Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Nun with the Polaroid Camera

"Excited about my new life the pedal hits the boards."


THE NUN WITH THE POLAROID CAMERA

SHORT PULP NOIR FICTION

1,000 WORDS

BY JAMES A. NEWMAN

 

DAD’S CAR could take no more. Slam the V6 round 90 degrees into main-street, the traffic cop a memory now, stewing in his stomach acids, slumped by the zebra crossing, his shirt and face covered in blood, his face splattered and cracked like a watermelon, his brain matter mixing with the cerebral-spinal fluid, a mix of greys and crimsons, an unforgettable green sludge flickering under those forever unforgiving blinking neon lights. You should have seen it, baby, but I have to get away, and away I do in Pop’s big deadly hunk of Japanese metal, through the night, through the City, the whores, the broken orange peels, condoms, hypodermics, through the diseases, the cures, the hatred, broadsided barbarians bivouacking under the oily blue tropical night, a teenage girl holds an otter on a leash… Beyond and between the dead machine blinking one, two, three...


Barberella
Did she see the license plate?

Who?

The nun.  

The night sky starless – all the stars are on the streets sparkling with the twilight of infinite despair; impossible transsexuals strutting past drunken comedians, omnipresent cyber hookers looking for the dollar connection, the neon circus, the Red Night Zone, steering the black killing machine towards the Beach. Excited about my new life the pedal hits the boards.

How far I’d come.

A killer on the run, sweet sixteen, baby, sweet sixteen.

Did she see my face?   

There’s a chick riding shotgun wearing a tiny silver dress and boots like she just raided the wardrobe from Barberella. Hair peroxide blonde she’s sucking a star-shaped lollipop, says to me, sucking,   


“I think we should go back.”  

“You’re crazy,” I said.

 And she was.

A nun with a Camera.
I picked Natalie up in a two-bit shopping mall thinking her outfit would explode to dust. Then it did. Plates flew and waiters fainted, diners battled with chopsticks to get to her... Women covered their children’s eyes. Men quit their jobs and switched careers. The shopping malls were divided into those who admired her beauty and those who resented it. Small armies were organized and families divided. Anarchy erupted in the city while Natalie oblivious to the sexual power at her disposal sat unclothed staring at the sashimi boat. Empires fell and new religions founded. Statues were built and demolished, history books written, rewritten, a short running cable television show starring the nearest facsimile to Natalie that could be found by a group of metrosexual auteurs with unlimited contacts and budgets. This and much more would happen, shortly after the fall of several empires and just before the final Armageddon, which would be named by visiting aliens as the Fall of Natalie.

“He might die,” Natalie said bringing me back down to the driving seat with the sound of plastic on leather.

“Did she see us?” I asked her as the neon night flashed by.

“Who?”

“The Nun with the polaroid camera?” The nun was right there in front of the wheels after we hit the traffic cop. How could Natalie not of seen her?  “How could you not see her?”

“What nun?”

“You didn’t see the nun? Black and white costume, big old Polaroid in her mitt. She stood in the road, I took her out after plowing down the cop. Imagine that, Law and Religion in one hit.”

“I didn’t see no nun, you’re crazy,” she said. Natalie wasn’t the only one who thought so, family got me analyzed by a shrink who told me I was incapable of empathy yet needed to ask me how that made me feel. Go figure. 

“But you saw the Cop?”

“Yes, we should go back,” her face reminded me of a cat. They had nothing to offer but their company and would split for a better saucer of milk any old day of the week.

You’re crazy?

Maybe so, but I kept driving through the night towards the Beach. The night was slipping into dawn, the red glow peeping above the horizon. I had a vague idea of driving the bucket out of town and switching it for another heap and doing this state by state until we reached another weather system and another time of day. I looked old enough to sit in a bar or rent a motel and with Natalie beside me, I looked older than sixteen. My folks would be happier shot of me, maybe I’d come back when the heat had died down. Get a regular job, a dental plan, see a shrink and work out how to separate the pepper from the mouse shit. As long as the nun didn’t clock me with her camera we had a fighting chance.

Blue and red lights blinking.  

A siren.

I’d killed one of theirs and it obviously meant something to them.

Drove parallel to the beach and feigned taking a left towards the mountains, took the third one, throwing the V6 up the beach road and opening her up, three black and whites snapping at the tail. Cop passenger shouting in a radio, backup no doubt.

Cop killer on the run.

Way to go, punk.

Guessed they had the top road blocked. Guess I’ll have to punch through the blockade. Alive they would tear me to pieces.

The exit is in sight.

Motorcyclists swerve out of the path, the V6 plows into a row of market stalls, for a moment the air is filled with grapefruit, pineapple, you name it, sliced and diced.

Approach the blockade, a cop car blocks the exit. Decide to drive through it, Natalie screams, tries to grab the wheel. I hold her face and kiss her mouth as we arc into the morning sky twisting and spinning above the blockade.          

The car rolls three times and lands on the roof, Natalie isn’t breathing, blood drips from the corners of her mouth, the make-up glitter she had applied to her cheeks now looks almost pathetic, like coloring pencils on a dead doll. The first shards of cold morning sun shines through the shattered windscreen and throws spikes of light at her pale baby-doll-like-face. I climb out of the wreckage and there she is standing in front of the cops who seem unaware of her presence.

Who's she? 

The Nun with the Polaroid camera looks at me directly.

...CLICK...

As she takes my picture I fall to the ground and the blackness swallows the world.  

 
THE BEAT GOES ON
 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

MARC SORONDO, JAMES NEWMAN, STEPHEN KING, RAY BRADBURY AND THE TRIPLE WEIRD


JAMES NEWMAN catches up with MARC SORONDO to chat about fear, books, Big Foot and the new SPP book:TRIPLE WEIRD for sale RIGHT HERE

JN: Marc Sorondo, what scares you?
 
The NEW triple.
MS: In the sense that there are two kinds of fear, I'll give two answers to that one. On the one hand, my mundane fear is failure. I think that's one that drives a lot of people, especially creative people. You want to be understood and to have your work appreciated, and you worry that it'll never happen. Deep down you worry that you’re sort of a fraud and a hack. Then there are those fears that are irrational but unshakeable. As a kid, I was both obsessed and terrified by the idea of alien abduction. Everything about it - the powerlessness of the people involved, the strangeness of their claims, how truly 'alien' those beings seemed - it was all really scary, but that just made me want to read every book about it and watch every episode of Sightings and the X-files and whatnot that I could find on TV. 

JN: Waking up homeless next to a corpse scares me – hence the story in Triple Weird Collection. Stuff seen out of the bus window at 5am scares me. I once saw a body being thrown into a garbage truck while passing an outdoor food market on a bus. What's the weirdest thing you've seen, Marc?

 MS: Well, I can't compete with seeing a body being dumped. I'll preface my answer by saying that I don't buy in to supernatural stuff. I wish it were all true, as I think that world would be way more interesting, but there's just not enough evidence for the vast majority of it to believe it. That being said, I have sort of a knack for stumbling onto weird tracks in the snow that a more gullible person would take as evidence of something uncanny. I'll give you two of the better examples: When I was a kid (middle school) a friend and I found two huge footprints in the snow in front of his house. They looked just like the old tracks people used to photograph in the Himalayas as evidence of the yeti. While I love the idea of Bigfoot stalking around suburban New Jersey, I don't actually think that was the case. 

Big Foot. Yesterday
 Years later, a friend and I were walking home from a party. It was about 3 in the morning, town was deserted, and it had started flurrying a bit earlier. There was a very thin layer of snow on the ground. We were passing through a park when we came across a single, perfectly-formed hoof-print on a path that was otherwise pristine before us. Again, I don't believe this, but at the time a small, drunken part of me really hoped I'd meet the devil at the crossroads and that he'd have a deal for me. 

 JN: I have a copy of "A Field Guide to the Larger Land Mammals of Nepal" and the Yeti is in there complete with illustration. Perhaps the writer had seen something similar....

 MS: Sounds like it...an American cousin perhaps?

JN: What were you reading as a kid, Marc?

MS: Initially I read a lot of nonfiction. My parents were great about bringing me to the library a lot as a kid, and I was always drawn to the 000 section, the books on the paranormal and cryptozoology and whatnot. Those early interests have clearly had an effect on my writing as an adult. 

 
King. Recently.

I did read a lot of fiction also. I discovered Stephen King really early and have been a huge fan ever since. One of my favorite stories about school as a kid involved King's The Stand. Everyone in my fifth grade class was supposed to read a book on their own, mostly at home (although occasionally we'd have time to read in class). You should have seen the look on my teachers face when I pulled The Stand out of my backpack. She actually made my mother come in about it. My mom approved, however, so there wasn't much the teacher could do about it aside from ask me not to bring the book in to school anymore. 
JN: What were you reading as a kinda young adult early twenties guy?

MS: I do still love King, but my reading habits expanded as I got older. I read a fair amount of stuff in translation. I went through a bit of a Russian phase (some Dostoevsky, Bulgakov), and then read some Umberto Eco. At the same time, it was only when I got into college that I started to go back and read the classics in the genres that I liked. I went back and read Dracula, Frankenstein, and Jekyll and Hyde (the big three of horror, in my opinion), as well some more modern but still "classic" writers, like Lovecraft. I also went back and read some early sci-fi (Wells, especially). 

Lovecraft. Recently.
 
My nonfiction interests expanded at about the same time. I started reading "more respectable" stuff - though I still enjoy the occasional paranormal study. I read a lot of history and science books. My interests there vary wildly - I'll read a lot about prehistoric man, oceanography, paleontology, cartography, etc.  

JN: We at SPP are compiling two volumes of your short stories for publication – Bad Dreams and False Memories – and The Curious Case of Robert Dayton is our lead story in the Triple Weird Spanking Collection out today. I must say I love your craftsmanship at the shorts. They’re all terrific. What is it about the short story form you like so much, and who do you think are the greatest writers in that discipline? 

 

MS: Thanks. I'm really pleased to have those collections with SPP. I couldn't think of a better home for them. 

It sounds sort of ridiculous, but I love short stores because they're short. I'm one of those writers that believes that every story exists as something other than just a person's ideas. There's a right way to tell it and whatnot. That means that some stories are meant to be told in a few thousand words. Anything more is to add filler and garbage. When a short is done right, it's the perfect length for an idea that is worth telling but doesn't warrant being blown up into a novel. There's also the added benefit that a short story is a smaller commitment for a reader. At this point, with so many people being so short on time, I'm actually surprised that we're not in a more of a short story Renaissance. You'd think people would embrace shorts as a great solution to their limited time. 

As mentioned, I'm a fan of King's, and I've read most of his short stories. I loved Barker's Books of Blood when I read them. He's less of a household name, but Peter Crowther has written some really interesting stories. I'm a sucker for locked room mysteries (I can't write them. I've tried, and my mind is just not suited for coming up with those sorts of puzzles), and Edward Hoch wrote so many great ones. If, however, you put a gun to my head and told me I had to choose just one author to name as the master of the short story form, I'd have to give it to Bradbury. Everything the man wrote was poetry, from his shortest shorts to his novels. His shorts are all so loaded with imagery and, in spite of the fact that he works within the horror and science fiction genres most of the time, his stories are virtually always about stuff that people can really relate to. It's been overused to the point of being cliché as an example, but his very famous "Rocket Man" story is an obvious case of a science fiction tale that's easily relatable to anyone with an absent father, while also being relatable to anyone who never feels settled where they are. All of the characters in that story are so simple and yet so rich and fully formed and real. That's a famous case, but so many of Bradbury's shorts are that way. 

 
JN: Great to have you with us, and with a bit of luck this Bradbury interview should play on the blog...

 

 

JN: What's next on the cards for Marc Sorondo?

 
MS: That is a great interview. You've got to love anyone that can declare himself a madman with such pride. 

I seem never to have a really good sense of what's next in life. My "five year plans" never play out as intended. That being said, I am working on a Ph.D. I've just finished the last of my coursework, and I'm moving into a pure research phase of things. A lot of the stuff I study winds up in my stories, so my research interests, while academic, tend to be a bit dark. I look a lot at how science has been used for terrible purposes: as propaganda and as a way to label people and dehumanize them, as a justification for all sorts of atrocities.

Sorondo. Today.
As far as the writing goes, there are a few projects that I'm working on and a few that I know I'd like to start working on. Grad school has slowed my writing down a lot, but I've got two series that I work on whenever I get the time. One is firmly in the fantasy genre. I've got a draft of the first book and a good bit of the second finished. I envision two more books in the series (along with occasional short pieces set in that world). I am also always working on my Aedan Halloway character. That's a project that won't end for a very long time. He's a character based on my son (my fictional vision of him as an adult). I'm always working on one of those stories as well. I also have the notes for a bunch of shorts that have been bouncing around in my head just waiting to be written and a few longer projects that I just need the time to sit down and crank out. 

 JN: Wish you luck with everything new and thanks so much for dropping by.




MARC SORONDO is the author of AURORA which can be bought  HERE

A review on Amazon...

As a small press owner and publisher, it's been my pleasure and privilege to work with some fantastic new writers, and Marc Sorondo is one of them. I approached 'Aurora' knowing I wouldn't be disappointed, and I was right. Sorondo has an amazing ability to write comfortably in seemingly any genre, and while I've worked with him primarily in the horror genre, this little piece of sci-fi brilliance had me from the beginning and didn't let go until the end. There are some pleasant hints of the speculative fiction of the late Michael Crichton in this, but beneath the science is Sorondo's deep connection with his characters, his love for his characters--good and bad--that makes his writing so good.

'Aurora' is sci-fi, spec-fic, and a little romance all in one package, from a writer who has done his homework and whose name I truly believe deserves to become a household one in popular fiction.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Nepal Earthquake



You can leave Nepal but Nepal never lease you. I first visited Kathmandu as a twenty-four-year-old backpacker traveling up from India. I used a notebook rather than a camera in those days. Here is my notebook entry for my first morning in Nepal.
  
Katmandu. December 9th 2001.  

This is where the streets wind and entwine in a crazy pattern lit by amber lanterns and lined by spit roasting wild boars faces alight with a final farewell grimace. The Nepali vendor smiles, knife poised in black ski gloves cuts a slice of the rotating meat, wraps it between newspaper and serves it to a stumbling passerby, the ear flaps on the customers hat acting as blinkers as he bites. The array of shops catering for adventure, mountain boots, sleeping bags, ski polls, heavy jackets, hats with flaps and cannabis resin. The hotel had a roof top garden where I eat a breakfast of toast and tea with a hint of lemon, scanning the hazy skyline, the eagles circle in the valley surmounted by the mighty Himalayan mountain range. Bicycle taxis in the streets below race through traffic, children scream and cheer, playing ballgames in the courts and gardens surrounding the temples. The Mountain air blows southerly from Tibet as pray bells ring out above a wireless radio humming and coughing static from the kitchen.



I visited again in 2008 and walked into the office of Thili Sherpa who rolled out the maps and named a price that was much lower than any other guides had quoted. He answered all my questions patiently and politely. In hindsight I was being over cautious and acted like a bit of a dick, but like all good strong Buddhists he was noble and honest and great fun as he guided My friend Stuart and myself through the mountains and jungle.

We stayed in touch ever since. Last year Thile asked if my family were ready to trek in Nepal. I explained that the youngest seven-year-old would probably tire quickly. "Don't worry, I will carry him," Thili said. The funny thing is, he meant it.

In April this year the first quake hit Nepal claiming the lives of almost nine thousand and injuring many more. The natural disaster has displaced over half a million people. When the second quake hit in the Dolakha region Thili asked for help. His family home had been destroyed.

 
 
I decided to start a fund to try and help. Thili would have done the same for me. We need to try and hit a modest target before wiring over some funds direct to the cause. I'm not a big fan of NGOs and the culture that has become so I'll be sending money raised straight to the guy I trust on the ground, Thile Sherpa.



First consideration is getting food and proper shelter for the children in the region and then trying to rebuild things to a semblance of how they once were.

I intend to host a series of events to give readings, performances, singings and book giveaways in Thailand to help this cause. Anyone that can come along, please do so, even if you don't wish to contribute, enjoy the music, literature and art. If you have a similar idea in another country, why not make it happen?

If you can't be present but wish to contribute in some other way please let me know by email, facebook or phone, or drop a message to this post.

Author David Philips has contributed his royalties from his book Battleship Run. I've put my ebook and audio book royalties into the pot so we have made a good start!

First event is called Night of Nepal and will be held at the checkinn99 on Sukhumvit Bangkok, between sois seven and five on the 14th June, 2015. It's a Sunday evening from 5pm, after the free jazz session.

The beat goes on.

James Newman.