Friday, 26 April 2019

We Don't Go Back #90: Requiem (2018)

Crikey, how long is it since I did a We Don't Go Back post? Obviously that's because other book projects are in the way. Still, from time to time I'm still going to pick up on stuff I missed or stuff that matters. Like Requiem, BBC1's prestige folk horror serial of 2018. For those who care, I should note that this is possibly one of the most spoilery essays I've ever done. Seriously, the spoilers start in the very first sentence.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

On a Thousand Walls #18: Personal Shopper (2016)

Usually when I write a response to a film, I tend to avoid looking too hard at the technical stuff, things like the specifics of direction, mise-en-scene, the edit. And that's partly because I'm sort of laser focussed on writing, acting performances, and the tastiest, sexiest bit of all, the subtext. And that's partly because this technical stuff is right outside of what I call my field of expertise. And of course the shortcoming of my approach is that a film is an entire artefact. All of these things work as part of the story told by a film or a TV show. Consider how with selective editing reality shows routinely make friends appear to be enemies or entirely innocuous social cues to be actions of calculating villainy: fictions are like that too. The truism with conversation also holds with visual media – it's not what you're saying, it's how you're saying it.

And this is where I get to the films of Olivier Assayas, and Personal Shopper in particular.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

P Squared, chapter 13

[This is the end of P Squared, part iv, which is, as I have explained, counterintuitively the first part of the novel, the second part of which I am probably just going to post up in all its scabrous, sexually explicit horror soon. A break first, for some more film writing though. Again, if P Squared were a film, it would carry an 18 certificate. You have been warned. Today's chapter contains one of my single favourite dialogue exchanges in anything I have ever written, incidentally.]

Symons is sitting at her desk, typing like nothing has happened. When Pubs and P come back into the room, Symons looks up and says to Pubs without greeting her, “I shall need a word with you in private.” 

Friday, 12 April 2019

P Squared, chapter 12

[Note: The first two sections of P Squared, the second of which has been seen by exactly no one, were written in 2011, when I was working in an office role that could charitably be described as a "non-job".

I was, frankly, angry. I spent much of the last few months there writing this when I was supposed to be working, and re-reading it now, it's essentially what passes for me as an unhinged spew of rage and id. I have, in editing this up – and it's still a draft, so it's gonna need more work – actually toned down the sex and death. The sexual abuse that Pubs inflicts on P is a thing that isn't going to get better, although I was relieved to see that even in 2011 I was able to make it, I feel, revolting rather than prurient. I am genuinely interested in what you think. Did it make you uncomfortable? Is it too far?

The first part, part iv, ends with chapter 13. And then we get part iii, which is written, and then part ii (also part v) and finally part i, which aren't. Yet. Part iii is entirely new to the world. I think it is the bleakest, most sickening and most brutal writing I have ever done. Back in 2011, I gave up on it because I went too far even for myself. It took me a while to forgivwe myself for having written it (which is hypocritical, given I had a part in Legacies: The Ancient). Now... well, I still might leave it with chapter 13. I haven't decided.

Let me know.]
By the time they get to the hub of the School of Business and Economics, it’s a blackened wreck, a crater in the middle of the building. Bits of masonry fall from the ceiling; flaming notices and bits of wallpaper burn up, flutter into the air and extinguish. The blackened bodies of the remaining Business and Economics staff — the ones still recognisable as bodies — lie scattered, just more pieces of twisted debris.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

P Squared, chapter 11

(CW: bloody violence, sexual assault)

It's always the worst when the first KillDrone dies.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

P Squared, chapter 10

P thinks that it is a terrible thing to be surrounded by people like this, to never have the opportunity to be completely alone and yet never to be among friends.

They sit in the main office with Quality, Pubs and Symons. Symons is drinking coffee from an enormous mug. P cradles a mug of hot, sweet tea on their lap. It doesn’t help.

They can’t get the taste out of their mouth.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

P Squared, Chapter 9

(Content warning for sexual assault)
“You’ve put the Office in a very difficult position,” says Symons.

P is silent. Klaire took the afternoon off sick. She might not be back for a while.

“What possessed you?” says Symons. “What were you thinking?”

“She’s nice.”

Monday, 8 April 2019

P Squared, chapter 8

(Violent scenes and language may upset. You know the score.)
“What’s going on here, then?” says Pubs.
A Cleanup drone — his overalls spattered with blood around the ankles — is busy disposing of bodies. P recognises the Faculty Officer, Carin, Genn, a couple of others, stacked into the cart. One person they do not recognise, a man, lies on the ground next to Quality, who stands, staring at his shoes, arms folded, breathing deeply.

Friday, 5 April 2019

P Squared, chapter 7

(Assume that every episode from here on in carries a content warning for something, but FWIW, content warning for bloody and unprovoked violence, mutilated corpses and academic politics.)
P had been expecting the rest of the campus to be ancient and dilapidated like the Abbey; it’s just as cluttered, certainly, but the clutter is artificial, the result of dozens of examples of late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century architecture all squeezed into a limited, once-open space, one after another, built crashing into one another, overlapping in places, until less than twenty per cent of the campus is now open to the air.


Wednesday, 3 April 2019

P Squared, chapter 6

(This is the central, single most important chapter of the novel, and also where it starts arguably getting really horrific. You have been warned.)

The courtyard beneath the main office window is a thoroughfare for students entering Campus. Quality has given P a sniper rifle and sets them to work, picking off latecomers. “It’s important for the student experience,” he says. “Keeps scores up, too. Good for the league tables. As long as you don’t shoot the internationals, OK? Check the student tags before you pull the trigger.”

Monday, 1 April 2019

P Squared, chapter 5

(Content warning: sexual harassment in the workplace. Seriously, though, this is where the )
P sleeps — they don’t feel like they should call it sleeping, exactly, but they can’t think of any other word for it — body and mind rendered down to a notional quantum of energy and information stored in the Delivery Seed they came in, which is stored in the top drawer of the Publications Officer’s desk. P does always come out of storage feeling like they’ve slept, that’s true. But that’s countered by the length of time it takes to collect theirself, to come online, to be able to move and see and talk, by the way they’re never wholly able to be sure that they are the same as they were before they were rendered down. This second day of their assignment, P’s return to consciousness is interrupted by an Update, presumably sent back into the Seed in storage time and integrated into their HeadWares, ready for their morning programming run.