|The Writer and Other Stories, A Journey in Writing|
|SixMag, published March 2002|
I turned in a new direction and wrote Ghost in the Grail, a tale about a suicidal guy who was sucked into the Holy Grail story. I wasn't suicidal because of the rejections (a vital part of every writer's growth), just trying to develop my style while working nights in a neighbourhood restaurant - Mango at Leonard's Corner - the magazine having folded. And that's where Service Not Included came from too.
|Amazon #1, 9/11 Trilogy|
|The Golem Strikes, Marvel , 1976|
The Writer talks about the New Testament being created by a Roman author as a work of fantasy. This is a compelling idea, given that the King James Bible that is so prevalent today was written in the seventeenth century, content taken from a variety of sources and lots of content dropped so the finished book conformed to the Church of England's ideals of organised religion and God. The rise of Christianity has been the single most negative and divisive episode in human history. The Roman Empire had its problems (slavery, dictatorship, military oppression), certainly, but what it gave the world in terms of art, architecture, literature, infrastructure and, at times, democracy, still guide us to this day. Imagine how advanced human society would be today if we didn't have a thousand years of religion - the Dark Ages - sending humanity back to the Bronze Age after the fall of Rome. The importance of the Renaissance cannot be underestimated.
In 2009, Perhaps A Few was one of those flashes of inspiration that are perfect for a short story: fast, brief, done. The Great Irish Famine (1845-49) was a key event in Irish history and was truly shocking: the scale of horror and death is actually unimaginable. My story is just a different, fictional take on how it might have started. That's the beauty of writing fiction: there are no limits, beyond libelling the living.
Come Party at the End of the World (2010) was the beginning of a novel about the breakdown of society and the efforts of small group of web developers to reboot the internet for a dazed planet. I wrote this while I was working for a web design company. I didn't feel like finishing it, but cleaned it up and drafted a conclusion for this collection which, I think, makes it work as a short.
The Erased Man is also from 2010 and talks about the past being wiped out as we grow older. If it has a conclusion, it's that physical things, even other people, aren't what make you you. It's what's inside your head. There's nothing more. Nor should there be.
I wrote Blitzkrieg Ireland 2016 in 2011. It was originally titled Blitzkrieg Ireland 2019 but I changed it to tune in with the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016. The Rising was a failed Irish revolution against the British Empire, but the execution of its leaders by British forces inspired the successful War of Independence, 1919-21. My story talks about the European Central Bank using military tactics to seize the assets of a failed Euro state. Unlikely to ever happen? We'll see. But it cannot be overstated how broken and bewildered the people of Ireland are today. The 'pillars of society' have all been discredited and nobody really knows how to go about fixing the country or, preferably, building something better. It's a freakish situation.
The Key and The Correct Shade of Red are both cut from a novel that I'm currently working on. The novel is about an art expert and a chef who come into conflict with a Nazi hedge fund in New York. There was a bit of back-and-forth in time going on and that was a problem according to some agents who saw the early chapters. So I took out the scenes in Louis XVI's Versailles and made them into The Key. The art expert character in my novel was on a mission to find the lock that Louis was making when the French people decided that they'd had enough of monarchies, and that's why it's prominent in my tale. I too have had enough of monarchies and find it incredible that people still accept their existence. The little story about Van Gogh was just fine as it was.
Troika (2011) is about the forces that have ruined Ireland: the Catholic Church and politics, particularly Fianna Fail. Who's the third member of the troika in my story? The Devil? God? Both? It is amazing to consider that the Catholic Church dominated Ireland's twentieth century. It was only when the survivors' tales of sexual abuse were actually listened to that the Church's Wizard of Oz was exposed, behind the curtain, as a naked old hypocrite, fondling a petrified boy while whispering threats of hell in his ear. That many Irish people are still under the Wizard's spell is shocking. That the Constitution of Ireland makes many deferential references to the Christian God is amazing. I work with a Facebook campaign called Secular Ireland and will not rest until Ireland becomes a genuine republic, free from the political influence of organised religion.
The X-Games and The Zoo are stories that were hanging around in my head for a couple of years. I made myself write them down in late 2012, just for this collection. They're both about dystopian futures very much determined by today's realities: the shocking inequalities that we so readily accept; the intellectual shallowness of our leaders and 'heroes'; the media's control of the masses.
|Betelgeuse, as seen by Hubble|
Stories and our need to hear them, to read them, to want them: at once, the most amazing, annoying, positive, negative, hopeful thing about humans.
Gary J Byrnes, April 2013.
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