More to Me Than HIV

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More to Me Than HIV

First published in Gscene July 2020 For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library.For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being           Read more

More to Me Than HIV: GScene post Aug 2020

More to Me Than HIV is a project that aims to breakdown the stigma that has historically been attached to this virus.  When I saw my piece in last months Gscene to promote the More to Me Than HIV project, I was extremely proud, but a small part of me was filled with anxiety; but why should I feel this way? I have been on effective antiretroviral therapy since the Read more

More to Me Than HIV: first published in GScene July 2020

For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being             diagnosed HIV+ 32 years previous. Back then there was no treatment and a lot of fear and misinformation concerning how HIV was transmitted. As such stigma was rife, Read more

Charlotte Brontë

I Love Trish: A Cautionary Drug Tale

I Love Trish

I Love Trish.
I love Trish, it is one of my favourite tales from the Blanche Street Tales. This story was originally written as a trilogy, paying homage to those 1970’s style horror tales: Doctor Terrors house of Horrors, Tales from the Crypt and the Karen Black classic, Trilogy of Terror. When I was putting this collection of Blanche Street Tales together I revisited this story which was about a group of friends taking a new street drug and each experiencing some mind bending horrors. As I began to rewrite the tale I decided for all the horrors to happen to one person, Howard.
From the very start I wanted to create an environment that would alienate my protagonist, and so I have Howard on a train journey from Norwich to Ipswich and then of course on to Blanche Street where he meets the main villain of the piece, Chef. In the same way that horror films have the audience shouting to the victim “Don’t go into the wood/attic/cellar” I want my readers to be shouting the same to Howard as he gets in ever deeper all in his pursuit of Trish.

I wanted to create a new street drug and chose Trish in the same way other street drugs are given moniker, like Charlie for cocaine. The drug I made up takes the user into another realm altogether, dependant on what’s on their mind.
(spoiler alert) Unfortunately for Howard he keeps thinking and seeing an animal that will lead to his horrible demise by the end of the tale.
Howard went to clear up the partly chewed, greasy chicken bones only for Chef to yell, “Fucking leave it, get your arse in the back.” (I Love Trish).

I remember reading an article around the same time about an 80’s pop star talking about his drug addiction to heroin. He felt that because he was snorting the drug his drug use wasn’t as hardcore as those who injected; for me this was an interesting paradox that I wanted to include in my story. So I have Howard continuing to get in an ever deeper situation with the reader looking on as a concerned bystander, hopeful urging him to just get on the train back home.
He then reached back into the sports bag and produced a sterile wrapped syringe. For Howard, the whole situation suddenly got turned on its head. “I, I, I, wasn’t thinking of injecting it, I, I, I, mean I’ve never done that before Kes never mentioned needles.” (I Love Trish).

Most of the Blanche Street tales interact with each other, giving some extra information to the reader. (Spoiler alert) In the previous story, The Fall of Derrick Houser, Derrick’s home is flooded by the Chefs rubbish which has a distinctive smell of rotting flesh. My hope is that this will get the reader to think that the last scene in I love Trish is not only a horrible hallucination, but that the Chef is in fact chopping his victims up for his dinner. Howard also hears the painful cries of Derrick  calling out for his long dead sister, Madeline, as he passes number seven.
With his last ounce of energy, Howard threw his head to one side and stopped dead. The sound of a large kitchen knife being sharpened behind him became his soundtrack. (I Love Trish)
A filthy sheen from next door’s rubbish glistens on top of the water, filling the kitchen with a familiar stench. (The Fall of Derrick Houser)

From the point of Howard taking Trish, things get very strange, A strong influence comes from the hallucination scene in Trainspotting. A key scene in the film is when Renton has his nightmare as he goes cold turkey. I can still conjure up that scene very clearly now and wanted to have a go at creating a scene that the reader wouldn’t forget in a hurry. With feedback from fans of the book, I believe I achieved what I set out to do. *Throughout this story I wanted to pull the reader into a deeper, disturbing world which gets grimmer and grimmer as Howard spirals into his drug induced hallucination. For some reason at this stage I was reminded of Charlotte Bronte when in her novel Jane Eyer she address the reader directly: “Reader, I married him”, (Chapter 38) and it felt like a great device to use in this tale.
all he could manage was a flutter of his wings as he waited for his neck to be snapped. “If only dear reader, if only.” I Love Trish.

*want to know what that scene was? Just download the book to find out: www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B00OWFK1SA.9

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Creating Filth. (A Blanche Street Tale)

The making of ‘Filth’.

 

 

http://www.angusstewart.me

Photo by Angus Stewart
http://www.angusstewart.me

In my short story, Filth I wanted to play with the idea of how we can all be prisoners of convention. As a starting point I revisited Charlotte Brontë’s Jayne Eyre and in particular, the character of Bertha Mason, the first wife of wife Edward Rochester, who is confined to the attic as she is deemed insane. (a brilliant reimagining of Bertha’s side of the story was written in the novella, Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys.) I also re-read (The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gillman). The protagonist, Jane is also driven insane by her husband, John, who insists she takes ‘rest cure’ by doing nothing while confined in a room at the top of the house, covered in the aforementioned yellow wallpaper: a motif that I take a literary nod to in my story. “Black spores flowed from the trunk’s keyhole, clustering together. In no time the chair, windows and yellow wallpaper were completely swallowed.

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I was further inspired by Perkin Gillman’s short story. Just as Perkin Gillman made something as innocent as the yellow wallpaper frightening, I wanted the dust in my story to become just as menacing. Equally, I was interested in using this device to trap my main character. Unlike Jane in the Yellow Wallpaper who becomes imprisoned by her husband, I wanted my character to become imprisoned by her own unrealistic desire to keep her home as impossibly pristine as possible, with her constant fear of dust never far from her mind.

fit51391diviantart.com

By Charlotte Perkins Gillman

The idea first came about with thoughts of how back in the day so many homes would have a ‘best room’ that was only used on special occasions, like Christmas or for when an unexpected guest, usually a posh relative would come round and for some reason needed to be impressed.

Just like Bertha, my character was driven insane by her surroundings, but unlike Jane, she would be constantly on the go, mainly cleaning or worrying about dust and more importantly what the neighbours would think, particularly when a mysterious, filthy trunk that appears in her home.

“There was no way she could ask any of her neighbours to help remove it, they would only gossip that her home wasn’t so pristine after all.”

From here on in the main details of the story began to form, but I couldn’t think of a suitable name to fit the character I had in my head. I tried out a few names: Charlotte? Joyce? Chrissy? Judy? Susan? Nope, none of them fitted in with what I thought she looked like and so I turned to my trusty, Wordsworth Dictionary Book of Names. It was then I found the name, Nettie; for me the name conjured up images of something being caught, which fitted in perfectly with my character’s constant need to capturer an dispose of dust.
As I progressed with the story, I realised I had the making of another story about a trunk that I had been struggling to make work; the story would eventually become the Brighton based story, Dead Famous that appears at the end of the Blanche Street collection

Next Saturday 22rd November 2014: Frank and the Faust influence.  

 

You can download my short story, Filth, as a sample page for free and buy the e-book Blanche Street (where all the neighbours are a nightmare) by clicking the link below.

www.amazon.co.uk/Blanche-Street-Where-neighbours-nightmare-ebook/dp/B00OWFK1SA

The Yellow Wallpaper (short story by Charlotte Perkin Gilman

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