashed a smile. Jon lowered Nat to the floor and Sally kissed him lightly on the lips. “I’ll see you tomorrow night.” She handed over her half empty cup of coffee then took her daughter’s hand. “Come on then, let’s see what Nana’s made for us.”

As they headed for the door, Nat waved at Will. “Bye bye Will! Bye bye Danny!”

Will waved back and, from the rear of the big arched space a voice called out, “Bye Nat!”

Another Summer of Hate 5

This, and more, is available first to supporters of my Patreon page.

Spoiler- Nelson is irredeemably stupid. It’s a combination of learnt and chosen stupidity. He may have been indoctrinated by his church, but faced with reality being in opposition to his beliefs, he has decided to double down and find ever more convoluted explanations for his nonsense. I see this a lot from the Satan Hunters and TERFs that have inspired Nelson. His thought process isn’t that different to theirs, I’m just playing it up for dramatic and satirical effect.

It was raining in Summer, and had been doing so for most of a month. So much for Climate Change.

Stakeouts were all about waiting and watching, often for long periods where nothing happened. Nelson was using this one to think about all the nonsense in the world.

The irregular drumming of heavy raindrops on the tarp had made him think about the weather. If they couldn’t get it right about tomorrow, how could they possibly predict for years away.

Covid was another example. It had been a made up scare, to test governments’ ability to control their people. So many had fallen for it it was embarrassing.

Some would say it all started with 9/11, but Nelson knew better than that. All of these scares and lies were part of long war- the eternal fight between good and evil, the power of the Lord Jesus against the dark armies of Satan. His Church had laid the foundations of his understanding of this grand picture, but his own research had shown him how aberrations like feminism, homosexual liberation and now the transgender cult were all part of Beelzebub’s plans to push humanity ever further from The Truth.

Water had found its way inside his hide. He had been trying to ignore the dampness creeping up his right leg, but it hadn’t stopped. He couldn’t rearrange the setup in daylight. Even in this rain, it was possible he might be spotted. So he would have to put up with it until the sun set.

The rain kept on falling, and the drip began to become a pool under his sin. But he kept himself warm and distracted by listing all the ways that progress was a tool of the Devil.