Last night was the first Bad Idea Butcher's Shop since my last report - so as you can imagine, we were very excited at the prospect of a gin-filled intellectual firecracker of an evening!
Tom and I both, on a whim, decided to have a creative night last week and both write short stories (and I mean short, 350 words!) for the night in the vain, laughable possibility they might get picked to be "under the knife" as it were. The theme for this Butcher's Shop was "transhumanism", which is basically a cultural and intellectual movement which supports the use of science and technology to improve the human mental and physical condition and capacity. With the panel for the night featuring some respected thinkers and writers of science fiction, we'd have to sound like we knew what we were talking about!
Which I didn't! I don't do science fiction really - I'm a Jane Austen girl myself. Has anyone seen Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?! I've not read it, but that's my kind of science fiction!!
Anyway, we wrote our stories, read them to each other, had a laugh and emailed them off. heard nothing, so we just headed to the Old Operating Theatre Museum in London Bridge on Thursday night, expecting nothing more than to be entertained, enlightened, perhaps challenged, and get reacquainted with our old friend, Hendricks.
We were a bit late, as I had to walk slowly due to my knee being on strike (!) and only managed two gins (only, she says!) before being called into the theatre. We got our seats and gazed admiringly at the programmes before opening them. I let out an audible gasp when I saw the first page.
It was my story!!!
Needless to say, I was wishing I hadn't had two gins! Fortunately, I wasn't publicly identified by the "butchers" and didn't have to say anything! Phew! I just sat there smiling as my piece was read aloud, to futuristic music, and then critiqued by the editor of Bad Idea. On an overhead projector, my words were magnified and focused in on, circled and moved around, as they tried to make sense of my tale of a man who, after his third angioplasty, decides he's had enough and has his failing heart replaced with a digital one. I called it "The Angina Monologues".
The commentary and critique was kind and very useful - I must say, they made me sound far more in the know about the genre than I am!! A lot of conclusions were drawn that hadn't even occured to me, and I came away with far more insight and a sense of further potential with the piece that I didn't have before.
One thing I really did get out of the critique was how important it is for a writer to draw a clear and logical narrative between an event and it's consequences, and also to make the character's motivations clear. I know I often fall down in this respect with my work - for fear of telling rather than showing I sometimes leave out things that are obvious to me, but I forget that my readers won't be in the character's head, like I am. So it was a real "sink in" moment for me.
I enjoyed the second story too - it was about a master winemaker who gets the nerves from a dog's nose put into his own in order to gain a superhuman sense of smell to have the edge over his competition!
It was such an honour to be chosen for the critique - it really made my night!! Apparently my story hammered home a theme they wanted to emphasise during the evening - "dystopia is always a human decision"! Interesting - and true, I think. Do you agree?
Tom and I had an amazing conversation on the walk home - we talked about lots of things that had been raised in the panel discussion in the second half of the evening. We talked about the fallibility of humanity, this vertiable arms race between nature and capitalism, and how no one can ever really predict how life will be in the future. We wholeheartedly agreed with Ian Watson, one of the panel, who said "we're living in Utopia now. Enjoy it. Be happy."
What are your thoughts? Let's have our own panel discussion! Are we in a Utopia or Dystopia? Will human life truly be enhanced by the advances in technology, or is it only prolonging the inevitable?
More information about Bad Idea and The Butcher's Shop events can be found here. Maybe I'll see you at the next one!