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~Writing is always about the story.
The story. The story. The story.
A memoir should track the truth. Except, it must also be true to the story.~
~I see everything I have made, and behold, it is crap.
And this is just the first day.~
~A movie needs a lot of toys. It is not just palm fronds and Nescafé lids. Writing down the story, one mentions things in passing: handcuffs, food on a tray, guns, a security box…The writer proceeds with the misplaced belief that someone else will attend to such obvious details. The required object will just be available without the need to go hunting for it. That is not how it happens on set. There is a lot of desperate, last-minute searching on set.~
~Nothing can kill a lousy product better than a good advertising campaign.~
~’The lady sitting next to him said she heard him croak just before the end. Man, he missed the whole twist,’ the usher declares sadly. We are at a loss for words, but Herman, true to the Rich character, gives it a cool closure.
‘Pity. It’s a great movie,’ he says.~
~If the sky was small enough, there was less chance of an airplane crossing over it. If the sky was small enough, it was just the sky.~
~ No one ever said home.~
~The silence was wonderful. It was like an embrace, the softest blanket around him. He tucked himself into it.~
~In the mountains, when she was hungry, she sewed.~
~She had woken this morning wanting to stay in the privacy of some dream, if she had dreamed.~
~At this time, it had never occurred to him that if he lived long enough to reenter the world, this new country, it would be empty.~
In celebration of the relaunch of This Day, The Sunday Times invited me to write on the novel’s unusual beginning:
When I began writing This Day, I was losing the ability to type. My body ached. What would eventually be diagnosed as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and fibromyalgia were running amuck. I was struggling to carry on as a writer and to be the mother I had been. The person I knew as me was vanishing. In this dark place, I clung to the memory of my grandmother, the strongest woman I have ever known.
Mary E Carleton survived the death of two of her five children, two World Wars, the Great Depression, the loss of a chicken farm, and witnessed her beloved husband be devoured by dementia. Yet no matter what life hit her with, she continued to put one foot in front of the other for nearly 102 years.
I took my grandmother’s tenacity and my pain and poured it all into the character of Ella Spinner.
Read the entire piece at the Sunday Times
~A frantic scrabble, where the hell are they? The tiny pill under the tongue and at last some relief. Not entirely. Survival? Is this all there is to life? Ever destined to panic attacks, abject loneliness, ordained to endlessly eschew any semblance of normality?~
~Like a cacophony of sounds from hell itself the Vicious Rumours heavy metal group was belting out “Sadistic Symphony”. Screeching guitars, strident drums and voices on the edges of hysteria assailed the ears of anyone near the joint.~
~It all had to end, however.
Like a huge soap bubble reflecting the sun in all the rainbow colours, iridescent, radiant, exhilarating, fragile…wafting free as the air itself up and up and up in the sky and then…Pop! and then just nothing…nothing anymore…just memories being scattered like confetti on the wind.~
~One could hear the drumbeat of Africa, the clear symbols of the East, the clarion call of the Asian peoples, the despair of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, the call of Iran, Tibet, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti and so many more…seemingly wherever man’s inhumanity to man occurred, you would find Adamo’s music providing a rallying call to the oppressed, to those without hope and to all the underprivileged peoples of the world irrespective of race, creed, ages or gender.~
~Yes, well we we are all puppets being controlled by some master puppeteer somewhere what did Shakespeare say: “All the world’s a stage, and all men and women merely players,” or something like that! Words from the old sages prove once again that nothing is really new!~
~There is nothing a depressive distrusts more than happiness.~
~Is it okay that I want to don fairy wings and do cocaine? Every day? Do you think? No. No, it’s not. And that’s what it means to be an adult.~
~’I don’t care if you don’t believe me’ – The Virgin Mary~
~There are things more violent than violence.~
~She was renting an apartment in Woodstock while people were being pushed out onto the margins of a place of possibility. Home was a contested place.~
~’Baby, did you just say emotional labour like seven times?
‘You just sound so woke right now.’
‘What the fuck is woke?’
~Michaela had grown up on her mom’s divorce music.~
~Alcohol was weaponised against us as a people. It’s almost a revolutionary act, as a coloured, not to get addicted.~
~What makes a myth a myth, rather than just a story, is that it has been told and retold over the centuries and has become meaningful to a culture or community.~
~These re-creations of ancient myths ask over and over: Who owns classical antiquity? Who owns culture? The response: We do.~
~In ancient Greek myth, Amazons were considered to be bad women. They were bad because they rejected marriage.~
~”People who are naturally very fat are apt to die earlier than those who are thin”[.] This is one of Hippocrates’s aphorisms and is sandwiched between an observation that individuals who have been hanged by the neck and are unconscious but not quite dead will not recover if they are foaming of the mouth…~
~There is scientific evidence that doing regular exercise prolongs life but not that weight loss does so. There is yet to be research carried out into the damage caused by doctors’ prescribing diets, shaming fat patients, and misdiagnosing them because they don’t look beyond their own assumptions about fat. Journalist Laura Fraser tells how her sister, Jane Fraser, died at the age of fifty-nine from endometrial cancer in 2016. Endometrial cancer is a relatively easy cancer to diagnose, but Jan’s was overlooked. According to Jan, her ob-gyn could not see beyond her size…~
~Whatever your size, you must be careful, if you are a schoolgirl, not to expose your body too much. What too much means is not determined by the weather, fashion, or the girl’s comfort but dictated by the school dress code. … The head of faculty, who was also the wife of the headmaster, told the girls that they could not have visible bra straps or exposed cleavage or wear short skirts because it was distracting to the male teachers.~
~Why are [Mary Daly’s] goddess images only white, western European, judea-christian? Where was Afrekete, Yemanje, Oyo, and Mawulisa? … I began to feel my history and my mythic background distorted by the absence of any images of my foremothers in power.~
~We’ll get all the way there when you lose your second bottom tooth.~
~I guess we – or perhaps just I – had made the very common mistake of thinking that marriage was a mode of absolute commonality and a breaking down of all boundaries, instead of understanding it simply as a pact between two people willing to be guardians of each other’s solitude…~
~A child refugee is someone who waits.~
~I don’t keep a journal. My journals are the things I underline in books.~
~Unhappness grows slowly. It lingers inside you, silently, surreptitiously. you nourish it, feeding it scraps of yourself every day – it is the dog kept locked away in the back patio that will bite your hand off if you let it. Unhappiness takes time, but eventually it takes over completely.~
~The only thing that parents can really give their children are little knowledges: this is how you cut your own nails, this is the temperature of a real hug, this is how you untangle knots in your hair, this is how I love you. And what children give their parents, in return, is something less tangible but at the same time larger and more lasting, something like a drive to embrace life fully and understand it, on their behalf, so they can try to explain it to them, pass it down to them “with acceptance and without rancour,” as James Baldwin once wrote, but also with a certain rage and fierceness.~
~He gazed up at the sky through the dark leaves, the constant black-deep above him, and wondered, do gods float up there, and which gods do we worship where? He looked long and hard for them up there, bu there, but there were none.~
~When you get older, like me, or even older than me, and tell other people our story, they’ll tell you it’s not true, they’ll say it’s impossible, they won’t believe you. Don’t worry about them. Our story is true, and deep in your wild heart and in the whirls of your crazy curls, you will know it.~
Synopsis: One killer. An ocean of souls.
Science has learned to understand the soul, and can track souls through this life and beyond.A specialist unit of the South African police, in Durban in 2038, is using a Soul Tracker device in a harrowing search for a serial killer. But when one’s soul can incriminate them before birth, can there ever be justice? This science fiction novel by South African author Stephen Embleton has been likened to a mix of “Minority Report” and “Silence of the Lambs”, with unique ideas all its own. The thrilling story features a serial killer, new and disturbing technology, and an ancient secret society. And flying cars.
I was twelve, just about to break the spell of my youth and dive head on into teenager life. So that would have been 1985. My friend and I have just walked the five kilometres to his house after school, joking around, pushing each other into bushes. Kids. As we’re coming closer to his place we notice smoke in the air above his property. We give each other a look and pick up our pace. He’s got high walls surrounding his property but because of the incline of the road we can just make out his brother and mother busying themselves around the source of the smoke. He starts shouting to them as he’s opening the tall iron gate on the driveway. His mother turns to him and says something, but I’m standing stock still at the gate. I know something isn’t right, but not in the emergency sense. He’s getting pushed aside by his brother (older and bigger than him). His mother waves me away saying something about ‘New Age’ occultist. I got the hell outta there. It’s all a bit of a blur for me, but he told me the details later on when he knocked on my front door a few hours after. I opened the door to a pale hunched person, my best friend.
Some people say that everyone is given an experience that robs them of their innocence. His was ripped from his gut, through his heart and out of his throat. His experience was my awakening. I wouldn’t say that I lost my innocence that day. But the world became bigger than it had ever been. When I assumed I had it all covered, all figured out, it became this massive ball of energy and unexplained mysteries that what we were taught in school didn’t even come close to preparing you for. For him, in his words, he’d “seen what those he trusted were capable of doing.” But to me, I saw the nature of fear. How people react when they are scared. When they think they are protecting their family. That was the vastness I saw. Nothing was simple anymore. Everything, everyone you met, had many things that created who they were in a given moment.
We both sat on the edge of my bed as he told me what had happened that day. His mother had been at a church prayer meeting that afternoon. You know, tea, gossip, and fear- induced enthusiasm. The topic of music and magic being the path of the devil was tabled. In those days we had LPs, and one of the favourite techniques was to backtrack a song to find hidden messages aimed at the innocent minds of the youth.
“Damn warped to even think of that in the first place.”
Of all the damn albums they had to choose that day they chose Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms. His Gran had bought it for him a few weeks before, and it was fresh in his mother’s mind. A song about getting your money for nothing and women for free was totally unacceptable. Then they laid into Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA album. Back tracked one or two of the songs. I don’t care if you take Beethoven’s 9th or Freezer Burn’s Heartache Headache, anything backtracked sounds perverted. Now I happened to have that Springsteen album at home and damned if I could hear any messages from the Lord of Darkness. To top it all off, his mother had allowed him to buy a ‘Learn to Be a Top Magician’ kit around his birthday a few months before. He’d been showing me his sleight of hand card tricks, tricks even I thought were magic. His mother had been waving the Dire Straits cover at me shouting, “Your parents should be ashamed, bringing up an occultist New Age Satanist”, and threw it into the fire. His brother had, moments before, scattered his magician box contents into the flames. The black smoke from the red plastic ball and plastic wand, had choked him as he’d tried to reach in to save his trick deck of cards.
A few weeks later we found some of the charred cards that had floated up in the heat and smoke a few kilometres from his house in the open grass where we had often gone riding on our BMXes. Anything that drives a kid to start smoking at thirteen should be deemed a ‘bad influence’. And if anyone was looking for the devil in the shadows that day, he was well and truly out in the open and dancing around the fire of a child’s hopes and dreams and innocence. And if ever the devil has a face, it’s a parent turning on their child, killing them to ‘save’ them. Destroyer of trust. Sleight of hand takes something without you noticing. This was blatant.
It wasn’t a father or mother that day. It wasn’t a brother. It wasn’t the devil in the flames. It wasn’t a family tragedy or the death of someone close. It was my friend sitting on the edge of my bed crying into his blackened hands, his belief in rock stars and magic. The worst thing a parent ever did was telling their child that the devil existed.
Insights from Stephen Embleton
To a large extent this passage foreshadows what comes later in the novel for our protagonist, Ruth Hicks, but succinctly portrays how belief systems play a role in our lives, beginning with the innocence of youth. Beliefs can be taught by our parents and society, and, as we grow older, they can either be solidified or fractured from life experience. Soul Searching gives us a view of the world in 2038, where a new technology is challenging peoples’ beliefs, challenging the old in favour of the new – and “new” is not always good.
Whether you are a parent or not, everyone has parents – absent or present – and these relationships are looked at in both positive and negative ways for the various characters in Soul Searching. More obviously, in relation to the excerpt: what would you do to protect your child? In this scene a mother is doing what she believes is best to protect her boys, but these safeguards or protection mechanisms will affect one, or both, of the children going into adulthood.
From my perspective I was born into a Catholic family and after my parents divorced we became Born-Again Christians. That scene is pretty much what personally happened to me, down to the two LPs mentioned and the magic set. Except there wasn’t a friend with me, and I was at home, not coming home from school. My mother, understandably, raising two boys entering their teenage years, and one or two of them being naughty bastards, she did what she thought best for our wellbeing. Though I could rationalize it as an adult, it was unsettling to say the least as a twelve year old.
Soul Searching is available on all major retailers and the trade paperback will be out in late September 2020.
STEPHEN’S BIO: Stephen Embleton was born and lives in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. His background is Graphic Design, Creative Direction and Film. His first short story was published in 2015 in the ‘Imagine Africa 500’ speculative fiction anthology. More short fiction followed in the “Beneath This Skin” 2016 Edition of Aké Review, “The Short Story is Dead, Long Live the Short Story! Vol.2”, the debut edition of Enkare Review 2017, The Bloody Parchment, AfroSFv3, and The Kalahari Review. He is a charter member of the African Speculative Fiction Society and its Nommo Awards initiative. He was featured in Part 11 of the 100 African Writers of SFF on Strange Horizons. Soul Searching is his debut speculative fiction novel.
Links:Publisher’s website:http://www.guardbridgebooks.co.uk/books/SoulSearching.htmlFacebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephen.embleton.3/Twitter: twitter.com/spembleton
Book Store Links:https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08FH8YQJZ
~A beetle might be small, and on the chunky side, but its will to travel was spectacular.~
~Enid, just because they have the guillotine doesn’t mean we can’t go there. They have the chair in America. We have the noose. That doesn’t stop people from travelling.~
~Distance is an illusion. We stand apart so that we may know each other better.~
~Enid had a flair for communicating in a foreign language that took everyone by surprise, including speakers of foreign languages.~
~In order to find a new beetle, Professor Smith had told her once, you needed three things. The first was knowledge. You needed all the knowledge you could get your hands on. Second, you needed to be where you thought the beetle was. Last, you needed courage.~
~History is not made up by events alone, but also by what lies between the lines.~