Tag Archives: news

A Romance of Skin and Pins: An Excerpt

25 Sep

Hello again! Here’s another little extract for you, from the latest short story I have been working on.

But first, a few bits of exciting news! First up: I’m going on frickin’ tour! That’s right, Titans & Kings are off on tour at the end of October. We’re sharing the stage with a pair of absolutely fantastic bands, so if you’re in the area for any of the dates please come along and say hi!

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Next news, the White Birches EP is coming along swimmingly. Recording will be finished in early October, a music video soon after, and then the fun bit: sorting out physical copies and distribution. We’ll hopefully have a few live dates lined up, too!

And finally, there’s something big in the works. A project I am extremely excited about, related to writing (and these short stories), and not just a simple collection from myself. It’s going to be brilliant, and hopefully I’ll be able to tell people more very soon.

Anyway, to whet your appetite for more bizarre fiction, here’s my latest.

* * * * *

You are what you eat. That is why he called himself Skin. It was just a little compulsion. It didn’t affect anyone but Skin, himself, alone. And like most compulsions, it had roots in childhood. Skin had once had a father, a cruel man. Not physically – not that particular cliché of childhood hardship – but mentally.

See, his father had told him very particular but impressively devastating lies; lies that were very difficult to eradicate when drilled into the mind of a child by the one that he most idolised. Skin had once believed that Daylight Savings Time was only for Roman Catholics, and that his family, the average, non-believing sort, did not have to change their clocks. One lie, that pillows were for the feet rather than for the head, had been so well planned that its groundwork had been laid for ten years, Skin’s father sleeping backwards for a decade. All to cause Skin the upmost embarrassment at his first sleepover night.

Most of these lies had been expunged by the time he was an adult, but a few held deep, where Skin could keep them secret, where society could not judge him. One in particular was so potent that it became his mantra, became his name. Skin was told, at five years old, that his hair was not supposed to fall out, ever. That his nose was not supposed to run. That his skin was not supposed to shed. Each time he lost a part of himself unconsciously, anything that was not deliberately expelled, that wasn’t obvious waste, he lost a part of who he was. He lost a part of his identity. He lost time off his life expectancy.

A running nose from the flu was a sign that someone was truly, insidiously ill. Cancer patients’ hair fell out because it was a sign they were about to die. Eczema was not a condition in itself, but a symptom of a greater illness. And the only way to stop from losing this identity, losing life, was to re-ingest everything that had been lost – fallen hair, dry skin, trimmed fingernails, snot, eye sleep, ear wax.

You are what you eat. Skin was himself.

Over the years he developed various strategies to stop from losing himself. Age eight, he cut his fingernails into tiny pieces and added them to his breakfast cereal. Age eleven, he cut his hair as short as he could without getting expelled from school, to avoid losing rogue hairs, asking for the bag of clippings as he left the barbers. Age fourteen, he started to shave, using melted butter instead of shaving foam, making sure to collect every hair, every drop of blood, every scratch of skin.

At age eighteen, he started carrying the vial.

The one problem he had always found was being able to save skin flakes and small hairs. He would lose them in public places, at restaurants, on trains, at work. The only option had once been to eat it, there and then. It was easier whilst dining – carefully push the bodily debris onto the plate, and eat it with a mouthful of the actual course – but there was always the danger of someone spotting it, looking to a friend, pointing to the young man who had just deliberately eaten a scab.

So, the vial. He carried it with him everywhere, in the pocket of his navy blazer, or in the main compartment of his leather satchel. He would sneak whatever part of himself he had lost into it –much less noticeable than raising a hand to mouth – and when home, mix it in with a blended protein shake. It not only saved his life, or so he believed, but it saved his career. Skin was, as you can probably imagine, quite a strange man. And that was even before a co-worker had witnessed him eating his own eye discharge.

He coasted from job to job, contract to contract. Always given good references – he was a hard-worker and surprisingly intelligent for a man who regularly ate his own snot – but was never given a profession. But, when he started using the vial, he found a calling in the Human Resources department of a security solutions firm. His severe haircut, strong muscles from a mixture of health-obsessed workouts and protein shakes, and analytical mind meant that he fitted in well with the company. And without the obvious ingestions, with only his surface level quirks, he seemed positively sane in comparison with some of the violence-obsessed sociopaths that his team interviewed for positions manning the most secure locations.

He lived a happy, solitary existence. The routine of regular work, with hints of career progression, kept him focused. Two hours workout a day at his home gym, mopping up the sweat with pieces of bread. He had no time for a twenty-something bachelor’s regular modes of fun. He despised clubbing – too many mitigating factors that could distract him from any leftover body matter. He had no time for music, or any media. He owned no television, only an ancient laptop he used to hack in to the wireless of the coffee shop next door. Skin did, however, have a form of entertainment: he broke women’s hearts.

* * * * *

Until next time!

I Write About Pornography, and it Gets Awkward for Everyone

27 Jul

By now, you’ll have heard the uproar over David Cameron’s call for a pornography opt-in from UK ISPs . Of course you have. It’s the internet, and the moment anyone calls for any form of censorship the keywords of “tyranny” and “liberties” light up immediately. It’s caused uproar over suppression and internet access. After the death of Tia Sharp, Maria Miller called for a crack-down on online pornography, linking it to the savage attack. It’s a plan that has been on the cards a long time, though. So, if these regulations do come into effect, are they genuinely going to make a difference?

"You! Stop masturbating!"

“You! Stop masturbating!”

The answer is a complicated one. If the government’s true aim is to stop child abuse by blocking violent pornography and only allowing ‘regular’ pornographic content by opt-in, then probably not. By attempting to stop child pornography through conventional online access points, they are targeting precisely the wrong area. Most illegal pornography is not found via Google searches and usual online means – instead via password-protected forums and even more regularly via the deep web, an area outside of the regular web and only accessible through specific browsers, full of illegal and immoral activities – drug dealing, abusive and illegal pornography, wild animal trading, even the ability to hire hitmen. If the government really want to target the sharing and growth of child pornography, then they are going about it the wrong way. There is even an argument that by restricting search terms at surface level web access, it could make it harder to find and convict paedophiles. Cameron’s proposals also correlate violent adult pornography with violent attacks against children. Is there any genuinely link or causation between violent fetishes and these kinds of attacks?

The success of Cameron’s plans rests on two things: shame and fear. Shame from adults unwilling to opt in to allowing porn access on their own networks, unwilling to announce themselves to an ISP as a pervert. Fear from parents, worried about their children coming across material entirely unsuitable for them – or even material unsuitable for anyone. But in the case of concerned parents, surely this is a moot point; parental guidance locks already exist, allowing mothers and fathers to regulate what sites a computer can access. And if a child can get around these, they can get around any ISP block.

A further problem: any photo of Titans & Kings counts as pornographic content.

A further problem: any photo of Titans & Kings counts as pornographic content.

Of course, one of the worrying things about these measures is the precedents they set. We’ve already learned that pornography is not the end, that there are other long-term goals. The government will be restricting access to something they consider unsavoury, so what else can they, or future governments, deem not suitable for public access without a conscious opt-in? Violent film and television? One thing that has always astounded me, personally, is that sex is seen as a more adult taboo than seeing a man blown apart in a 12A or 15-certificate film. Fans of video games have a right to be concerned, too, given previous Conservative Party leanings on the subject. Subversive and extreme material could already come under the opt-in, for instance the hilarious yet pornographic webcomic Oglaf. Or, speaking more high-brow, documentaries such as Graphic Sexual Horror, an intelligent piece of cinema looking at the role of violent pornography – both positive and negative – yet containing examples of pornography within it.

Some, too, have issue with the hypocrisy of this move. The measure is meant to try and stop the access of pornographic material from everyday society, out of the eyes of those who shouldn’t see it. Yet, the government have laughed off Page 3 protests, dismissing the objections of Caroline Lucas. Surely if the end goal was one of respect and a limit on negative sexualisation, these arguments – and those who mention the negative body image and gender roles given in publications such as the Daily Mail (not to mention the Daily Mail’s dubious content about female teenagers) – would be taken more seriously?

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This brings me on to something else. Could these plans have some merit? Stepping away, objectively, from concerns over future censorship over other areas, could this opt-in actually have a positive societal change in relation to sex and pornography? Because pornography is, well, nasty. Violent porn is a fetish (or, indeed, a group of fetishes) in itself, but even with ‘vanilla’ porn there is often violence, violent imagery, or subjugation, as if it has become a sexual norm in the industry. A horrendously exploitative industry at that, equating human beings to objects to be discarded after use. The shelf life of a female porn star is tiny, with odds stacked against having a safe, ‘normal’ life afterwards and awful working conditions. If the woman is not a star, it is even worse, but with equal amounts of the collective stigma. And worse again for the male porn star or male pornographic actor – less pay on average and an even shorter career. The industry itself is oftentimes rotten, and the imagery that it creates – particularly in terms of normal sexual practices and the treatment of women within sexual relationships – could be dangerous if gleaned as gospel by young, impressionable minds.

For instance, not every man is this attractive.

For instance, not every man is this attractive.

Pornography itself, as a concept, is not sexist. It’s not immoral. It is a form for creating the sexual gratification of others. But certain aspects of pornographic content, even mainstream, could have a genuine, negative effect on society. But, is this opt-in block going to change what the true issues of the industry are? Will restrictions on forms of pornography actually help curb these tendencies and help create more well-rounded content for those who want it? We will have to see. But I, personally, am dubious as to whether any kind of block will help with the end-goal of the campaign – to stop horrendous attacks against the most vulnerable. Surely the time, money and effort could be spent in other ways – education and rehabilitation, helping to develop a mutual respect within relationships and within society. Instead of open eyes to the seedy underbelly of our society, of misogyny, a minority with a lack of sexual respect and violent tendencies, it seems as though the government have decided that the best strategy is to draw the curtains on the matter entirely.