writers make up stuff

December 7, 2019

A recent letter in The Oregonian compares a politician’s claim to tell “alternative facts” to the inventions of science fiction. The comparison won’t work. We fiction writers make up stuff. Some of it clearly impossible, some of it realistic, but none of it real – all invented, imagined — and we call it fiction because it isn’t fact. We may call some of it “alternative history” or “an alternate universe,” but make absolutely no pretence that our fictions are “alternative facts.”

Facts aren’t all that easy to come by. Honest scientists and journalists, among others, spend a lot of time trying to make sure of them. The test of a fact is that it simply is so – it has no “alternative.” The sun rises in the east. To pretend the sun can rise in the west is a fiction, to claim that it does so as fact (or “alternative fact”) is a lie.

A lie is a non-fact deliberately told as fact. Lies are told in order to reassure oneself, or to fool, or scare, or manipulate others. Santa Claus is a fiction. He’s harmless. Lies are seldom completely harmless, and often very dangerous. In most times, most places, by most people, liars are considered contemptible.

Ursula K. Le Guin
1st February letter to the editor of the Oregonian

(Now that’s what I call “Dragon Wisdom” – P)

“Jeremy Corbyn will quit if Labour loses the general election expected within months!”

Oh, JC, surely not? What will you do with your time? Your old Marxist soul – fed for so many years on such a rich diet of materialistic interpretations of historical development – will shrivel and die. It must not happen.

Imagine: no more of those amazing Private Eye front covers. You must remember the one that contained an image of JC behind a ship’s wheel. The speech bubble over his head declaring: “Full steam aground!”

Or the front cover that displayed JC in a floppy-brimmed hat, collarless shirt and vest, saying “I love Marx – it’s where I get my vests”

Wonderful stuff.

To lose all that, seems a loss too great for us mere mortals. No more newspaper exposés on JC’s lurid private life, on his class-war politics, his lies and deceit, bullying and intimidation, all while playing Mr. Nice Guy – it can’t be allowed to happen! JC declared he’d lead us to the promised land where public ownership of UK railways would ensure cheap fares and seats for all; where the utility companies would be taken back into state ownership which would lead to a fall in energy prices; free childcare and early years support; the abolition of student tuition fees and the reintroduction of maintenance grants; free lunches for school pupils. Oh, on and on went the promises. And now we are abruptly faced with his stepping down as Labour Messiah if he doesn’t win a general election – and the opinion polls, if they’re to be trusted, suggest he doesn’t have an ice cube in Hell’s chance of winning a majority.

I refuse to accept that a time could come when JC will not stand in Parliament at Prime Minister’s Questions and speak in that tone of strangely arresting innocence, bitter wisdom, and childlike whimsy, but with his peculiar intensity of focus. While all around the sitting MP’s in the house (including his own party) look on equally fascinated and baffled.

Our only hope now, is that the original statement about JC’s stepping down was made by John McDonnell – who promises to ‘follow him out the door’. Comrade McDonnell is not known for 100% veracity in the public statements he makes. So this could all be a load of ol’ bollox. To quote JC’s great hero, Lenin: ‘A lie told often enough, becomes the truth.’ We will see.

The night, the sex, the wandering…and the need to photograph it all, not so much the perceived act but more like a simple exposure to common and even extreme experiences…It is an inseparable part of photographic practice, in a certain sense, to grasp at existence or risk, desire, the unconsciousness and chance, all of which continue to be essential elements. No moral posturing, no judgement, simply the principle of affirmation, necessary to explore certain universes, to go deep inside, without any care. A ride into photography to the vanishing point of orgasm and death.

I try to establish a state of nomadic worlds, partial and personal, systematic and instinctual, of physical spaces and emotions where I am fully an actor. I avoid defining beforehand, what I am about to photograph. The shots are taken randomly, according to chance meetings and circumstances. The choices made, considering all the possibilities, are subconscious. But the obsessions remain constant: the streets, fear, obscurity, and the sexual act…Not to mention perhaps, in the end, the simple desire to exist.

Beyond the subject, the lost souls and the nocturnal drifting, the scenes of fellatio and of bodies in utter abandon, I seek to reveal some kind of break up through the mixture of bodies and feelings, to reveal fragments of society that escape from any analysis and instant visualization of the event, but nonetheless, are its principal elements.

The brutality of the form, the intensity of the vision obligates us, still more than images that pretend to document, to involve ourselves with the reality of what we are seeing. The spectator can exist then, no longer finding himself in the position of voyeur or consumer but as sharing an extreme experience, wondering about the state of the world and of himself.

The sense of losing sight of the subject may seem like a paradox in a documentary genre where I try to impose my subjective point of view, in an autobiography born from travels and from wandering. But the emotional strip tease, which lets me enter into the pages of this intimate, photographic diary seems to carry me inevitably towards this vanishing point.

A photograph is nothing but a lie. The space is cut off, the time, manipulated. They are two uncontrollably false appearances of an image condemned to choose between hypocrisy – and good conscience – and being fake. The language used is often one of class: dominator but alienated, unaware of the actual matter at hand: appearance, ambiguity, the imaginary. In my photographs, in my every day practice of the lie, I cannot pretend to describe anything but my situation itself – my normal states of being, my kinky intimacies…I can only comment on the mere insignificance of the photographic moment.

Assigned to the anthology of a reduced knowledge, of castrated experiences, the photographer appropriates himself the gestures, diverts the acts and regurgitates signals that “indicate” our relationship with the images and determine our perception of a reality that has become hypothetical. And so, the world limits itself to icons, an altar in direct opposition to the rituals the photographer practices. But if the liturgy, the prayer and the sermon are still instruments of a vigorous cult, then for photographers, truth and freedom are found only in the realm of confession.

I try to distance myself from a certain type of documentary photography that often avails itself of symbols that are too easy to read and assimilate in order to present a complex reality in a balance that is endlessly discussed over and over between photography as an instrument of documentation and photography as being completely subjective. It isn’t the eye that photography poses on the world that interests me but its most intimate rapport with that world.

The only photographs that truly exist are the “innocent” images. We find them in the family photo albums or in the police archives. Beyond serving as a simple documentation of reality or of a certain aesthetic sense, they attest to the role of the photographer, of his implication, of the authenticity of his position in that moment. The compositions of light, narrative, are no longer, for me, fundamental problems but superfluous lies. What interests me today in an image? The perspective that has justified the act of photography, the interference of the experience, of the ongoing scene, the texture, the material, the meaning of the self-portrait, of the individual, the incoherence of the unfolding sequence, the maniacal reconstruction of the random experience – the photographs, like words, are meaningless when isolated…

To criticize in a coherent manner, the dominant image actually demands from a photo that it is lucid in the midst of its messy situation, from the experience between a glance and a good, hard look, the camera and the unconscious, in its fundamentally tainted rapport with reality and fiction. This approach cannot conceive that within multiplicity, associating technique and practice, sometimes opposite each other in their use of the photographic language, I seek to reveal the inherent contradictions to the “use” of documentary photography, that should supposedly transcribe tangible reality while at the same time, do nothing more than report a myriad of experiences.

I can then make use of the world for my own ends and in a basically solitary experience, remodel it, and transform it at will, almost as if without images, the world no longer exists.

Antoine D’Agata
Until the World No Longer Exists


June 19, 2018

My virginity was stolen from me at the age of fifteen
No longer innocent, just impure and unclean
A few years later, thinking I was in love
I fell easily into him, believing he was the one
Giving him all of me, all the little pieces
Opening up and sharing all my secrets
But I was abandoned once again
Leaving me more broken in the end
Countless nights trying to drink the pain away
What’s wrong with me? No one seems to stay
No future anymore, no goals or happy life plans
Just being used and so many one night stands
Vulnerable to anyone who shows me any interest
I please them and then they make themselves so distant
Every night I know I’m being used and then forgotten
But I keep failing myself, falling for lies then feeling rotten
I’m trapped in my past and the ship continues to sail
I want to land on the ground and break free, but all my efforts fail
But still I refuse to give up shining hope
I’m choosing to leave my past and escape this sorrowful slope
This story is one I used to fear to share
But my past no longer defines me for one day it will end a fairytale

Morgyn Harris

trump parts the red sea

Who says what is news and what is not? Who controls the news? Why is a story true if it’s printed, but only a rumour if it’s spread verbally in the air? Why do people want to read about things they already know, but not about things that are new and vital and important? Why do people want to look at pictures of malformed vegetables? Why do people want to read a story if it’s got their name in it? At what point does a reporter, or an editor, get personally involved in a story? What is the difference between reporting and recording? Why do people want to read the stories made up in a cellar by a salesman rather than things that really happened? Why and how can a lie run faster around the world before truth can get its boots on? Why are many of the words used in newspaper stories never used in real speech in real life?

Kate Macdonald
Newspapers, lies, magic and responsibility: Terry Pratchett and The Truth


Diary 5th March

There was a woman who lived alone at the end of Walton Drive. Her house was beside the “danger point” (its name came from the red and white sign in the centre of the road that read DANGER). Beyond the sign there was no more road, just a wilderness of trees and shrubs, nettles and brambles. A veritable jungle where kids could turn wild and play. And where the woman often walked alone on a winter’s evening.

‘She’s a witch,’ Susan said. ‘She goes down there at night and makes spells.’

‘She gave Maureen warts for cheeking her,’ Linda claimed.

The girls seemed convinced, but we boys were less certain. A witch? Did such things really exist?

One Sunday afternoon we were playing football in the road near the ‘point’ and Alan kicked the ball into the woman’s front garden. Little Billy went off to get it when the front door opened and the woman came out.

Standing in the road we could see they were talking, but couldn’t hear what was being said. The woman, tall and skinny, was dressed all in black, as usual. She wore thick black mascara round her eyes and mauve lipstick on her mouth, and she had silver rings on all her fingers – including her thumbs. We were surprised when Billy tossed the ball back to us, and followed the woman into her house.

Billy reappeared an hour or so later. His face was very flushed –as if he’d been running.

‘What did she want?’ Alan asked him.

‘She gave me a biscuit and a glass of orange juice,’ Billy said.

‘But you were gone ages.’

Billy’s eyes became suddenly cautious. He glanced to right and left. ‘She took my shorts down,’ he said quietly. ‘She touched my “you know what”…’

‘Your cock?’ Alan said. ‘She touched that? I don’t believe you!’

‘Well she did, see. Honest, she did.’

‘You’re a liar Billy. You’re making it all up.’

‘She told me to come back next Sunday when she had more time. She’d do something extra nice.’

‘Rubbish,’ Alan decided. ‘Boy’s gone sick in the head…’

Later, in Angela’s back garden, Linda told Billy not to go back. ‘She’s a witch,’ she said. ‘Witches hate little boys. She’s probably got this sharp pair of scissors to cut your thing off. She’s more than likely got a collection of boys willies in a glass jar, and uses them in her spells.’

Undeterred by this warning (or anything else) Billy returned to the witch house the following Sunday.

What went on there? I’ve no idea, and Billy didn’t say when he reappeared later in the day. Alan kept on at him, but Billy stayed stumm.

Linda asked him, ‘Did she touch it again?’

He wouldn’t answer.

Whatever happened, happened, and would remain a secret between Billy and the witch.

Then – perhaps almost a year later – I was walking with Billy through the churchyard one Saturday afternoon. We were talking about the future – the far future. All the technological changes that might take place. How we might each of us end up with our own personal robot to do all the household chores. And flying cars, of course. We’d each have one of those. And we’d be able to chose the sex of our children…boy or girl.

‘D’you really believe that?’ Billy asked.

‘Why not?’

‘The witch,’ he said, then hesitated.

‘What about her,’ I prompted.

‘She said if I tell about her, she’ll know it. Said she’d transform me into a girl, if I ever said anything about her…’

‘That’s nonsense, Billy. She’s not a real witch. She can’t do anything like that!’

‘Says you,’ he said. ‘I’ve seen some of the things she can do.’


‘I go to her house sometimes. I keep it secret, like. She doesn’t want anyone to know.’

‘So what does she do?’

‘I can’t tell,’ Billy said. ‘I can’t ever say…’

And that was that. Billy’s secret remained secret. And to the best of my knowledge he never ever mentioned the witch again. But often I’ve wondered exactly what it was he’d witnessed at the witch house that frightened him into permanent silence!

And was the experience real or an hallucination?

Did our witch put some narcotic substance, a small amount of peyote for instance, in his orange juice? A drug induced hallucination would be sufficient to confuse…

To terrify.

I imagine them both somewhere between taboo and transgression in her dark house: Billy experiencing the exhilarating sensations of her hands and her body; she over-stepping society’s limits with her unrestrained sexual license.

And beyond the sexual frenzy, the fear!

Following a sip of her ‘special’ orange juice. Her conjuration made horrifyingly potent. Candles and darkness; smoke and mirrors…

Or was it all just a lie? Make-believe…?

Yes, I often wonder what ultimately became of our Billy.


Diary 3rd December

fragments of a spent life –

December, of course, is her birth month. That ragged old woman who lives for extremities. Whose soul is filled with screaming scars, and whose eyes burn with such fierce intensity – with such illicit desires. Her sins light the darkness round her, beacon bright. She wears her insides outside. Each line on her face a tragic reminder of time passing, and over a thousand one-night-stands.

Final memory?

My stiff, aching sex in her mouth. Suck, suck, sucking mouth. Ready to cum, when the key slides into the front door lock.


Pulling away. Surprise on her face as she looks up. ‘Quickly,’ I say. ‘Your daughter’s come home early…’

Fragments of her history told to me on earlier occasions: enduring the sexual abuse of a drunken stepfather at age eleven; then, shortly after her twelfth birthday, being photographed nude by an elderly neighbour. She enjoyed his attentions, or so she claimed, and asked him if he’d like to ‘do things’ with her? He gave her five pounds that first time.

It became a regular thing, his ‘doing things’ with her. He’d always give her a gift afterwards. She never had to ask.

Two younger brothers living with her at home. She got up to sexual shenanigans with them, too, during the school holidays while their mum was out. She saw nothing wrong in it.

She also masturbated local boys in the cinema for cigarettes and ice creams. She masturbated some of her brothers school friends behind the stadium in the recreation ground for small change.

Her terrible, abusive tales touched me deeply. But, were they true? I had already caught her out, once before, telling a huge whopper about a mutual acquaintance. I never challenged her on it – never challenged any of her stories or their many contradictions. She wore lies, I gradually realised, like a second skin. Reality, her reality, was a construct. Reinvented at will. Her lies served as a life jacket, keeping her afloat in the mundane, everyday world.

We coupled the first time in her car. That was in the countryside at night. It wasn’t very comfortable, but I mounted her and thrust inside her for almost thirty minutes. She told me to cum, if I wanted. So I did. She didn’t. I finished her finally by hand, and she came inhaling and exhaling very loudly, with her hands twitching in the air like a pair of nervous sparrows.

Today, I accept that rummaging in her soul isn’t a good idea; you’re liable to dig up something that should have been left to rest in peace. Her lies and half-truths have to stand as reality. But back then…?

She told me she married the first time (age 16) to get away from her stepfather. His deprivations were become more irregular. She married a builder of thirty-three, a dull, moonfaced individual, with ‘all the conversational ability of a plank’. One man, however, wasn’t enough for her. Never would be.

The builder took her to live in his three-bedroom semi. She spent her days seducing the coalman, milkman, postman, her husband’s brother – one time she even attempted fellatio on her father-in-law, but the old boy couldn’t keep it up. Or so she alleged.

She was, by her own admission, sexually insatiable. And well out of control…

Divorce was inevitable. There were limits to what her builder would put up with. He kicked her out after finding her in bed with a double-glazing salesman one wintery afternoon. Less than six months later she experienced a ‘nervous breakdown’; this coming close on the heels of her being discovered flagrante delicto with a close friend’s young son who she was supposed to be minding.

She was taken into hospital (a friend of hers confided to me, that she’d in fact been sectioned under the mental health act?) for an indeterminate length of time. She called the place the ‘Boobie Hatch’.

She related a number of stories about this time: she had carnal knowledge of her psychiatrist, and at least three of the patients on a semi-regular basis. She also masturbated up to ten times daily.

But then, depending on which version of the story she told, she was also a model patient – or a nightmare. Take your pick. The psychiatrist gave her an STD and she couldn’t have sex for months. Or the male nursing officer had her over his office desk every Friday afternoon, without fail, before teatime.

It just goes on and on. Even her shadow has a shadow…

‘They released me as cured,’ she said. ‘But they didn’t realise the truth. I was worse than ever…’

Her head brim-full of sadomasochistic fantasy, she took up residence in a small flat where she lived like a gypsy, a traveler, with no money. Candles on saucers after the electricity was cut-off. Lived on bread and tea made on a small gas camping stove in the sitting room. Began to work as a prostitute.

One time when her daughter was on holiday in Brixham she had me over to spend the night at her house on the common. I got no sleep that night. She kept the bedroom lights on, and positioned a full-length mirror beside the bed – so she could watch me ‘in action’!

‘Nice bum movement,’ she said.

A certain, not unhumorous, pageant of small talk followed each of our orgasms. She wore lots of make-up and glittery lingerie, looked like something out of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. She began pleasing herself, bearing down on my face at one point, griping my hard-on, twisting…

She frequently got up to go and make tea. Tea with shortbread biscuits.

She married again, to one of her punters this time, a sixty-two year old garage owner. He it was supplied the house on the common. He also, allegedly, fathered her first child. A beautiful baby girl.

They were together four years when a stroke took him from her life. Shortly after the funeral, she found herself pregnant for a second time and in due course produced another baby girl. She was a brilliant mother, spoiled them both rotten.

Our last evening together, before her daughter came home and ruined that living room blowjob, she told me, ‘I’m really going to spoil you this Christmas. I’ll make it the best Christmas ever…’

But it was another fantasy. Another lie. Unknown to me at the time, she’d already accepted the marriage proposal of a local man, owner of a garden centre and a Porsche turbo. A winning combination in her eyes, obviously. They’d been seeing each other for a few weeks, apparently. The proposal came out of the blue, and she said ‘Yes’ without really thinking about it. Or so she told friends.

So, in my blissfully ignorant state, she showed me out: kissed me a passionate goodbye on the front doorstep and told me she’d telephone tomorrow. ‘I’ll finish you off, then,’ she said.

But, of course, she never did.

Happy Birthday to you, anyway, Snaky. Where ever you might be.



October 25, 2016


Novel writing doesn’t breed serenity. It is lying, you know, and the novelist has to spend a lot of time during the course of his writing worrying about whether he is going to get away with his lies. If he fails to, his novel isn’t going to work.

Kurt Vonnegut to Charles Reilly
College Literature 1980


August 27, 2016


The Lost Part of Me

July 28, 2014


I can still sense you when I’m alone,
When shadows of memories tease me
Daring me to remember,
I can still taste your kisses
As you kissed away my doubts
That others had left behind and abandoned,
Feel your sweet warming caresses
As you moved and seduced me with promises,
But the words the gypsy spoke as she turned over the cards
Break through the dream-like barrier,
The stupid childish romantic image
I created inside my head,
When I thought I heard your voice
Or saw your face in a crowd,
For you were not what you seemed
Your eyes were empty
Not even full of lies,
And when I held you close
You felt more like a ghost.
You left me weak –
Vulnerable to the elements,
But that weakness has finally come to pass
And the old strong self I lost
Is finally resurfacing . . . gasping for breath.