The Super Villain Lair of Preference

villain layer 1

Having established the strong possibility that I run on the villainous side of life, I started wondering if my current set-up really reflected the ‘true’ me. The first step for any self-respecting serious arch-nemesis is establishing a sufficiently intimidating hidden base.

The problem being the obvious choices are so passé and bothersome: the moon-base that no visitors can reach, the volcano where every rumble raises the question ‘is it really extinct?’, the under-the-sea-cave that springs a leak very time there is the slightest earth tremor, the dessert island where you have to supply your own booby-traps or the concrete bunker that won’t get wifi.

No, all of these lack what the new age of super-villain demands today. We need amenities. We need to be close to parks where we can walk the hounds of hell, a choice of schools for our darling spawn of evil, space where our minions can have some well-deserved R&R after a hard day trying to take over the world.

To this end, I give you the Shopping Centre.

As a member of the commercial community you can harness synergies to bring down costs while increasing productivity.

  • A prebuilt unit, constructed under consultation with top security advisers, means a rotating shift of as few as five henchmen will be required to maintain security.
  • Henchmen can be registered as private contractors rather than employees, saving on annual Christmas Party
  • Booby traps can be accounted for as capital investment in the property and therefore registered as a tax deductible at the year end
  • Minions can avail of the new Corporate Training Hub registering for such courses as
    • Villainy: The Law and You
    • Shoot-Out First Aid for Beginners
    • “You’ve Been Framed”: What Should You Do Now?

“But won’t everyone see my operation and nefarious plotting?” I hear you ask.

No, with their fully customizable store front, the public will pass unaware of the scheming within. Any hero who should pass the door will have to navigate such horrors as ‘helpful assistants’, ‘disorientating lighting’, ‘a clawing stench’, ‘customer selfie sticks’ and ‘constantly moving stock’ before they breach the first line of defense.

The future is now. The future is a destination whose catchment area reaches well beyond the Pale. The future is The Shopping Centre.

Villain Lair 2

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Could I be a villain?

Villians

I did a writing course recently that had a profound effect on me. It did little to improve my writing skills but it did force me into a startling revelation – could I be a villain? The lecturer listed a number of traits of villains and while I failed a few (my best friend is not called Igor, and I do not live in a haunted castle / lair / cave / extinct volcano) a few of them were surprisingly close to home.

I invite you to review the list below – and really think about your everyday actions – in truth if you were a character in a book, could you be the villain?

  1. Able to logically explain why they are in the right.
  • Ever been involved in a car crash? Was it ever your fault?
  • Ever yelled at someone in the service industry? Did they totally have it coming?
  • Ever have a fight with your Partner/ Mom / Sibling? Even if the fight wasn’t 100% their fault – did they provoke your reaction in some way?

Unless you have been in one of these situations or similar, and had the maturity to stand back and think – do you know what, I did not

  • check my blind spot
  • remember that I actually ordered the steak medium and not rare like I intended
  • overreact to good natured ribbing about the three stone I have gained

then you too may be a villain

  1. Are efficient, organised, determined. Has follow-through.

If you have ever organised a large party, created a filling system, said you were going to do something and then did it, you too have the skills required for world domination.

  1. Ambitious

Are you swimming at the bottom of the barrel, a no-hoper or dropout? Have you achieved something with your life? Do you strive to make your living situation better? Are you willing to work to get what you want? Better be careful …

  1. Is an active agent in their own lives

Moriarty acted, Sherlock reacted. The Joker acted, Batman reacted. The villain acts. They do not sit around and wait for things to change or magically get better, they stand up and are counted. They do something to improve their lives.

  1. Always reacts when provoked

Hotheads beware, that temper is going to get you into trouble.

  1. Always defends their honour or reputation

Don’t like it when people talk trash behind your back? Are you totally cool if somebody tries to imply you are bad at your job and besmirches your professional reputation, and therefore threatens your livelihood? Really?

  1. Has double standards

Normally this takes the form where it is acceptable for the villain to steal, but never ok for others to steal from them. However in real life this might look more like screaming at the kids for eating in the sitting room in case they spill on the new couch and then later that night, when the kids are in bed, sitting on that same couch with a glass of wine and bar of chocolate, seeing no hypocrisy.

  1. Holds a grudge and believes in the healing power of revenge.

Ever uttered the words “serves them right”? Ever thought “oh I’ll remember this when …”? Ever gloated internally when karma kicked someone else in the ass?

  1. Has a strict moral code, but morals are not aligned to society’s morals

Killing people is wrong, but I do believe in the death penalty for certain crimes.

Stealing is wrong, but borrowing your sister’s new jumper when she wasn’t looking with no intention of returning it is not really stealing.

  1. Excellent recruitment and people/henchmen-management skills

Have you been on a recruitment course as part of your professional progression? Do you supervise others’ work? Do you know the sneaky questions to ask during an interview?

 

Why are all short stories depressing?

Short Story

I recently toyed with the idea of writing a short story. It would appear that one of the ways an aspiring novelist can get their work before the eyes of scouting agents and publishers is through short story competitions (and really, winning them is the key – there are no blue participant’s ribbons here).

Now, there is a trick to winning writing competitions. Usually the winners of each competition write in a similar genre, explore similar themes or have a similar tone to their writing. There is little point entering a short story aimed at children into a competition that usually rewards crime writers, because no matter how good the story is it will not be to the taste of the judges, and the agents/publishers one is likely to encounter through this competition will have little interest in representing a children’s author (usually).

So one must find a competition that is similar to one’s style of writing, or else one is wasting one’s entry fee.

As a comedic writer this is harder to do than I had initially realised, because it turns out the wining stories of most short story competitions are utterly depressing. I don’t mean ‘a little blue’, or ‘going through a tough patch’, or ‘not having a good day’, I mean ‘rip out you heart, throw it on the ground and stomp on it’ depressing.

If it’s not children being abandoned, wives being abused or animals being tortured, then its insurmountable odds crushing the underdog, innocents being abducted or brief moments of happiness being snatched away by unexpected trauma.

They are emotional rollercoasters. However in this particular fairground there are no tea-cups or swings. The only rides seem to be versions of the ‘Wall of Death’ where they build you to high only to plunge you into a devastating low, only to pick you back up so that they can plunge you back down.

It’s the writing equivalent of water boarding.

I understand why these stories win; I can see the intense emotional journey the reader takes, the well-constructed phrases, the correct use of punctuation and grammar. But why do they have to be so depressing? Is it because it is easier to make a person cry than to laugh?

I write this in a week that six young students lost their lives in a balcony collapse and nine church-goes lost their lives to hate-filled racism, not to mention the hundreds of wars and conflicts that blight lands I rarely think of. Tragedy surrounds us, so much of it is of our own making, and it is all but inescapable, can what we conjure for entertainment not give us just a little reprieve?

Even in Hollywood the critically acclaimed Oscar nominations are inevitably bleak, grim, serious, gritty, depressing films, and yet when it comes box office success it is inevitably the light hearted Inside Out, Spy, Avengers, Perfect Pitch or Jurassic World that top the polls.

I understand that exploring the things that tear lives apart prompts readers to consider more deeply the life they live, but just once can we not have a competition that celebrates the stories that make us giggle, see the funnier side of life, or just generally amuse because they can?

I am hoping that this blog post gets a rush of angry posts pointing to several comedy short story competitions, but tragically I think the comments box will remain empty because at the moment literary acclaim seems to be intrinsically linked with emotional torture.

Blog Life – Following v’s Stalking

What’s the difference online?

C33. following2

Recently I have been trying to build the public profile of our little blog. One of accepted ways of doing this by visiting similar blogs or websites and adding comments on their articles, while subtly namedropping your own blog. The other thing to do is to follow everyone who follows you (even if this kind of means you are going around in circles).

Simple I thought.

This started out casually. I found a few blogs I liked that were ‘on brand’, read an article, had something to say about it, and popped in a comment. No change in stats.
So I read two or three articles, on even more sites, left a comment on each and hoped for a reply. No reply. No change in stats.

I was feeling a little unloved and rejected, but preserved. Making new friends is a bit like dating, you have to dust yourself off and try again.

And then I noticed that a few of the bloggers I was observing (read: at this stage, targeting) attended a meeting here in my own city. I need to know more. Where had it been? Where would the next one be? How could I organise an invite?

 

And this is where I felt I crossed the line.

I was no longer a casual follower, content to see where these people were going, I was now a predicator, hunting these people, trying to predict their next move. I had made the metaphysical leap from politely walking up to their front door and introducing myself, to hiding in their bushes and screaming my own name as they walked by.

It was easier to tell where this line was in the old days before internet. Followers were the sort of people who went to regular meetings in the parish hall, listened to the talk while munching on tea-cakes and didn’t think about it until the next meeting. If you had over 400 of them, you set up your own religion, L. Ron Hubbard style. Stalkers were the peeping toms who bought high-powered binoculars and waited outside windows for women to undress.

I don’t want to be a tom. I don’t want to be riffling through the post and discover not only have UPC upped their prices yet again for no reason, but I have been served a restraining order against someone I barely know and was kinda hoping to befriend.

Although trying to join an online community for a purpose is different from establishing friendships. It is really networking corporate style, whether we like to admit it or not. I am hoping that I and these bloggers will establish a mutually advantages following arrangement which brings forward both our endeavours – ‘friends with benefits’ if you will, rather than ‘victim and perpetrator’.

In a modern era, these concepts have taken on a whole new life. There was a day where it took the skills of Paul Daniels to follow more than one person at once, whereas these days it might be considered a little creepy or stalker-ish to be only subscribed to one blog or website, it’s the equivalent of having only one Facebook friend. It’s like fidelity and monogamy have taken on the seedy undertones that used to be associated with polygamy.

Also, it is totally acceptable to constantly and continuously follow someone like Niall Horan through social media; to be updated on his every move, and that of his social circle, and to be checking that information on a PC in your mother’s basement if you so choose. But try to hang out with him in person by showing up a few places unannounced and suddenly you are having a long detailed discussion with security and the police about your inappropriate stalking behaviour.

I feel like technology needs to come up with a solution to this problem, so you can tell when you are going over the mark. There should be some automated communication that says something like;

Dear Social-Media Recipient

Congratulations you are now following thirty blogs.

Unfortunately you are also stalking fifteen, please stop.

Yours
The Internet .

Otherwise people, not unlike me, will continue to post comments, follow blogs, and reach out for a little bit of bloggin’ love, without realising that the demarcation of social acceptability is somewhere behind them in the distant horizon.

 

 

So how does one do it? Answers on a postcard please – How does one join an online community, become one of the gang, insinuate themselves into their trust so that … no wait I’ve gone over the line again.